May 8th, 2014


It's all the same to me

Oh, man, this book we're working on is so loooong. It just keeps going and going and going! I sure hope it doesn't take a long time to edit. It probably won't, but if it does, we'll miss our deadline. Nevertheless, we're not going to try to finish our first draft today, because we're just not feeling the masochism.

Anyway, I have a topic that sort of relates to what I was talking about yesterday--translation stuff. See, we were watching some anime, and we came across an interesting line, because it so perfectly illustrates why it's important to be able to understand more about a word than its J-E dictionary definition, and why you need more tools at your disposal.

A girl described something as kimoi, kishoi, kimochi warui. Looking all of these words up in our regular J-E dictionary, we found, respectively: "gross, disgusting," nothing, and "bad feeling, feeling bad." Fortunately for a student with only a J-E dictionary, a subsequent line points out to the speaker that all three of those words mean the same thing. The subtitle translated the line as "disgusting, disgusting, and disgusting," with a supertitle note.

I think this kind of translation happens a lot, just not as obviously, because the synonyms aren't all right there next to each other. And I think that that is why some translators have a hard time with character voice. If you're not using the right tools and paying attention to the right things, everything all starts to sound the same. So what can you do to fix it?

In the case of this example, you could just go to a thesaurus. But it would be even better to learn more about the words. For example, kimoi is a contraction of kimochi warui, so whatever you use for kimoi should be a shorter version of kimochi warui. Like grody and grody to the max, or something. (Another thing to keep in mind is that, since the anime is a comedy, it's okay not to sweat it too much and go with whatever sounds funniest.) So we would probably go with grody, gross, and grody to the max...unless we happened to come up with something better. And then you don't have to explain the joke, which is good, because if a joke needs explaining, it tends to fail as a joke. (By the way, kishoi is probably a contraction of kishoku warui, which means roughly the same thing as kimochi warui.)

As for any other situation...well, context is everything.

Today I'm thankful another fun chapter of UQ Holder!, making decent progress on our other book despite Holder interruptions, double fudge Ghirardelli squares, toffee crunch Ghirardelli squares, and our order from Amazon Japan shipping sooner than expected.