Will from “Thirteen Moons” on language translation: “All translations miss something. Some miss almost everything.”

Here the main character, Will, is explaining what happened when he told his native American friend, Bear, a joke about a hunting dog named Blue:

When I finished telling the story, Bear did not laugh and looked more puzzled than amused. He asked what kind of dog Blue was. Any old kind of dog? A Plott hound? What? And then he had questions as to the name. For his people, the color blue denoted loneliness, defeat, despair, failure, loss. Why did the man name his hunting dog Blue? It was bad judgment and made no sense.

In other words, our two languages are not particularly suited to being rendered into each other. And so if you try to do it very literally, you end up with a lot of foolishness. O Great White Father. Many moons ago. Forked tongue. Firewater. Utterances like those of articulate and very pompous children. In the other direction, we sound equally foolish. All translations miss something. Some miss almost everything Irony. Indirection. Complex metaphors. Straight-faced humor. Damped-down anger. The human touch.

Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons, 77-78

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About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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