MORE LYRICAL TRANSLATION – NOW I HAVE A GO AT HAIKU
In my career as a professional translator I have enjoyed writing what I can confidently say are good (perfectly valid) translations of certain songs… subject to certain conditions. The conditions: that they rhyme and be able to be sung to the melody of the song in their original language; it is because of this that I was quick to label this work as my “most audacious marketing moves”. Seriously: check out my English translation of Le Chanteur (by Daniel Balavoine; in my blog dated 3rd October 2011), or my French translation of Right Between The Eyes (by Garbage; in my blog dated 25th June 2014), or my English translation of Libre (by Paulina Rubio; in my blog dated 26th June 2014), or my French translation (translations, it turned out) of Engel (by Rammstein; in my blog dated 19th September 2016).
That said, welcome to My Most Audacious Marketing Move V. Translation of a haiku in English into French and German, while retaining the 5-7-5 syllable format that characterises every haiku – even though haikus don’t rhyme even though they are called poems.
A word about haikus: in feudal Japan (1185-1603), it was common for samurai to write a death poem before they committed the ritualistic suicide known as seppuku, to atone for shame. I Googled “Japanese death poems” as I wrote this blog, and while I did find some written by actual Japanese samurai in the past (with their names affixed to them), which had been translated into English, the 5-7-5 syllable format had not been retained in the translation. That won’t be the case here.
This is a clip (or cutscene) from a computer game which is set in feudal Japan. www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWQeMN6ydCY You play as the head of a clan of your choice and the objective is to beat all the other clans and conquer all of Japan. And the person you play as is actually someone who was a real-life samurai at some point in the past – in the clip, Shimazu is none other than Shimazu Tadahisa (according to his Wikipedia article, he died on 1st August 1227). And when I heard the only words you hear in this clip, I understood that it was his death poem haiku; further to that, I noted that it indeed had the 5-7-5 format that a haiku should have, and, consequently, initially believed that, given that Shimazu was a real-life samurai, this was an actual English translation of his real-life haiku death poem in Japanese, with the haiku format retained in the new language! Maybe it actually is, but now I’m not so sure; maybe the accurate historical truth is that it is not known what his actual death poem was – if, indeed, he even wrote one at all – and that the creators of this game just made up that English haiku for the Shimazu death cutscene in it. Either way, look at this!
Rouge comme feuilles d’automne Je pars pour mes ancêtres [NB pronounce “ancêtres” as 3 syllables] Il’s m’accueilleront ?
Bin Herbstblätter-rot Gehe auf meine Ahnen Werde willkommen?
There may be no “ich” for “I” here, but the very first word, “bin”, which is always used in the first person singular with the verb “sein” in the present tense in German, gives it away so – did it! ...
But the following are all words I invented myself, which I would love to see translated in other languages! I was quick to include a link to this blog on my LinkedIn account, for other professional translators everywhere to see.
* Dack (noun): possessions you have had for some time but you have never gotten around to enjoying / savouring. A book you have had for some time but never gotten around to reading is dack, a CD you have had for some time but never gotten around to listening to is dack; and so on and so forth. * The froin factor (noun): you know when a table or chair is not stable even though it’s on all four of its legs (so to speak)? It can still be made to lean one way or the other until you put something under the foot of one of its legs to make it more steady. This is the table or chair's froin factor. * Sleepworking (verb): essentially, working with your mind switched off. Most household chores can be done while you're listening to music or whatever and not really paying that much attention because it's not necessary and you can take your time. You've heard of sleepwalking; well, this is sleepworking. By the way, I know better than to do my translation work sleepworking! * Squain (adjective): said of something that is daft yet amusing and surprisingly engaging. To me, backmasking videos on Youtube and some of the humour of Joe Pasquale are good examples. * Rimp moment (noun): a moment where you don’t quite know whether or not you should look shocked or offended in response to something. * Graking someone (verb): imagine that you are on the phone with someone you don't want to talk to, but you believe that if you hang up they will just call you back. So you hang up in the middle of a sentence that you're saying to make them believe that it was a technical problem, not your hanging up, that resulted in the call ending. You have now graked them. * Fatal (adjective): if you’re cool, good for you, but that’s a large step below being fatal. This was a word I came up with as a teenager – I just gave a new meaning to it – and I’m amazed I didn’t think of it when I started writing this blog. Then again, I am aware that the young people of today use “epic” in pretty much the same way. Look up “epic” on Urban Dictionary. * Voonat (noun): another word I used as a teenager, this designates an individual “penny sweet”. Of course, they are usually sold in bags, but when I was at school you could buy them individually in the tuck shop for like only 1p or 2p each. * PBA (Precedent-Based Assertion) (noun): I have talked about this in my professional translation blogs. “Myself, my own experience of translating has ‘taught’ me familiarity with what I call ‘the concept of precedent-based assertions’. It’s like this: you can probably remember at least one time in your life when you felt compelled to say something to someone else […] It’s just that your statement was just taken wholesale e.g. duplicated from the statement of someone else in some completely different matter – it may have actually been something someone said in a TV programme or something similar, and you felt some urge to say it because the original time you heard it, it just stuck with you; most likely because the e.g. TV programme appealed to you personally and that’s the only reason.” In other words, you borrow specific phrasing in your expression, or rather, assertion. The credibility of what you say in this manner may be undermined if someone else knew the facts behind it and, as such, they agreed that you betrayed a lack of being in control, or ignorance. * Vorning (verb): another expression I came up with during my career as a translator. Sometimes people advertise a bigger translation project for which they ask for multiple translators but first the latter are told that they must do an unpaid test to prove their suitability for it, and the content of this test is just a part of the material that needs to be translated. The catch is that the client shamelessly issues different test content to the various translators who have declared that they are ready to do it, and the client gets it done for free in this way. The translators who agreed to do the work are cheated as the client (if they can be called that) commits an act of vorning. * “That’s prawl to me”: say this about something that you can no longer remember having been afraid of once in your life – no more existing memories of it. Like learning how to sleep in the dark. Or maybe driving, or performing on stage. * Trung (adjective): an adjective for a situation that you consciously and genuinely believe has a surprise in store that you otherwise simply couldn’t be prepared for. * Chune (adjective): said of someone that you don’t really dislike, but you don’t really want to be friends with them either – they are likely awkward or frequently embarrassing in some way, and chances are that you tacitly try to avoid them. * Glaight (adjective): an adjective attributed to a memory in your life which you are not sure whether it was real or just part of a dream. * And finally, RAC. Short for "Relief Addiction Cure", it's a term of affection which it's never OK to use flippantly. It speaks for itself, doesn't it? There’s also TOSI / TOSP (“Tears Of Sobriety Individual / Person”).
Final note: did you know that John Milton, the guy who wrote Paradise Lost, coined 630 terms in English, according to Wikipedia? ...