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Translation of Punds, Idioms, Proverbs

发布时间: 2024-07-03 09:39:00   作者:etogether.net   来源: 网络   浏览次数:
摘要: In the case of Saramago, who loves idiomatic expressions and proverbs, he often compounds the difficulty for the trans...


Puns, idioms and proverbs are sometimes obligingly easy to translate and sometimes so culturally fixed as to be exceedingly difficult. In the case of Saramago, who loves idiomatic expressions and proverbs, he often compounds the difficulty for the translator by punning on or playing with proverbs, so that, sometimes, the‘normal’, ‘easy’translation of a proverb has to be rejected in favour of another less obvious version. An example: the police inspector in Seeing has returned to the apartment, expecting to meet an ambush. He checks all the rooms and wardrobes, then feels slightly ridiculous when he finds no lurking attackers. In response to the inspector’s slight embarrassment, the narrator comments consolingly: ‘o seguro morreu de velho’). The equivalent in English would probably be ‘better safe than sorry’, but this won’t do here, for two reasons. The apartment in which he is staying – a base for police officers working undercover – masquerades as the office of an insurance company, Providential Ltd, and the sentence goes on:


... deve sabê-lo bem esta providencial, s.a. sendo não só de seguros, mas também de resseguros. (Saramago, 2004: 319)


... as providential ltd must well know, since it deals not only with insurance but with reinsurance.2 (Jull Costa, 2006: 298)


The ‘seguro’ in the proverb, meaning more or less ‘he who plays safe’, is picked up in ‘seguros’ and ‘resseguros’ – ‘insurance’ and ‘reinsurance’. So the translated proverb has, if possible, to include a reference to ‘sure’/’insure’. Also, the inspector, having disobeyed orders, is doomed, and the proverb therefore becomes an ironic comment on his imminent demise, for he has not played safe at all. My solution was, again, to invent: ‘slow but sure ensures a ripe old age’, which combines all the necessary ingredients and has, I hope, an authentic proverbial ring.

Another example: earlier in the novel, the inspector is bringing to a close an awkward conversation with a suspect in which he has avoided revealing the real reason for his visit: ‘ ... veremos se neste caso se confirma o antigo ditado que dizia Quem fez a panela fez o testo para ela ...’ (Saramago, 2004: 238)

There did not appear to be a neat English equivalent for this proverb (in bold), although perhaps ‘no smoke without fire’ would be the closest. However, I opted here for a literal translation: ‘She that made the saucepan made the lid’ which keeps the pleasing combination of the antiquated, the domestic and the gnomic, and is picked up in the continuing conversation:


De panelas se trata então, senhor comissário, perguntou em tom irónico a mulher do médico, De testos, minha senhora, de testos, respondeu o comissário ao mesmo tempo que se retirava, aliviado por a adversária lhe ter fornecido a resposta para uma saída mais ou menos airosa. Tinha uma leve dor de cabeça. (Saramago, 2004: 238)


So it’s to do with saucepans, then, superintendent, asked the doctor’s wife in a wry tone, No, it’s to do with lids, madam, lids, replied the superintendent as he withdrew, relieved that his adversary had supplied him with a reasonably nimble exit line. He had a faint headache. (Jull Costa, 2006: 219)


The ludicrous nature of the exchange has thus been preserved.

As with idioms and proverbs, the adjective ‘untranslatable’ is frequently attached to the word ‘pun’, and here again it is often impossible for the translator simply to translate what is there. A new and equally appropriate pun has to be invented. In Seeing, two elections are held in which the majority of the electorate has returned blank votes – ‘votos brancos’. Now‘branco’ can mean ‘blank’ and ‘white’, a fact that sometimes works with the English translator and sometimes against. For example, when a government minister comments that the returning of blank votes could spread like a modern-day black death (peste negra), the prime minister corrects him with: ‘You mean blank death (peste branca), don’t you’. The happy fact that‘black’ and ‘blank’ sound similar in English introduces a rather satisfying‘new’ pun. However, things grow more complicated when the narrator describes how the word ‘branco’ (associated with the election débâcle of blank votes) becomes a taboo word that ordinary citizens take pains to avoid, fearful of being accused of having been part of the supposed ‘blank vote conspiracy’. He lists some of the turns of phrase containing the word‘branco’ that people are now careful not to say:


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