Hi everyone, and welcome back to another pun analysis! This week, I’m looking at a pun translation from a manga called Takane no Hana nara Ochitekoi! This is not a manga I’ve read or plan to ever read, but this pun was very useful for my thesis research. I’d like to show it to all of you, as well as my analysis on this pun.
In Japanese, this pun revolves around the word tsukiatte (付き合って), which is used by a student asking out his classmate, and means please go out with me. The girl, however, interprets this as a different meaning of tsukiatte (突き合って), which can mean something like please hit me or let’s hit each other. This is a homophonous pun, as the words used in the puns have different meanings and different spellings but share the pronunciation of tsukiatte.
In the English translation, the translator translated both forms of tsukiatte (突き合って and 付き合って) according to the meaning the kanji give them, and not to the double meaning of the pronunciation of the word. This removed the pun, but the translator added a note explaining what the pun was in Japanese. This is what we call a Pun to Non-Pun translation, with usage of an editorial technique (in this case, a translator’s note to explain how the pun works in Japanese).
I would personally try to keep a pun in the translation, possibly using the English phrase “to hit on someone.” This still gives ambiguity if used correctly and also matches with the Japanese meanings of tsukiatte.
How would you translate this pun? Leave a comment and let me know! This post is a bit shorter than my usual ones, but these analyses are pretty short. I have more pun translations available, and I will analyze them all eventually, so check back regularly!
I recently came back from my week at the summer school, where I taught English, and one thing I taught my students relates to mindsets. I explained the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset, and how the latter helps with language learning. I just saw this post written by the people over at World Linguistics which explains really well how a growth mindset can be used to learn a language, please check it out!
Have you ever wanted to learn a language but have gotten frustrated while learning it because it seemed so daunting? If so, you’re not alone. If you are struggling in a language class or if you are just struggling to teach yourself, I have news for you. It isn’t impossible! It actually is possible, and […]
Around two weeks ago, I wrote a post on translating puns, mainly focusing on the different categories and some strategies you can use while translating puns. That post was mentioned and used as a source by Nicholas Rossis here, and his post was reblogged multiple times. So, I’ve decided to elaborate on pun translation a bit more, and show some more strategies you can use. I will follow up on this with more posts, showing a pun that has been translated from Japanese to English and explaining the strategies used by the translators.
I will be using the following acronyms in this post: ST: Source Text, the original text in its original language, and TT: Target Text, the translated text.
Once again, I will make use of Dirk Delabastita’s work, which differentiates between significant or intended wordplay and non-significant or unintended wordplay. Unintended wordplay is, according to him, best omitted from the target text to prevent the text from looking clumsy, but intended wordplay and puns should be preserved in the translation. These are the strategies he mentions, and the ones I will use when analyzing puns in upcoming posts: • Pun → Pun translation, • Pun → Non-pun translation, • Pun → Zero translation, • Pun → Related rhetoric, • ST pun = TT pun, • Non-pun → Pun translation, • Zero → Pun translation, and • Miscellaneous editorial techniques.
Pun → Pun translation involves replacing the ST pun with another pun in the TT in the same setting, but with different linguistic structure and wordplay. Pun → Non-pun translation involves translating the pun in a way that keeps one of the ambiguous meanings and discards the other.
Pun → Zero translation cannot be called a translation, since the part of the ST containing the pun is completely removed from the TT.
Pun → Related rhetoric is not a true translation, but the usage of another form of wordplay, like alliteration or metaphors, in the same setting as the pun. This still keeps some form of wordplay intact, albeit not as a pun.
ST pun = TT pun is a reproduction of the same pun, barely changed or edited. This can be possible because the SL and TL are very similar, as in the example he gives of the Disney movie The Aristocats. Due to the similarity of Dutch and English, the movie title The Aristocats can simply be transcribed to Dutch as De Aristokatten. This is the most direct of the translation options, but not possible in every case. If a pun uses loanwords from the language you are translating to, you might also be able to use this translation strategy.
Non-pun → Pun and Zero → Pun translations do not directly involve translating puns, but they create puns in the TT where there are none in the ST, possibly as a way to compensate for removing a pun earlier in the text. Miscellaneous editorial techniques that can beapplied are using footnotes and comments to explain that there was a pun in the ST and why it was omitted.
Using these translation strategies as a guideline, I believe that there is an appropriate translation for almost any pun, and I will show how these strategies are employed by translators in my next few posts. I wrote about pun translation from Japanese to English for my BA thesis, so I will be using the sources and examples I researched for that as a basis for the posts. I hope you’re all looking forward to it as much as I do! And in the meantime, if you want to practice translating puns, go to the Pun Generator and try translating those puns!
Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere(1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.
Puns have always intrigued me. The idea of using similar or identical words to create a humorous sentence based on the way it’s interpreted is something I have always wanted to learn more about, as well as the factors that make up a pun. Making puns has become a sort of game for me. If I’m in a light-hearted conversation or playing a game with my friends, I try to make puns regularly in different languages, depending on the friends I’m with. If I’m with friends who speak Dutch and English, I’ll make puns using Dutch and English. If I’m with friends who also speak Japanese, I’ll pun in Japanese as well. I believe that being able to pun and use wordplay in a language is proof of your skill in and knowledge of that language. After all, for a pun to work, you need to create some sort of ambiguity; a situation that can be interpreted in multiple ways. A good example of this is “The first scientists who studied for were mistified.” This pun works because of ambiguity on multiple levels, which I will explain more about later.
Puns can be divided into four categories of ambiguity, according to Dirk Delabastita (1996). These categories are homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy, each of which is better suited to different forms of communication.
A pun where a word with multiple meanings is used to give multiple meanings at once.
A hard-boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
A pun using two words that sound identical, but have different spellings.
‘Mine is a long and a sad tale! said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing. ‘It is a long tail, certainly,’ said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; ‘but why do you call it sad?’
A pun using a word with multiple meanings, but different pronunciations for those meanings
You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless you play bass.
A pun using two words with similar, but not identical spellings and pronunciations.
A skunk fell into a river and stank to the bottom
Translating puns can cause several difficulties because most puns are specific to their own language. A pun that works in Dutch most likely won’t work in English and the other way around. Exceptions to this are puns using loanwords from the language you’re translating to, but realistically, you won’t see many of those. When translating puns, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. We need to know where the ambiguity lies and how it’s used in the source language. We also need to keep the topic of the dialogue or text in mind, as a pun about bananas in a text about monkeys makes sense, but a pun about bananas in a text about fish won’t work at all. Thirdly, we can’t use overly complicated puns. A pun should add humour to a sentence, without becoming the focal point of said sentence. This means that the puns need to be easy to understand and make sense to the reader. Like every translation, we need to keep in mind what we’re translating for. If it’s a book, we can use more words to get our pun across, but in the case of subtitling, we have a limited amount of time and space to make the pun. The most important factor is also the most straight-forward one: Don’t try too hard. If you can use a pun in the translation without too much effort, that’s great! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Sometimes the situation just doesn’t work with a pun in your translation, so then just leave it out, or compensate by adding a small pun later in the translation.
Pun translation is, to me, one of the most difficult parts of translating media, but it’s also the most fun part. There are only a few other situations in which you get to go so deep into the language, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new every time. Next week I’ll show some pun translations from Japanese to English and discuss them using the things I’ve explained today, so look forward to that!
Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere(1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.
So, it’s a bit weird to do an introduction as the fourth post on a blog instead of the first, but that’s where we’re at, since I completely forgot to write an introduction when I started this blog and went straight for the interesting stuff. Well, better late than never.
My name’s Rick, and I write about translation, language learning, and linguistics. I recently graduated with a BA degree in Japan Studies, and am preparing for a MA degree in translation. I’ve always been interested in languages and linguistics, and spent hours as a teen looking through Omniglot, just reading random pages. I love learning about languages, as well as teaching them. I’m a tutor for English to middle and high school students, and gave a workshop on basic Japanese at my old high school a few years ago.
My main interest in translation is the theory behind it. Actually translating is a lot of fun, but I love analyzing translations and translation theories even more. On this blog, I will be mainly writing about topics I’ve come across while translating or studying, as well as my thought process behind these topics.
As for my language goals: I hope to one day speak ten languages, and I’m hoping to achieve five languages within the next three years. I currently speak Dutch and English, am pretty good (but not fluent) in Japanese and German, and have just picked up Hindi again after taking a semester of it in uni and then forgetting about it for two years.
I’m always open to talk about translation and languages, so feel free to leave comments and ask questions, I’ll be happy to respond! Finally, I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it.
When I started learning English, two words always confused me, due to my textbook not explaining the difference. Those words were, as you might have guessed, poisonous and venomous. In my textbook, it said that they both mean giftig in Dutch, which gave me the impression that they were interchangeable. One time, I gave a presentation in English class and said something along the lines of “a venomous frog,” which resulted in a weird look from my teacher, who explained to me that it’s supposed to be “a poisonous frog” and “a venomous snake.” But 14-year-old me wasn’t satisfied yet. I have always had a slight interest in poisonous and venomous animals, and I wanted to know why that distinction mattered. What makes a snake venomous and a frog poisonous? And what about scorpions? Or spiders? Eventually, I stumbled across an image on the internet that said “If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous. If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous.” To many of the people reading this, it all sounds so simple, but it was confusing to me back then, and this single sentence helped me understand the distinction better.
If we want to translate the words poisonous and venomous, we need to be clear on the difference in meaning. A venomous animal uses fangs, stingers, spines, or other body parts to inject a toxin in a prey or attacker. Some examples are cobras, hornets, box jellyfish (which I’ve written something about in a different post), and the platypus, one of the few venomous mammals. A poisonous animal uses toxins as a way to not get eaten by predators. Some examples of poisonous animals are poison dart frogs, the infamous fugu, and the pitohui, one of the few poisonous birds. So to give a concise definition: Poisonous: Secretes toxins through its skin or a specialized gland to avoid being eaten. Venomous: Injects toxins into a wound, in order to kill/capture prey and fend off attackers.
Out of all languages I’m familiar with (this doesn’t mean I speak all of them fluently of course), English is the only language making the distinction between poisonous and venomous. Dutch, German, Japanese, and Hindi all have a single word which means both poisonous and venomous.
So now that we’ve established the definitions of the words poisonous and venomous, as well as their counterparts in other languages, how are we going to translate it? In most cases, the solution is quite simple: just use the words I’ve given above. Most sentences and texts talking about venomous and poisonous animals will most likely not focus on the distinction between the two terms, so there’s no reason to make this more difficult for yourself. But if you ask me, thinking about translation is more fun when it comes to the rare corner-cases that you barely ever see, so let’s make one up! Let’s say we have a text fragment that looks like this, with a translation brief that specifically wants us to keep the distinction:
Some frogs are poisonous, while some snakes are venomous.
As you can see, translating this using the words in the above table gives us a bad translation. Let’s look at the Dutch translation for this sentence, as that is the language I’m most comfortable translating to. The sentence would look somewhat like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn giftig.” Do you see the issue? We’re repeating the same adjective, even though there’s supposed to be a distinction between the two, and the meaning of the Dutch word giftig doesn’t allow for that distinction to be made. What are our options? We can’t just make up two new words that mean poisonous and venomous respectively, try to get them printed in the Dutch dictionaries, and expect people to use and understand them. That’s now how language works, so we need another method to make our target audience understand the distinction. Making these distinctions the core of our translation is a good option here. There are a few ways that we can differentiate between venomous and poisonous, which I will explain next.
The first way to differentiate the two terms is with the method of delivery. A poisonous animal does not need a specialized delivery method, as the goal of a poisonous animal isn’t to poison something, but to deter predators from eating it. Venomous animals, on the other hand, do have specialized delivery methods for their venom. Snakes have fangs, scorpions have stingers, and stonefish have spines. In other words, venomous animals actively inject venom into other organisms, and poisonous animals passively poison other organisms when they’re eaten. Using this method, our translation looks like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn passief giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn actief giftig.” This doesn’t quite work as a sentence, so we need to do some retooling. Depending on how much space we have, we can edit our translation to explain the distinction a bit more, for example: “Kikkers scheiden passief gif af, maar slangen moeten hun gif actief injecteren.” This still isn’t a sentence I would use in the final translation, but since this is a hypothetical situation, that’s not important. The most important thing here is to give a clear distinction between a poisonous animal and a venomous animal, which you can do by placing focus on the difference in delivery.
Placing focus on the different delivery systems can also be done in another way. Instead of looking at active and passive delivery of toxins, we can look at the body parts used to deliver them. Many poisonous animals have toxins that don’t need to enter the body through the bloodstream, but enter through the skin and digestive system, so they don’t need specialized fangs, stingers, or barbs. Dart frogs, for example, secrete their toxins through their skin, and show their toxicity using their bright colours (this is called aposematism). Venomous animals have specialized body parts to inject their venom into their victim’s bloodstream, such as fangs, stingers, or barbs. So if we focus on that difference, we can translate the sentence like this: “Giftige kikkers scheiden hun gif af door hun huid, maar giftige slangen moeten hun gif in hun prooi bijten.” The issue with this sentence is that it only shows the difference between frogs and snakes, and not necessarily between all poisonous and venomous animals. There are many poisonous animals (including the fugu) that have their poison concentrated inside of their bodies instead of on the skin, and not all venomous animals use bites to inject venom. Of course, if the text you’re translating is only about frogs and snakes, then this would be a great way to show the differences between the two, but it’s not quite right for describing the general differences between poisonous and venomous animals.
Another way to differentiate poisonous and venomous animals is with the way they use their toxins. Poisonous animals mainly use their poison defensively to avoid being eaten, while venomous animals use their toxins offensively, to capture and kill prey or fend off attackers. If we use this in translation, we get a sentence like “Kikkers gebruiken hun gif defensief, maar slangen gebruiken hun gif offensief.” This clearly shows the difference between poison and venom, while making it understandable for the readers. I personally prefer this translation over the others, as it clearly explains the difference in a concise manner and doesn’t cause much confusion.
That’s all I have to say for now about the words poisonous and venomous, and how to translate them to a language that doesn’t naturally make that distinction. I have one last question to think about with regards to this translation: there is a snake that’s both poisonous and venomous (the Rhabdophis keelback snake), and I’m curious how you would translate that in a text if you need to explain this. If the sentence to translate is “Some snakes are both venomous and poisonous,” how would you do this? Feel free to let me know!