OT: rambles about translation

Belben Philip Philip.Belben at eon-engineering.com
Mon Sep 20 06:58:56 EDT 2004

I'm in Germany at the moment, and to improve my German I'm trying to read
some German books.

At the moment I'm reading a translation of "Way Station" by Clifford Simak,
which I got from a very kind person on BookCrossing.  I'm progressing quite
well, partly because I'm so familiar with the book...

The translator gets a bonus point for the title, "Raumstation auf der Erde",
which means "Space Station on Earth", but loses several points for making
the hero's rifle into a shotgun (die Flinte).  I'm about half way through
the book, so I don't yet know how the translator is going to deal with the
shooting gallery in the basement.  But I don't see how the final
confrontation (is that an OMT?) could possibly work, when the hero has to
shoot the monster from a distance, while the monster is struggling with the

We have translators on this list, I think, and several people who read in
more than one language.  Does anyone have any anecdotes of silly mistakes in
translation?  Or of things that are hard to translate?

In the latter category, I can't help thinking of a remark in one of Bujold's
early Vorkosigan books, that on Barrayar "Count" was originally short for
"accountant".  In some languages that might work, but how on Earth would
that make it into German?  Count is der Graf, accountant der Buchhalter
(literally a bookkeeper).  The only solution I can think of is to make the
counts margraves - der Markgraf - in which "Mark" is not the district but
the currency, since Bujold has very kindly given Barrayar a currency that
works so well in German :-)

obDWJ: thinking of Mark as district, in the Dalemark books, what are the
Earls called in the German translation?  I often think of Dalemark as
"Thalmark" anyway...

Philip (who is obviously avoiding work, and needs to make it less obvious)
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