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3 or 4 translation challenges

November 7, 2011

Do you know your English, your Greek, your Hebrew, your Italian?  Well, here’s a fun post to offer you some translation challenges.

1st English.  How might you translate the following sentence into, say, French or Italian or German or Dutch?

Ladyfingers, one of the oldest and most delicate of sponge cakes, dates from the House of Savoy in the eleventh century France.

In particular, what would you call Ladyfingers?  Need a picture?    Want some wikipedia hints?

2nd Greek.  Look.  Listen.

………………………………………………ἐν δέ τε πολλ
κύματα παφλάζοντα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
κυρτὰ φαληριόωντα

How can this be English?  like the following??

……………………………………………….the many
roiling waves of the greatly-roaring ocean
cresting, flecked with white  ??

……………………………………………….and the numerous
boiling waves along the length of the roaring water
bend and whiten to foam in ranks  ??

the giant breakers seething, battle lines of them roaring,
shoulders rearing, exploding foam, waves  ??

………………………………………………………….and countless waves
surge and toss on its surface, high-arched and white-capped,
and crash down onto the seashore  ??

many surging waves of the loud-resounding sea, high-arched and white with foam  ??

Yes it’s Homer’s Illiad (Book 13, lines 797b, 798, 799a).  Didn’t Aristotle already say something about this in his Rhetoric (1412a, about the poet Homer and his sounds)?  Yes, the English translations respectively are , Richmond Lattimore’s, Robert Fagles’s, Stephen Mitchell’s (also mentioned here), and A.T. Murray’s.

3rd Hebrew.  It’s the Bible.  Isaiah 54:7, with various Hebrew hints on the sounds, the parallels, the parallel sounds, the sound parallels.

בְּרֶ֥גַע קָטֹ֖ן עֲזַבְתִּ֑יךְ וּבְרַחֲמִ֥ים גְּדֹלִ֖ים אֲקַבְּצֵֽךְ׃

Take the challenge that Joel Hoffman issues here.

4th Italian.  Tiramisu, who knew?  Geoffrey K. Pullum didn’t apparently.  My challenge for you is to compare how the inventor of this Pick-Me-Up with Lady-fingers (or of the tiramesù con savoiardi) tells his story in English and in Italian.  What sounds most delectable and sweetest to you?  Here are the two versions by the bilingual neologistic chef, the first Italian the second English:

E così un giorno, mettendo insieme degli elementi noti e semplici e ricercandone la migliore “porzionabilità”, è nato il dolce che è stato subito chiamato tiramesù !

Ho sempre cercato che gli ingredienti pur semplici, fossero di prima qualità’, dal caffe’ ai savoiardi, dal mascarpone e alle uova.

So, one day, I put together some simple and well-known ingredients and tried to make the whole “portionable”: this is how this cake was born. It was immediately named “tiramesù” (pick-me-up)!

The ingredients, however simple, have to be first quality: from the coffee to the ladyfingers, from the mascarpone to the eggs.

Have fun!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2011 8:07 pm

    Kurk, what a fun post. Thanks!

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    November 8, 2011 12:57 am

    I have thought about Joel’s challenge and came up with

    “With a slight lapse I abandoned you
    but with intense emotion I will take you back.”

  3. November 8, 2011 7:20 am

    Glad you like it, Theophrastus.

    Suzanne, I hope you’ll show that to Joel. With your “slight” and “intense” you may have achieved what he hasn’t yet in English: “the [implied or even enforced Hebrew] contrast between ‘small’ and ‘big’.” He’s right to find this important because this very contrast/comparison is heard all the way through the Bible.

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