We’ve received several questions regarding translations and whether or not we feel they accurately present our work.
I don’t know. We’ve been translated to… 18? I think it’s more now – countries and obviously we do not speak the languages of all 18 countries. We are not the best judges of the quality of translation. Sometimes we have contact with the publisher and that helps with the trust. For example, I have complete confidence in our French publisher, because we’ve met Cecile in person and everything about how Mxm Bookmark handles KD indicates that they really care about our work.
But also, our books are very American. First, there are English puns.
Bale sank his hoe into the dirt. It must’ve gotten stuck, because he wrenched at it. The hoe came loose, snapping up, and flung a chunk of dirt into the air. Bale ducked.
“Has your man even held a hoe before?” Rook asked.
Stoyan grimaced. “Not that kind.”
Ilona Andrews. Iron and Magic (Kindle Locations 4239-4241).
How do you translate this joke? I have no idea. You’d probably just lose it.
Then there are references to US culture. This is especially evident in Innkeeper.
“I just had a perfectly lovely conversation with the woman who lives down the street. Her name is Emily, I believe.”
Caldenia waved her fingers.
“Yes, something or other. Apparently she grows tomatoes in her backyard.”
“Did you go off the inn grounds?”
“Of course not, dear, I’m not an imbecile. We spoke over the hedge. I would like to grow tomatoes.”
Whatever kept her occupied. “Very well. I’ll purchase some plants and gardening tools.”
“Also a hat,” Caldenia said. “One of those hideous straw affairs with little flowers on them.”
Andrews, Ilona. Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles Book 1) (pp. 84-85). NYLA. Kindle Edition.
“I’m going to grow green tomatoes, and then we’ll fry them in butter.”
“Your Grace, you’ve never tried fried green tomatoes.”
“Life is about new experiences.” Caldenia gave me a toothy smile.
“I’d eat it,” Sean said.
I stared at him.
He shrugged. “They’re good.”
“You blackmailed me. You are not invited for these theoretical fried tomatoes.”
“Nonsense,” Caldenia said. “They’re my theoretical tomatoes. You are invited.”
I sighed. That was all I could do.
Caldenia headed up the stairs and stopped.
“By the way. Back in my younger days, a man broke into my estate and stole the Star of Inndar. It was a beautiful jewel, light blue and excellent for storing light-recorded data. I was keeping my financial records on it. I’d thought the man was perhaps a revolutionary come to heroically overthrow my rule, but sadly he was just an ordinary thief motivated by money. He was a karian, and he’d hidden dozens of pouches in his flesh. Before he was captured, he’d hidden the Star somewhere in his body. I required the jewel that evening to complete a certain financial agreement, and I didn’t have time to dig through him and risk damaging the Star in the process.”
“So what did you do?” Sean said.
Never ask that question.
“I boiled him, my dear. It is still the only sure way to separate hard bits from all that flesh…”
Andrews, Ilona. Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles Book 1) (pp. 85-86). NYLA. Kindle Edition.
Would someone in Taiwan know what Piggly Wiggly is? Probably not. They probably wouldn’t catch the reference to Fried Green Tomatoes, but they could still enjoy the story.
As an side, Gordon and I watched a true crime documentary about a murder that happened in a small town in Alabama. The woman involved is being recorded during a police interview.
“And then what happened?”
“I went to the Pig.”
“And how long were you there?”
Me: What the hell is the Pig?
Gordon: I don’t know.
It’s Piggly Wiggly. I have never heard this in my entire life and Piggly Wiggly was the first US grocery store I had ever set foot in. It’s clearly a vernacular difference and this is just a neighboring state let alone another country.
I guess the moral of this story is, as an author, sometimes you have to trust and let go.
Liv W says
I think translations are an iffy thing, whatever the medium. Sometimes you get very, very good approximations, or substitutes that are relatable to the locale. Other times, there just isn’t an exact translation. Take movie subtitles, for example. Sometimes things are not translated at all, or the translation is slightly or completely off.
Moderator R says
Most recently, the viral show Squid Game had many calling out the errors in the subtitles, going as far as saying Korean speakers watched a different show entirely. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-06/squid-game-translation-controversy-netflix-korean-english/100514482
I’ve been hearing about that show. Are subtitles the only option? I loved Lupin and that gave you the optio nof subtitles or spoken translation. I chose the latter and after a while you didn’t even notice the lips didn’t move in sync with the voice. Is there an option on the Squid Game for spoken translations, or is subtitle the only choice?
Moderator R says
Dubbing is available 🙂
Patricia Schlorke says
However, you have to be careful with dubbing or else you will get something like the old Godzilla movies where people were speaking in Japanese, with the dubbing in English, and when the English stops, the person kept on speaking in Japanese. It was hilarious! 😀
Haha. Brought back memories of watching The Samurai https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Samurai_(TV_series) in the sixties. My sister constantly practiced getting her lips to twist opposite of the way they should in normal speech. She also managed to fashion sort of star knives out of the tops and bottoms of cans using old school can openers. Nobody would play with her so she threw them at our wooden garage doors for hours.
The dubbing doesn’t match the subtitles. I don’t know if either are closer to the spirit of the original.
Nicole Labossiere says
Based on the French movies we watch and my daughter’s Korean friend, Netflix subtitles are infinitely better than dubbing (which can be quite painful)….
The problem is with TV & FILM, sometimes the English subtitles aren’t the direct translation of the spoken foreign language, but rather are the subtitles to the dub translation that had to be adapted to match lip flaps of the dubbed language. They don’t want to incur the expense of doing twice the work. (Like two subtitle tracks in English, one for direct, one for the dub.) And some companies treat the English track as a replacement for closed captioning, so they’ll default more to the subtitle track being the dubbed script.
Netflix is also a bit notorious for a burn and churn scenario if they’re the ones handling the translations, versus a larger production company that would provide it to them.
I’ll also say for weekly episodic content, translators don’t have time usually to get introduced to the story, dive into the research material (overview of historical time periods that are relevant to the story, any books, games, comics the tv series is adapted from). I mean just imagine trying to translate the Hamilton Musical if you had no prior knowledge of the musical, the book it’s based on, or a general understanding of the American Revolution into like an indigenous language of a tribe from the Amazon. For longer run content like series, they don’t have the time to re-watch several times through, let alone marathon something to pick up on themes before they get started. They usually don’t have the means to talk to the director or creator or showrunner for clarification of those themes. They’re handed the project given a deadline that’s right around the corner.
In the world of simulcasted anime titles, they are usually getting a specific episode script a few weeks before broadcast, but sometimes the episode isn’t delivered until maybe 24-48 hours before broadcast, and then they have to make sure there weren’t changes to the script once that final episode arrives.
Some of the companies will have a chance to sort of on board a translator if they’ve got on contracted to d the work for a property. They’ll try to carve out some time for them to sort of onboard to the world. But that only works if there’s pre-existing material (comics, games, books, etc.). P
A further monkey wrench, is sometimes especially for certain properties that they operate under such an intentional black out to maintain big twists and turns, that they may not want to loop in partners in other territories until the absolute last minute to avoid leaks too.
Liv W says
I had heard that the Squid Game subtitles were problematic, but it’s eye-opening how really off much of it was.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings did a decent job, but there were definitely things that were either not translated (eg, a few muttered asides), not quite right (eg, the initial introduction of the Jon Jon character at the fight club when he talks to Awkwafina’s Katy), and completely in a different universe (eg, when Wen Wu rebukes the elder archery guy for disrespect).
Thanks for the links! I have been looking for this since I saw Shang-Chi. There were one or two times that I laughed and my non-Chinese speaking family didn’t. Definitely some subtleties and also some larger bits were not translated directly. I was a little distracted from the movie because I kept trying to check the subtitles against the spoken dialogue. Overall though, I’m thrilled that so much of the movie was in Chinese. They also did a decent job aligning the actors’ accents; there are definitely some movies where people who are all supposed to be the same family have wildly different accents and it’s jarring.
I have a friend who translated the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies for Taiwan. And one thing I’ve learned from her and reading subtitles on English for Chinese movies or vice versa (even with my minimal Chinese) is that a movie translation is only as good as the translator’s languages. Lots of cultural stuff or idiomatic language can be left along the byways.
Susan Spencer says
I teach anatomy and physiology at the college level. You should see what some of the auto captioning does in terms of translation. Oh my, it is very entertaining… as long as you have a flexible and open mind. Having studied a few “foreign” languages, I would imagine the translation of these books could be quite interesting. I’ve always been told that humor is the most difficult thing to translate between cultures. I believe it.
Keep up the awesome work!
And in regards to an earlier post which I cannot seem to find now (grrr at myself) there was a reference to deleted snippets (something like 45,000??!!??). Have you considered a compilation of deleted scenes from different books? I know for SURE I would buy such a thing!!! And scream whooo hooo from the rooftops. This includes the scene that you discovered killed Ruby Fever, until you removed it.
I think your BDH would go for anything you release. Any form. Any nature. Sigh, probably even grocery lists. We love you SO much! Thank you for helping make life bearable.
Yes, I would love deleted snippets and would gladly pay for them as well! Or male POV … I’m dying to hear Alessandro’s voice and would absolutely pay for small bits of it!
David Becher says
Something is always lost in translation. There is nothing you can do about it. An British reader would probably miss some of US cultural items without any translation issues. A good translator might be able to substitute a local equivalent for some items, but most of them would probably miss the kind of stuff you are referring to and never know that something was lost.
Moderator R says
Not a book, but Captain America’s To Do list and its many variations depending on where the movie was shown comes to mind when it comes to switching references 😀 https://marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com/wiki/Captain_America%27s_To-Do_List
Well I’m English and I completely missed the last 2 references Ilona was talking about so best of luck to the translators!
Still not entirely sure and off to do some googling and get educated ????
I’m American, but I’ve never heard of straw hats with hideous flowers either, it might be a southern thing? I mean, I have a straw hat for gardening, but there’s no decorations on it. I have never ate fried green tomatoes, but it is from the south. (and the name of a movie made from a book of the same title.)
I think the hat is referencing steel magnolias, but honestly when I read that in the book I didn’t immediately think of the movie. It made me think of little old southern women working in their garden saying things like “bless your heart” and drinking sweet tea. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a southern woman wearing one of those hats. Fried green tomatoes are surprisingly good though.
Alabama is a different South than the northern GA you spent time in or the western NC of my childhood. North of the Mason Dixon line, the South is probably thought of as much more homogeneous or similar than actual Southerners know it to be. The most egregious example probably the “Southern” accent in film or television media. Usually, it’s non-regional and frankly, insulting.
Lynn Thompson says
+1 , agreed
Jeanine Lesperance says
+ 1 to the bit about southern accents in television/film/audiobooks.
I’m from SC and the first time I heard of “The Pig” was from an aunt from FL.
Lee Anne says
Same goes for most British, Australian, Irish or kiwi accents on American tv (except of course for actors from those places).
Oh lordy yes! Even Gordon’s western NC would be different than my central NC. And in the south education makes a difference also. BTW, Gordon, I don’t recall you having much accent at all when we met.
Excellent thread! Different areas of the states refer to the craziest things differently: soda, pop, carbonated drink.
What kind of Coke do you want? Orange.
Absolutely spot on! I’ve always referred to all sodas as “Coke”.
Lee Anne says
“The pig”. I was expecting that to mean she fed him to a pig. Way off on that one but good for a chuckle! Improved my mood after 45 minutes on the phone with my credit card company. Now I can leave the house with a civil attitude.
I’m a western girl overall but I have lived in 6 states and none of them have Piggly Wigglys. I was pretty old before I knew what they were.
Donna A says
I find context is helpful in translations, both in books and subtitles. Cultural differences aside, if someone is angry then you can assume an unfamiliar reference may be a swear or curse of some kind; or if they’re going shopping then some unknown word could be a shop.
As for your Americanisms, I’ve never noticed anything especially hard to recognise, I think the pervasive nature of Hollywood and TV has helped spread the word ????
I find the most hard to ease into are Chinese, Japanese and Korean stories and dramas; the cultural background is so much greater that sometimes it just jars me from the story – I’ve seen a few where someone slapped an employee’s face for disrespect and it shocked me that this was taken as being OK.
If we only read and watched things from our own perspective we’d be very bored I think!
Polina Makeeva says
Talking about translation. Could someone please tell me what does “WIZARD AT LARGE.” mean? Non native English speaker here, obviously.
Luther from Kate Daniels had “WIZARD AT LARGE.” on his hoodie.
Googling “At-Large” gives me
“at liberty; escaped or not yet captured.”, “A person who is at large is not in prison”
“a political representative who is elected to serve an entire area …”
“Free from confinement, control, or restraint.”
Googling various combinations
“Editor-at-large” – … “editor-at-large contributes content on a semi-regular basis”. Which could either mean “Free of constrains” or “occasional”.
Googling “WIZARD AT LARGE” suggests a book by Terry Brooks and the description starts with “… half-able wizard …”
“Hero at large” moniker was give to a 18yo by some pirates out for revenge. So that would also fit “half-able” hero.
But then its strange to have “Editor-at-large” official position and not at all near the definition of “at-large”.
So “WIZARD AT LARGE” on Luther’s hoodie could mean:
(a) “half-able wizard” which fits with Luther’s sense of humor
(b) “occasional wizard”
(c) “Wizard roaming free”
(d) “an official position – a wizard serving a large area”
(e) all of the above
Moderator R says
The closest is the “roaming free” one, but not quite :).
From Ilona: “It’s more Wizard on a Rampage, Wizard Unsupervised, Wizard who does whatever he wants, or Wizard Who Cannot Be Contained. Wizard who cannot be boxed in.”
So there’s an aspect of rebellion, lawlessness and wildness to the roaming free.
No one puts Luther in a corner 😀 (that’s a Dirty Dancing reference).
It’s word play on the phrase “convict at large” for escaped criminals or “animal at large”/”dog at large” which refers to owner control laws like leash use, enclosures etc. https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/animal-at-large/#:~:text=An%20animal%20at%20large%20refers,unrestrained%20or%20not%20under%20control .
I hope this helped 🙂
HA can say for sure, but I second this definition. We hear that phrase a lot in Texas to refer to both animals and warnings about criminals who have not been caught. And by animals, I mean the usual dogs as well as an occasional tiger, bison, or crocodile. And I live in Dallas. I also think that in Luther’s case, while he may be employed, he answers to no one. So he is a free character and not a company man. Luther will tell you what he thinks and does what seems best no matter the “policy” or “compahy rules” he might have to ignore.
Polina Makeeva says
Wow. I thought “Roaming free” was the least likely one 🙂
But then I never encountered it in real life. If it’s often used in Texas for animals and criminals, it makes total sense.
I was mostly confused by “editor at large” which seems like an occasional editor, from the definition. But “roaming free” fits too 🙂
Moderator R says
“Editor at large” is someone who has a great deal of autonomy and will usually only work on specific projects for a publication. They’re more independent in the content they create but also have less of a say :), so it’s the whole “can’t box me in” thing again ????
Bill from NJ says
In the magazine world these days,along with ‘contributimg editor’, it really means not on the direct payroll but still write for the periodical. With all the cutbacks in the magazine world it is a fancy way to say freelancer
Mod R is right on, but I’d thought I’d add some more cultural phrases to emphasize the ‘can’t box me in’ concept conveyed by ‘Wizard at Large’.
First stop: ‘Have Gun – Will Travel’ a Radio and TV show from the 50s and 60s. The hero calls himself Paladin and he’s basically a gunslinging version of a fantasy paladin. (white knight)
Wow. I think I packed half a dozen words, idioms, and colloquialisms in that explanation.
Maybe I should just leave this explanation to Moderator R and her HA quotes.
As an official title, Editor At Large would mean a freelance contractor, but it would also imply that the skilled editor has enough prominence to be able to get any short term contract wherever they show up.
However, Wizard At Large on a T-Shirt is going to convey that skillset, the swagger along with it, and also, in an ironic way, the dangerous animal/criminal the “at large” phrase is often heard.
It is a joke, but it is a joke that’s baked in to our understanding of Luther’s character. And, surprisingly enough, is a fantastic shorthand for a character with that much backstory, especially as our narrator does not necessarily know the humorous and dependable side of Luther, just his skill set.
Man, that’s a really well done piece of re-introduction, HA. Great job.
I think it’s also supposed to have the “I’m a badass” element to it? Usually when a person is “at large”, it’s in reference to an escaped criminal. So in this case, it’s kind of satirical, almost? If it said “MAGIC BADASS AT WORK” it’d have a similar implication, since frequently it’s college age people and people who are particularly sarcastic who wear witty slogan shirts.
If you say that a dangerous person, thing, or animal is at large, you mean that they have not been captured or made safe. Stolen from Collins English dictionary
description of Wizard at large…meaning Luther has not been made safe to be around…at least that was the way I defined it
I took it as a double entendre: “wizard available for hire” but also “wizard escaped from his confines.”
That’s how I took it too
Sara B. says
I think it is closer to the “at large” committee positions, where you may have 4-5 committee members representing different regions, and then one or two “at large” members who do not represent any one contingent, but work to the benefit of the group as a whole.
Good old Google gives this:
“A Member at Large is an officer whose duties and responsibilities are not fixed but instead vary according to the needs of the association and as directed by the other officers of the board.”
That seems to fit Luther to a t.
Moderator R says
???? I have a quote from Ilona in my answer confirming the intended meaning of “at large” in the book.
I hope it helps. ????
This whole discussion is so interesting. I always assumed it meant unsupervised or uncontained. Like a wild animal or escaped convict. I never considered that this would be confusing to native US English speakers.
Gaëlle from France says
Thank you for your question , and everyone for your answers, it’s very interesting !!
On a plus note, Luther is the best, I adore this character !
It brings to mind Harry Potter in Italian, where, among other facepalming translations, they changed meek, non suspicious, professor Quirrel’s name to… Professor Raptor.
This is a fascinating topic to me because I finished my Masters in Specialized Translation this year (except for an internship I still have to do). I feel like I could write a whole essay about this, but that would be a very long comment ;D
But I specifically chose specialized instead of literary translation because the challenges are different – less humor and idioms and more needing to research a specific topic, like how an MRI scanner works, for example. I haven’t read your works in my native language and wouldn’t even know where to start with some of the issues you describe in this post.
There is generally no one right translation. Especially in literary texts it can be difficult or even impossible to accurately represent all intricacies of the original text in the translation. But all translators do their best and literary translators have my admiration.
As a fan, I do still get mad when I notice something in subtitles that doesn’t make any sense, though, even with a little more knowledge about the process than the average person…
So when you turn a book into an editor, do they point out terms they’re not familiar with or that they think are too — not obscure, but not likely to be known by a majority of people and ask you to change it? Or do they point it out and then you add some context, like “‘… the Pig.’ Everyone in this town called the Piggly Wiggly grocery store the Pig.”
There are terms that are definitely regional, so I was curious if they’ve asked you to change terms or put some context around the regional terms?
Some aren’t even regional but might be culture, to some extent. How many people here know what euchre is? (I’m curious if you know, Mod R. I never looked up its origins, but I would guess it started somewhere across the pond.)
Depends on what you read? I know euchre is a game because I have read enough historical romance novels.
I’m pretty sure illogically/historically named stores exist everywhere. Americans probably don’t wonder why something would be named Walmart, UK people with Tesco, and non-French speaking with Carrefour’s shops outside French speaking regions like Brazil, UAE, or China (though “Crossroads” makes the most sense of these).
Euchre is a card game.
I have read the rules, but it was a long time ago…
I do! It’s a card game. I don’t know how it’s played, though.
I’ve seen a few notes on how Squid Game could have been translated better. I know Netflix is newer into the merchandising and globalization of a single media source compared to Disney but I did wonder why they dropped the ball aside from the cultural references which don’t translate as simply. I guess enough interest has made it through to make it a record breaking watched show, though.
Disney’s globalization of Frozen Let It Go really opened my eyes into how far they can reach into talent pools. I’m guessing the script writers/planners also have an internationalization team who starts earlier in the process to provide feedback on what might work better for local markets.
This is an effective motto for a lot of life – trust and let go…
Chloe Baker says
What about the Russian translations? I´m assuming KD has been translated into Russian.
Moderator R says
It has indeed https://ilona-andrews.com/2020/lookit-lookit/ ????
Too scared to read.
K D says
:see no evil:
LOL. I can understand that. Russians butchered Harry Potter name into Gary Potter, not sure why. My kids find it hilarious. Did not know that KD was translated to Russian. I hate when most authors use Russian in the books, it never makes since and takes me out of the story every time.
However, some books that are translated into Russian are better then originals. Karlson who lives on the roof is better in Russian then in original or in English.
I’m from the Caribbean, and most of us that speak english and have similar colonial histories, speak very different dialects of english. So much so that two dishes with the same name from Trinidad and Jamaica look very different. Confused my poor American born husband at his Jamaican friends house. Ive learned to just kind of go with the flow and figure it out the best we can.
This is true of other languages as well. One of my former students did a fellowship in Seville, Spain. That’s a different dialect from, for instance, Madrid. Now she’s in med school and when she took Spanish for medical personnel, everyone else (including the instructor ) was speaking various Central American dialects of Spanish. She got a lot of kidding about pretty much everything she said.
“Why I have different accents for different words when I speak Spanish” –
– 1st year high school: teacher from the U. S. midwest region, did part of her MA at university in Mexico.
– 2nd year high school: teacher from Czech Republic, English was his second language, Spanish was his third language.
– 3rd year high school: teacher was a native speaker from Cuba.
– college (5 semesters): professor was a native speaker from Colombia.
(And I got teased in choir for singing Latin, French and Italian with a Spanish accent!)
My grandma (south Louisiana) always called it The Pig. I never thought about it being regional!
so fun! I have always wondered if you were referencing Fried green tomatoes or not, as I thought of that book immediately. You have to be widely read to get the punny references in many books, not just yours, and I’m sure I miss a lot of them. Hehe. But I do believe that your books will still be well received even if some or most of the inside jokes are missed in other cultures. They’re just such good stories.
18 other languages! Go House Andrews!
And I’m like – Fried Green Tomatoes was a book? I thought it was a movie, lol!
Moderator R says
???? It was both! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fried_Green_Tomatoes_at_the_Whistle_Stop_Cafe
There’s probably a Cliff Notes version of it, too.
Is Cliff Notes still a thing? Anyone with a teenager or college-age student (or is one yourself) chime in, please.
It could also be local naming too. We have a gas store in our small town named woodereds but if you ask my granny it’s Suttons and will forever be Suttons. Trying to tell the foreign tourist to go to Suttons to get something always ended with its over yonder next to the co-op look for bank, not not the credit union the bank. Which leaves blank faces.
I thought Rook was the character that didn’t talk…?
I remember reading the Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging (Georgia Nicholson series) when I was a teenager by Louise Rennison. They were written by a British author (hence the snogging in the title which was not changed for the US edition) and the US version came with a glossary of UK slang translated into American English at the end of the book. So none of British slang was changed for US YA readers (except maybe for spelling I can’t remember) and thanks to that glossary, I became pretty well-versed in common UK slang at a young age. I thought it was a great compromise and didn’t ruin the integrity of the original text.
Translation comes with its own set of issues and you are never going to get a 100% literal translation due to cultural references, idioms, etc. I remember that JK Rowling came up with an alternate title for the 7th Harry Potter because translators were stumped and had no idea how to translate “Deathly Hallows” because it’s a term she made up. Rowling gave them “Relics of Death” which is what most translators ended up using. As a trilingual, translation issues always fascinate me! It’s such a topic of nerd interest.
How funny, I, literally, just came home from buying lottery tickets at the Pig. I won a small amount, and went back to buy my tickets from there again. How interesting to see you bring up the Pig. Huh. Well, we’ll see what comes of this serendipitous event.
My Chinese friend translated an American business book and the Krispy Kreme book. It was during the time he was awaiting a kidney transplant, so all of his friends were helping him out with the translations because he had to pay for the transplant. They ended up footnoting lots of the unique Americanisms — like Snap, Crackle, Pop (the cereal ad) — with a summary of the origin. It provided good insight into the American culture behind the words, which was differently interesting than the original.
I remember this particularly well because the publisher shortened the donut book as the hype over sugary tastes took up over 50% of the book, but the Chinese are rarely sugar-addicted, so it was confusingly boring to them. When I highlighted all the sugar-related text, that’s when they decided to chop the book.
That’s fascinating. Thank you for sharing!
Some puns work in other languages. Some are explained in a footnote. My luck that german is closely related to englisch????, because audiobooks, I prefer in german.
When I read something, that’s clearly a reference, that I don’t know, I just google it. I have learnt a lot about the USA that way????.
Thank you for that explanation. Now my question; how annoying is it to you when the covers of the books don’t have images that are remotely similar to your descriptions. Ex: your German covers have the female image for a Legacy book. as a pretty brunette but description in book is that of a blonde or light brown female.
Diane Wilson says
I’ve been reading (and enjoying) Rivers of London, but sometimes I need a cockney to American translation.
I’m enjoying that series! Part of the fun is the language.
I had no problem with the cockney (uk tv made up a good 30-40% of our tv offerings n nz when I was a kid) but the slang that the kids use in Rivers of London takes a lot of getting used to.
My wife has/had a white t-shirt with a cartoon pig head and the caption “I’m Big on the Pig”. It took me a while to figure out what it meant, too.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the walk down memory lane.
My Mother grew up in rural Dorchester county near St George, SC which is north of Charleston toward Columbia. The Piggly Wiggly was only grocery store. So you went to “The Pig”. If you wanted pork BBQ you went to Duke’s in St George. The Dukes family made on weekends only and Mother always had to have a plate on our twice a year trip to SC to see her family. Growing up that was a 6 hour one way trip because mostly country roads then. Now with interstates it’s 5 hours with pit stops. We still stop at Duke’s BBQ for a plate for Mother who is 77 now.
It’s kind of like when my military sister would take about HEB when they were stationed in Texas.
Im in europe, never heard of piggly wiggly or that there’s a specific fried green tomatoes reference or a garden hat reference?
I just figured fried green tomatoes is a local food culinary thing. What is this reference? XD
Also those large straw hats as gardening or farmer hats are a thing here too so I just thought it was a generic reference not a specific one…. Hmmmmm
Moderator R says
It’s the title of an old movie, very touching 🙂 .
Fried Green Tomatoes https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101921/. (But yes, also very much a Southern dish)
Ahhhh. Thank you!
Watch the movie, it’s lovely
In the south, it’s pronounced hoggly woggly.
Sounds like what a friend of mine used to do. She called William Shakespeare, Willie Wiggleweapon.
At least HA’s books don’t have footnotes in their English editions to explain their English. Still can’t stand to read Willie’s books or plays for just that reason.
Teh Gerg says
I grew up with my dad calling it the Hoggly Woggly.
Another Ignorant Brit here, but my assumption from ‘went to the Pig’ would be you went to the Pub/Tavern/Bar – specifically the ‘Pig and Whistle’ – which I have seen a few of around the UK!
Not massively different, but now you’ve mentioned Piggly Wriggly, it makes sense!
Mind you for the Straw hatted elderly lady, my mind went to Caldenia watching some suitably elderly ladies in lavender, or Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, or Margaret Rutherford – something of that nature! We probably all make assumptions from our experiences that fit into the jokes and puns at a local level!
Jen H says
I was listening to a True Crime podcast and they were going over an interview where a witness said he had diner with one of the suspects that day and they were all up in arms about it because there was video footage of the suspect during the late afternoon/evening so the witness HAD to be lying. Except, the witness was older and from the deep south where for him diner is the big meal at midday and super is your evening meal so it was really the people examining the case that got it wrong (I would have too). Its interesting how words, phases, nicknames, etc can vary so widely.
Yeah, I’ve heard that too. I grew up saying lunch and dinner but I know other areas (and I was going to say in the South, too) say dinner and supper.
My brother has had a friend for most of his life, and 45 years later, still mentions about us calling the mid-day meal dinner. I think that comes from the farming culture my parents came from where the biggest meal of the day, especially on Sunday, was the mid-day meal. Supper was leftovers from Dinner. Typically, the first up(about 4am) built up the fire, and woke up the next person, then it was chores while someone cooked a big breakfast, and then some food was wrapped up to take to the field, and you ate that mid-morning. Then the big dinner at 1 or so, and then supper around 5, and then the last chores of the day while it was still light. At least, that’s what it was on the farm my mom grew up on.
Ireland here and I grew up with dinner at 1pm and teatime at 6pm
Lee Anne says
I grew up saying breakfast, dinner, and supper. My husband still teases me about it.
My family only had dinner on Sundays and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Any other day, we had lunch and supper, with big meal being lunch and supper often the left-overs from lunch.
My parents were both from central Texas (Georgetown, north of Austin) and lived rurally. One was a ranch family and one a farm family.
I have no idea where the language came from, but both of them used it.
Hillary Cresswell says
Just reading the title of this tidbit had me grinning. The South is full of Piggly Wigglys. Oh thank you so much for that chuckle.
So. Small town louisana directions. “You go down this road cher, and you take the right turn right after the pig…” Actually pretty common.
Valery King says
Regionalism are fascinating. We don’t have Piggly Wiggly here in Oregon, but how many people outside the Northwest would understand “I’m going to Freddie’s?” (Fred Meyer, a grocery/department store ubiquitous throughout the region.)
Sara B. says
Even “way up north”, the closest grocery store to my university in Washington State was a Piggly Wiggly. Right across the street from the “Goofy Goose” hamburger stand. I think we called it the “Pig-Wig”? Not sure … it was the 70’s …
Bill G says
Fascinating; thanks for the insight.
Sometimes the translator does well, and gets the feel of a work. The greatest example I know is Michael Kandel’s translation of Lem’s “The Cyberiad.”
A quote from the translation of “The Cyberiad”:
“Have it compose a poem- a poem about a haircut! But lofty, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter S!!
“Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Some savage, spectacular suicide.”
I am told that the passage in the original Polish was nothing at all like this literally, but that this captured the tone and spirit of the original work well.
This goes beyond “translation” to the realm of “creation”.
That’s so cool
I’m in Wisconsin and am not ashamed to admit that I shop at Piggly Wiggly. 🙂 Their website is shopthepig.com and I’ve seen merchandise proclaiming, ‘I dig the Pig!’ so I got that reference at least!
And do you say bubbler or water fountain? (College roommate said they call them bubblers, so I was curious if it was all over the state or a section of the state.)
Bubblers all the way! 🙂 That and ‘stop and go lights’ (for traffic lights) are two of my favorite colloquialisms!
Went to college near Milwaukee – drinking fountains are bubblers in southeastern Wisconsin. (Also, a long and involved card game called Sheepshead.)
Ann Mayer says
We shopped at The Pig for 30+ years. Sadly it closed last year. But I do have a Piggly Wiggly umbrella ☂!
I didn’t know Piggly Wiggly was a real place! I’d sometimes hear it in the media and thought it was a made of location, similar to U.S. phone numbers that start with “555” on TV.
I shop at the Pig at least a couple of times a week! I love the Pig like I love my Publix. It has the BEST chicken wings for miles around! I often run over to the Pig to grab some for lunch. Yum!
I have been reading some British authors recently and their books are set in the US with US characters, and no effort at all was made to change from British to American. OK, Lounge=Living room, Cinema room = Home theater, but every single time one of the males in the story mentioned their jumper, I pictured the horrendous knitted one piece outfits that have been on the internet. And when they needed a flashlight and a character said, “Turn on your phone torch”, I about died from laughing. I was picturing a long stick with a phone’s flashlight on bright tied at the end of the torch, while the wielder was leading her group of friends who all had pitchforks.
Lee Anne says
It was the Brit authors having american teens say ‘whilst’ that drove me batty.
I had that with a book where the used the word toboggan. I could not figure out why they used the word in that context, because to me, a toboggan is something you ride on down a snowy hill. In the next book or two later, there was a bit better context and I realized they were talking about a hat. Don’t know if it’s specific to a winter hat or knit hat, but that was the first time I saw that term to mean a hat.
Learned what a jumper was from Harry Potter (cat wearing a jumper), except I watched the first couple of movies without reading the books, so took me a bit to clue into what it was.
I was so confused in that book excuse on one scene a character had pink braces, and the next day orange, then the next day bright green. I wondered why he was making so many trips to the orthodontist and why they would change the colors like that. Then I realized that they were suspenders, and it made more sense.
Oddly enough, in the US, that would possibly have to do with dental braces, rather than suspenders; when I was in school, people got teeny rubber bands to put around the sharp parts of the braces; they changed them by themselves, and so could have different colors.
I am Persian but I was raised here from 4 years old. I have no accent when I speak English. But I can’t read and write in Farsi and while I am conversationally fluent to a large degree, idioms go right over my head. One of my cousins and his wife moved here recently so we trade idioms. I say things like “you’re up a creek…” and they ask em to explain and then vice versa when they say something that goes right over my head.
I was trying to explain what passive aggressive means to them and when we used google translate it translated “passive” and “aggressive” as separate words instead of as one idea. Needless to say, it was useless. I ended up having to just explain it as well as I could until one of my aunts (who has been in the US for 40 years) figured out the closest translation.
It’s hard. For example, I really like British humor so I read several series set in the England specifically ,and there are times when I have to look something up in every chapter. And times when I can figure it out. And I’m pretty well read. So if I have that much trouble with a book in English… there is a reason why good translators are paid well. You can’t just translate words. I mean, if that was the case Google Translate would have put them out of business. You have to translate ideas and commonalities in culture. It’s very hard. I suck at it for the most part.
One thing I find helpful/informative for translating cultural contexts/puns are footnotes or endnotes with explanations, but that’s easier to do in some mediums than others. I read a lot of manga and one of the major US publishers (Kodansha) usually has notes in the back explaining cultural references and translation choices. Sometimes when you read enough you can pick out some of the previously unfamiliar items. I’ve heard it said that translation is as much an art as it is a science and in storytelling, I’d say that’s definitely true.
As for your examples… well, I haven’t heard of Piggly Wiggly until today despite living in the US. Grocery chains tend to be super regional from what I’ve seen, which makes it extra fun. I think it’s why I tend to stick with saying “the grocery store” instead of specifying one.
Ok, I have a question about idioms. There are two phrases that come up several times in IA books. “Pull someone’s legs out” and some variation of “the world stood on its head and kicked me in the face.” I understand what they mean, but I have not heard or read them anywhere else, so I was curious if they are regional or perhaps originally Russian?
Moderator R says
I’m going to need context for the first one :). Are you sure it’s pulling someone’s leg OUT? “Pulling someone’s leg” means to deceive or trick them, but not in a mean way. It’s a common phrase in English and has been in use since the 1800s https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/to-pull-someones-leg. Pull someone’s leg OUT probably refers to a literal situation when the leg was pulled out of socket during fight/torture. Again, I would need context of the quote to help more 🙂
The world stood on it’s head or anything being on its head means it is doubted or seen in a new way https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/stand-sth-on-its-head. I cannot find a specific source for how long it’s been in use, probably because it is so intuitive. HA combined it with “kicked me in the face” to denote it’s a perspective shift that did not make the character feel at ease. Again, rather common English expressions, but used in a unique combination because that’s what writing style is all about 😀
White Hot, chapter 5, Penelope is telling Nevada about how her parents didn’t like Nevada’s dad in the beginning. “Grandma Frida took me to this lunch where she tried to convince me to leave him and come back to their house. Her exact words were ‘And if he tries to bother you again, I’ll pull his legs out.’”
Magic Breaks, chapter 5, Robert is confronting Kate and Derek is dubious “Derek pretended to study Ascanio and glanced at me. “Would you like me to pull his legs out?” His eyes were completely serious. He was asking if I wanted Robert jumped.”
There are a couple of other places in KD books I think. I understand what is meant, I’m just curious the origin of the phrase.
Moderator R says
That would be the literal meaning of physically pulling on someone’s lower limbs, with threatening intention. It’s not an idiom :).
Oops I guess I misused the term idiom to describe them. I know what they mean and understand the usage. I hadn’t heard these phrases before and wondered the origins, if they are Southern or Russian or ….
“Pulling the leg out” is used in the way I’d say “pulling the leg off”. It often shows up as a threat in IA books.
I have been assuming that is the way some one else uses it and I have not encountered it.
I do not remember noticing the second phrase, but I am not the best at that sort of thing…
My brain went to “pulling legs from an insect”.
Not exactly sure where it comes from. Kids – or not only kids- doing mean things.
Stopping something annoying….
I grew up in Germany and have been in the US a looong time now.
Lots of things have changed in the last few decades, so it may also be generational.
I did the same thing. Around here people jokingly threaten to pull someone’s arm off and beat them to death with it, and I just figured that “pulling their legs out” was a regional variation on the same idea.
I manage a lot of translation projects related to corporate training. In the beginning I was very naive and thought that it should be a straightforward process where it was either right or wrong, so I thought our translation vendor was incompetent when reviewers would critique the translated text. I speak a second language so I should have known better.
Then I was in a manufacturing plant in Japan where they had safety posters up all over the place. They had been translated to English due to the large number of Americans who were often there. (It was an American company.) The translation read “Calmness prevents injury.” And suddenly I understood—it was grammatically correct, clear, and comprehensible, but not something we would ever put on a safety poster in a plant in the US.
Translation is very tricky. I have a lot of respect for those who do it well.
I thought the Piggly Wiggly was like a Max or 7/11. I guess it’s closer to a Save-on. At the end of the summer there are always green tomatoes left on the vine. We usually stew them, I don’t think I’ve ever had them fried. I assume the reference is to the old Cher movie. I live in another English speaking country and I still really enjoy your books without getting all the puns.
Moderator R says
It is a reference to an old movie but there’s a dearth of Cher in it, I’m afraid 😀 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101921/
????♂️ Obviously, I have never seen it. ???? I was thinking Mermaids. ????
Moderator R says
Mermaids is awesome! 😀
John H says
Okay, based on the stores you referred to, you are Canadian and probably from the West, right?
30 book a month reader says
Completely off topic, but I couldn’t stand it. How is the little dog your daughter rescued? Is he going to make it?
Moderator R says
Hey 30 book a month reader,
Please see here for an update on Peanut (aka Lola) https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/the-owner-of-the-stray-dog-was-found/
She had to be entrusted back to her previous owners and we can but hope for the best 🙂
We’re big on the Pig!
Ashley Richter says
Yet another reason in the never ending list of reasons why you are my favorite authors you referenced two of my all time favorite movies. I honestly cannot describe how incredibly lucky I feel to have found your books! Please never stop writing for the world needs your words.
Lee Anne says
I imagine that you have to let go and trust that the translators will try to match your intent as well as they can. If the readers in those other languages still enjoy the books as much as we do then it’s all good at the end of the day right?
Valerie in CA says
You just never get good lines like that in movies anymore.
But your books…? The subtle dialogue between characters when a movie reference or innuendo is fabulous.
Several young women in a group I belong to have never seen Steel Magnolias. Under the age of 30. I’m glad it is an online group. Otherwise I’d have to commit murder
I totally mentioned my fav Helen quote about RIPPERcushions on the last post and I realize that’d be another sad thing lost in translation! 🙁
Debi Ennis Binder says
I went to the Pig. I’m off to the Pig. Got it at the Pig. It’s me, it’s my new reason for everything.
Translations can catch you both ways. There’s a series I read set in post apocalyptic Montreal, and the villain lairs in “Perrot Island”, only there is no Perrot island, it’s Ile Perrot in english and Île Perrot in french, the only difference being the accent on the i. Neither of which should be confused with the town of l’Île-Perrot (hyphen and accent required in both languages).
It jars me out of story every single time.
That should be an unbreakable rule in translating: If it’s a proper noun, always use the actual proper noun. Even if using Henry instead of Henri, use the actual proper noun.
“Perrot Island” makes me think someone ran the text through a translation program and didn’t proofread very well.
Sam E says
I’m originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Texas at a young ago, and I’ve always worked for multinationals and I’m a bit of a magpie so I’m constantly picking up saying and idioms from other parts of the country and world. It kind of leads to a jumble when you speak with me. I eat breakfast, lunch and supper, a soft drink is always a coke no matter what it actually is, I have a sofa in my living room, I’m always fixin ta do something, if I’m good with something, it’s ‘no worries’, if you ask me to do something it’s ‘sure thing or will do’ and people are ‘folks’. To add more confusion to the mix, my parents were quite a bit older when they had me so I also use generational sayings. If my feet hurt, ‘my dogs are barking’, if someone gets something right that wasn’t expect ‘even a blind hog finds an acorn every once and a while’ and if I haven’t seen you in a while it’s been a ‘coon’s age’ . I’ve been told if it wasn’t for my Texas accent most folks wouldn’t have a clue where I’m from. All of that helps when I’m reading though because I’ve been exposed to so many cultures.
My kind of accent and my favorite type of conversationist!
I love words that have a precise meaning (and it bugs me people use them incorrectly. Decimate* anyone?) and I love to use them.
Old idioms and insults are so much fun.
Alas, my words are leaving me. I am groping for the word I want more and more often these days. I guess the memory finally filled up and I need a de-frag.
Ah well, as annoying as old age is, it still beats the heck out of the alternative…
*Decimate: to kill 10% of something. It was a Roman legion’s punishment. Apparently, the soldiers were lined up and every 10th man was executed, often by his non-com or the other soldiers.
It does not actually mean “devastate”, though it’s been used that way until I’m sure it is a secondary definition now.
Have you heard Piggly Wiggly’s advertising jingle? “Piggly Wiggly…. Shop the Pig!” 🙂
Akeru Joyden says
The phrase that came out of nowhere for me is “ass over tea kettle”. I don’t remember which book I read it in first, but I know I have now read it in at least 4 different Authors works.
Ten years ago, it was Schrodinger’s bloody cat, four different books from sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and erotica…
I find colloquial phrases, idioms, and regionalities fascinating. But some things in publishing are viral…
Not just publishing. TV, too. There was a trend a couple years ago where I started counting how many shows had a bad guy run into the street in front of a bus (no cars parked on the street and you still couldn’t see a bus coming?). Then it was driving and get hit from the side by a car or garbage truck (does no one check for cross traffic?). It’s like the writers have a weekly meeting and decide what the mode of death they’ll all use that week.
My sister and I, are Slovak. I read your books (KD) in original, but she can’t, so she reads in Czech language (what is kind of similar language to Slovak).
It’s good translation. Small english puns are translated or I can say transformed into puns she can understand and can laugh on it. However, in my opinion, names of horses should not be translated – every name should stay as it is in original.
Part of the joy I have is the puns, slang, and references to culture that you put in. Thank you for your hard work.
Well I started reading IA in Polish (I think two firsts KD books and On the Edge), so translation could not have been too bad.
But then I got fed up with waiting for next books to be translated cause it takes FOREVER (I get why, but it does).
And in the meantime I got proficient enough to read original on my own.
Half of the references fly over my head thought ^^
Translations are the reason I try to read/watch books/movies etc. in the original language if possible. Some things just can’t be translated. I’d rather not get a cultural reference than having to hope the translator got the tone right.
I started doing this after being fed up with the German translation of Steven Eriksons The Malazan Empire series. It was atrocious and sounded extremely wooden in German. And the translation of the names…
Love the title here so did a quick YouTube dive –
Shirley MacLaine being grumpy in Steel Magnolias:
Idioms are often random bits of silliness or alliteration specific to an area, so they just have to be learned as they pop up.
I went to Paris as a teenage au pair, and my French was a western-Canadian-anglophone-school version. One day I said to Madame ‘I have a frog in my throat’, which startled her. I coughed to indicate my scratchy voice, and she said ‘oh, non, you have a cat in your throat!’
No cat, no grenouille, just different!
I’m german and the translation is really good. My first Ilona Andrews book was Nevada’s first book on audible because it got the highest customer rating so I gave it a try. Since then I read everything I could find from IA, some in english some in german. I love the voice of the german narrator for HL but I can’t wait for the translation and so I read everything new in english.
That’s true, I read the first three Kate Daniels book in German and they were good. I switched to englisch because I did not want to wait for the translation
I tried to read Magic Bites in traditional Chinese. I think they did a fairly good job. But I was so distracted by trying to pronounce the names phonetically in Chinese that I gave up trying.
Accents and local references are difficult in any two English speaking areas. Must be hard to write to an international audience. It is like the difference between modern English and old pronunciation in Shakespeare’s plays. 95 % of the jokes are missed in modern English, because the puns are in the pronouncing of the words.
I live in Washington state. I had never hear of Piggly Wiggly before reading this blog.
As far as translations go the British English translation of the French comic series Asterix the Gaul are widely regarded as being as good as the original. When required the French puns/wordplay/cultural references are substituted for by English ones. Overall the spirit of the original French version is maintained and occasionally the translators actually manage to make improvements. The name of the lead character’s dog being the lowest hanging fruit in this category.
That’s what I look for in a translation. Not necessarily word for word but keeping the “spirit”, the style and intention of the original text.
Mississippi girl here and we definitely call it The Pig!
Amy Ann says
With your books being translated into 18 languages, using them to illustrate the challenges that are mentioned in this thread would make a good dissertation topic for a Master’s or Doctoral student, I think.
Gaëlle from France says
Totally agree with the quality of the french publishing, they did such a wonderful work. And did you see the covers ? No, but seriously, did you them ? Just wow
Gaëlle from France says
For the third book of the series
Moderator R says
House A has seen them and they have a set ???? https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/vive-la-france/
So gorgeous ????
Well.. to be honest I’m not from the South and I only understood the hoe joke, literally didnt catch any of the rest lol
so rest assured, I can verify that the book makes a lot of sense without it them 😉
Jennifer Johnson says
In Carthage, Mississippi, we also call it The Pig. In Richland, however, only an hour away, I grew up calling it Piggly Wiggly (or “the old Jitney Jungle”). Language is funny!
Maria Schneider says
Piggly Wiggly is a weird name for any store. We had one here for years when I was growing up. HEB is a weird name too. I read that it stands for Howard E Butt, the guy who started the grocery store. No one wants to shop at a grocery store named Butt so they used his initials. All I could think was, thank God his parents didn’t name him Harry.
Yes, everyone around here calls it The Pig. I have a friend that will only buy his milk at Piggly Wiggly because he likes Pig milk the best. ????
Jude C says
Really interesting to read – even for a British reader some Americanisms are baffling – and we get no dubbing! The hoe one is OK as are The Fried Green Tomatoes references as the first is popular on TV and the movie is well known. No idea what Piggly Wiggly is however.
Sharon Leahy says
This was a charming start to my morning. I loved reliving those moments in the books …. and BTW, I did laugh out loud at hearing about Bale’s hoe, and, Caldenia is absolutely delightful … smiles …. now. She certainly has some glory days to look back upon! Innkeeper is my favorite series, with the Garage Granny (smiles, Hidden Legacy) series a close second. Thanks for all the contented, amused hours of listening pleasure you give me.
I love you explain of the pit falls of language. It’s so perfectly described my experience when I moved from northern Maryland to Kentucky. When talking to a new neighbor and asking if she would do something or other, she replied, “I don’t care to…” I was taken aback at her refusal. Took me quite awhile to figure what she was saying. lol
Susan Tipton says
Very interesting to think about. When I took my first sign language class the instructor talked about how American sign language and spoken American English differ because of pronunciation vs. sight interpretations.
He took the sign for milk (one hand milking a cow) and moved it passed his eyes. He said that for the hearing that is a joke meaning “pasteurized” (past your eyes) milk but the deaf do not understand the joke because it relies on pronunciation.
Bruce R says
I hope someone else remembers this: there was a movie, I think in English, with intentionally mangled subtitles, in the same language. Maybe by Mel Brooks?
(The problems with translation reminded me of it. Now I’m banging my head against the wall because I can’t recall the title! Help! A search turned up “Airplane” and I remember that in one scene, but I thought it was an entire movie. Then again, I have a memory like … like … what’s that thing you strain water through?)
John H says
Probably was “Silent Movie”. It was a movie about a modern director making a silent movie, and the movie itself was mostly silent. My recollection (from seeing it in the theatre at the time) is that it came out in the early to mid 1970s.
My in-laws from southern Mississippi also refer to Piggly Wiggly as The Pig ????????
In my home town in Mississippi, we call it the pig, piggly
wiggly is a mouth full. ” Where ya goin? ” “The Pig” lol an actual conversation with my daughter.
I worked as a Brand Manager for intellectual properties, and our bread and butter was dealing with international brands and adapting them to the English speaking (and primarily American) market.
I can tell you the translation team we had was super dedicated. They talked a lot with the those connected to the original source for clarification on things when they might be running up against something like pop culture references. And on very rare occasions we’d sometimes have terms that would crop up, and it became more than just a translation issue but might also impact things like marketing and sublicensing issues as well so we’d get roped in to weigh in.
I have a love of language, and so the project translator and I had a very geeked out email exchange, thoughtfully discussing the nuances of calling the fictional leader a King or an Emperor. The term in the originating language wasn’t really one or the other, but those were the best words to translate it into English. Discussions of etymology, and cultural and historical use (of the real world historical influences for the fictional story), and preconceptions, and how it fit with the character, character interactions and plot…
Rarely is that much thought given to most words and terms. it’s usually much more straightforward. But the translator and I had fun. Even months later when we went out to lunch together we brought it up in fond reminiscence.
Usually translations go through layers of thought. First as literal as possible, then you flag the colloquialisms, jokes, historical & cultural aspects, dialect, slang, and poetics (everything from alliteration, allusions, meter, rhyme, onomatopoeia, etc.). Then do you translate that literally, and if you do, do you include a footnote or some such to explain the reference. Or do you find something that is more relatable to the language it’s being translated into.
Translation is definitely an art form.
Then there’s what other nuances of the media format you’re in might you need to consider: like graphic novels you only have so much space for words in those comic panels, if there’s audio components (music, radio dramas, dubbing for tv, film & games, etc.) and are you trying to match music melody, or lip flaps. And the media format and theatrical performance (if you need an actor/narrator) will then force more adjustments too. Then sometimes you’ll have some properties that it’s harder to find people who can translate from one language to another, so if another translation exists already in another more common language they’ll use that as the source instead. (It’s sloppy, but unfortunately it does happen in the world at large).
At my old job every effort was made to keep the same translator on a brand (including next episodes, sequels, prequels, spin-offs, etc.) as much as possible. I’ve seen abysmal inconsistencies in the industry at large in spelling and assignment of property specific terms when there were differences in translators. Or even a lack of QC and coordination between the different departments that used that information.
The best case scenario is when you have a passionate, professional, and highly skilled group tackling it. The ones who aren’t trying to churn it out immediately, but a company willing to allow for the time in the workload to do a deep immersion.
A fun side note, one of the things I’ve appreciated about recent Disney animated films, like Frozen 2, part of their deal to sort of get the blessing of the Sámi of their inclusion in the film, was they have to produce a dubbed version of the film in the indigenous tongue. Similarly when they did Moana, they also set out and produced dubs in indigenous Tahitian, Hawaiian and Māori language versions of Moana.
When you consider how racism and things like the mission school system were used to obliterate indigenous culture globally, many of the languages are disappearing. This is why a lot of tribes are pushing to have language learning apps, or doing dubs of blockbuster movies like Navajo versions of Star Wars and Finding Nemo to try to keep the language fun and relevant to what the youth of those cultures is being exposed to.
And for a funny here’s a meme (for those that don’t know Spanish, the conjugation of the Spanish verb “Ser” (meaning “to be” in the first person singular), is usually rendered as “yo soy” and thus in English would be “I am”.
“Soy milk” just gave me such a good laugh. Thanks for the funny!
The job sounds like a translator’s dream 🙂
Bill from NJ says
This is where translations run into problems because language is contextual to the time and culture it is in. It isn’t just slang, it is that a native speaker fills in the blanks ( that includes reginal dialects). As a native American English speaker I can figure out that Going to the pig meant Piggly wiggly bc I know that store exists. I was reading one of Susanna Kersely’s amazing historical fiction novels, the character is speaking Doric ( apparently an dialect of Scots’ English I would gather), and I could figure it out from context. It is why reading religious texts can be problematic if you don’t know the context to those who wrote it, even translators fail to pick up the nuance of a word. My wife is Hungarian and it has sayings and such that if you tried to translate it makes no sense in English ( puddle of green frog poop , a curse laid on someone, is prob the closest to be true).
There was a delightful cartoon made in the 40s, either Merrie Melodies or MGM, where this 40s hep cat dies and is talking to st Peter,who can’t make heads or tails out of it. He gets Noah Webster who visualuzes things like ‘cutting a rug’ ( dancing) to ‘ painting the town red with my baby’s ( having a wild time with his girlfriend)….
I just wanted to thank the Authorlords and this community for getting me through some tough times. I had ACL surgery yesterday- really quite excruciating, did not expect the level of pain I’m in- and just started a comfort reread of Clean Sweep to get my mind off of things. So grateful for the escape to your worlds!
Moderator R says
Speedy recovery Mina, I hope the pain subsides soon!
We live in northern Georgia and call it “The Pig” too. In fact, I’ve never actually heard it called Piggly Wiggly before and I’m 52!
Well, they change things from British editions to American editions. For example, Harry Potter’s slang is different in the original English vs what America got. I’m sure the internet has made things easier since then for people reading a translated edition.
Yes, it drove me crazy to see the American editions of Harry Potter when I moved to the US from Canada ( which has the Brit ones). And that they changed the title of Book 1 for Americans. I love the way the Brits turn a phrase and don’t think it hurts anyone to read in a different ‘version’ of English.
Off topic, but there was an interesting article on authors who loved or hated changes made to onscreen adaptations. I have not actually read any of the source material, but I have seen a lot of the movies.
Patricia Hoyle says
I just found out that the deep south has Piggly Wiggly and a Hoggly Woggly. I thought it was a joke. Apparently not.
Hoggly Woggly was a nickname for Piggly Wiggly
Like Montgomery Wards was sometimes referred to a Monkey Wards
I read the Edge series in German, it’s my mother tongue and I like to try and stay fluent. It was a good translation, albeit very odd to read American culture and life described in German. Not sure I caught all the jokes in German, cuz I don’t keep up with German culture that much. Definitely got all of the US pop culture references though.
I grew up in northern N.Y. and have lived in Massachusetts for over 30 years… have never heard of a piggly wiggly! But I can tell a story about going to college in upstate N.Y. and getting into an argument with someone from Rochester N.Y. (about 100 miles from where I grew up) about that sugary carbonated beverage I called “soda” and the other person called “pop.” To them “soda” was what I’d call “tonic.” We were all very confused… despite growing up less than a 100 miles apart!
Yep, pop in the Midwest, soda most everywhere else, except Georgia (or maybe just Atlanta) where it’s Coke.
As an Aussie I obviously speak English but alot of content I miss too, and the book isn’t even translated. We learn about your culture growing up but alot is still missed. I don’t mind and still enjoy the story when it does happen.
Lol. I remember the Piggly Wiggly. It was the only grocery store when my parents moved us to clear Lake city back when my dad took a job at NASA. It went out of business a long time ago. Now they have so many grocery stores it is ridiculous. Even acknowledging I’ve heard of it dates me. That is definitely an obscure reference.
There are things that are lost in translation – if everything else fails, the translator can always add a footnote with the explanation of the joke. Actually, it’s always been fun for me to read such footnotes and other commentaries where the translator explained the untranslatable puns – it provided a deep-dive into another culture and showed that the translators did a research.
For example, Amber Chronicles by Zelazny has several Russian translations of different quality – and my personal favorite is the one made by Yan Yua (Ян Юа) team. They have an additional section at the end of each book explaining the cultural references.
Unfortunately, many translators add their own ideas and words that were not present in the original – sometimes even changing the meaning of the content. For example, the translators for Captain Blood’s books by Sabatini added whole new sentences. In the attached screenshot, all the bold text in Russian version shows the additional content that did not exist in the English original text. The translators decided to add that Arabella would blush, Major Mallard would have eyes bulging in surprise, Blood would call her ‘my dear’ and shoot an amused look at the stunned Major, and Arabella would realize that she wouldn’t get another answer with the Major present.
attachment got lost
I’m Australian and one of my favourite sayings is. “Stop carrying on like a pork chop.” Usually said to my children when they are acting inappropriately.
Also, fanny packs. Definitely not called that in Aus.
Robert I. Katz says
In a college Shakespeare class, my professor stated that in the accent of the time, the word ‘hour’ was pronounced similarly to the word ‘whore.’ The line: ‘And so from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot…” was a similar joke to yours.
I’m French. I read in English since years.
Seriously, I don’t understand all the jokes or references. But I love the style, the atmosphere, the ambiance. I love the brain who constructs the text.
Sometimes, I find a reference explained somewhere, and it click. And it’s wonderful.
All experiences is made around references. I’ve found a discussion about Princess Bride, about a lot of people who didn’t know the reference.
So, seriously, sometimes, you reopen a book 10 years after having read it and you’ve became a parent, and it’s not the same anymore. That’s the same logic.
I love your logic. Your viewing of life. I miss some jokes. I still love your work.
I’ve heard somewhere this sentence: “Translation I like a mistress beautiful or faithful “
Bigmama Battillo says
My husband is a HUGE fan of old Japanese scifi movies. I have seen Godzilla battle everything from Rhodan to Mothra to a large buck deer! We have always been great fans of Japanese lip sinking to English. When you imagine your own scripts it becomes especially hilarious!
Bigmama Battillo says
Piggly Wiggly is also called Hoggly Woggly in the deep South. 🙂
Bigmama Battillo says
I was born in Georgia but brought up in Florida, which everyone in the South knows is just a suburb of New York. My mother and father, however, were both born and raised in the North Georgia mountains so I grew up wearing straw hats with hideous flowers on them in the summer when I went to my grannies house to help pull and shuck corn and toss potatoes in the garden. We loved fried green tomatoes (as well as wonderful sweet ripe ones) and fried okra and yellow squash. NOTHING was better than fresh white half runner green beans from grannies garden served with fresh mashed potatoes and ripe tomatoes with crisp fried yellow squash. Throw in a fried chicken or two and some sweet tea and you had Southern Heaven!!
Lol i was introduced to Piggly Wiggly whe. We koved to Savannah when I was 11
We called it The Pig and Hoggly Woggly
After the movie “Vacation”, Wal-Mart became Wally World. Regional and cultural references and nick names can be completely confusing
I took enough Italian in college – and lived in Italy- for a year that I could take a class in Machiavelli in Italian and understand it. It was pretty interesting to compare what I knew was meant in a passage to how it got translated in English. I bought 3 high quality translations and none of them quite got it. I am grateful for this short, small glimpse into the difficulties of translations. It was really interesting.
Living in the uk I sometimes don’t get a reference. So I google it. That way I learn. So you know what they say. Learn something new every day you will be a right little smarty pants !!
As a Thai, most of these jokes flew over my head. Including all the ones you pick as example here.
Btw, i did Google mello yello (is that the name?) When it keep pop up in innkeeper.
Scott D Patlin says
I live in Colorado, and have never laid eyes on a Piggly Wiggly before, but it didn’t hurt the scene. I may not have been sure if it was a supermarket or the corner store associated with some local gas station, but I could roll with it. 🙂
Colette Dill-Lerner says
A dear friend of mine is a translator in South Korea and actually just had this video come out that I think is a wonderful explanation of literary from his point of view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PelduFrRTG0
You are correct…I didn’t get what piggly wiggly is until the last line.
I’m from India reading English version, let alone a translated copy
Cecile F says
It’s the first time I comment here, but I thought I would share a bit of my experience as a French translator.
I haven’t translated all of Clean Sweep yet (I just started), but I did see the reference to Fried Green Tomatoes (which made me laugh) and looked how it was translated in the French movie to include it as accuratly as possible in the translation. It’s usually what we do when we are confronted to books or movies that we recognize: we read or watch the translated stuff, and include this version in our translation (with a credit, of course, since we haven’t translated that ourselves). Fortunately, most books and movies have a French version (ouf!).
As for the Hugh reference, I replaced “hoe” with “shovel”. In French, when you “roll a shovel”, it means you give a big fat French kiss. So the dialogue went something like:
“Has your man even held a shovel before?” Rook asked.
Stoyan grimaced. “He rolled them, mostly…”
So, yes, French readers will miss the hoe component, but I believe the spirit of the joke is still there, somehow 🙂
And yes, it’s more than likely that some references from the original are missing in the translation. As translators, we do not have a lot of time to work and do our research (between 1.5 to 3 months for a book, mere hours for subtitles in a series). We’re not in the authors’ head either, so it is sometimes difficult to pick up all that went into their writing, and we haven’t read nor watched all movies and series in existence. We only try to bring the best text possible (i.e. the most accurate possible) to the readers that are not able to read the original. Sometimes what we give is very good, sometimes less so.