OT: rambles about translation

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at netvision.net.il
Mon Sep 20 10:41:34 EDT 2004

Just a thought - there may not be a German equivalent for the distinction
between rifles and shotguns. There isn't in Hebrew: all long guns are
"roveh", short handheld guns are "ekdach". Different languages don't make
the same distinctions, which of course can also make life difficult for
translators. Eeylopes Owl Emporium became a shop for "nocturnal birds of
prey" in Hebrew, as Barn Owls, Eagle Owls, Tawny Owls, Small Owls and Snowy
Owls each have their own name. (As long as the word remains unqualified -
owl - the translation is "yanshuf". But the moment you specify which species
of owl, it can be any of a variety of different things other than yanshuf).

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dwj at suberic.net [mailto:owner-dwj at suberic.net]On Behalf Of
Belben Philip
Sent: Monday, September 20, 2004 4:06 PM
To: 'dwj at suberic.net'
Subject: AW: OT: rambles about translation

Bettina, replying to my query:

>> 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).
> Oh. You know, I would have thought a rifle was a Flinte, not that this
> would have made any difference to me as I couldn't tell the difference
> between rifle and shotgun... And my dictionary says Flinte-shotgun,
> rifle-Gewehr and I would have thought Gewehr is a general term in the
> sense that a Flinte is a special kind of Gewehr. (?)

Well, I thought that Gewehr just meant gun.  My English-German dictionary
has the same definitions as yours, which doesn't help.  My
"Sprach-Brockhaus", which dates from the early 1950s, has some pictures of
guns, one of which is labelled "Flinte", but I can't tell what sort of gun
it is from the picture.  I followed some definitions, and came to the
conclusion that Flinte really does mean shotgun.

OTOH I just looked up "Gewehr" in the German-English section of my
dictionary, and I found a much abbreviated annotation to the effect that if
it's a Flinte you translate it as Rifle.  Now I'm really confused!

Technically, a shotgun fires a large number of small lead pellets (shot) in
a single charge.  You get a lot of coverage, but not much damage, and it is
used on small, fast-moving targets such as game-birds.

A rifle fires a single bullet, and has spiral grooves along the inside of
the barrel to spin the bullet and increase accuracy thereby.  It is used in
warfare and big game hunting.

ISTR when the book talks about the shooting gallery (incidentally, it's a
virtual reality simulation, which is quite impressive for 1963), there is a
phrase something like "although it was a shotgun, not a rifle, that one used
on squirrels".  I'll see if I can spot this when it comes up in the

>> 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...
> Grafen (counts?!) and Navis Herzog. Untilyouasked that I didn't think
> twice about Dalemark consisting of Grafschaften.

Counties?  Does Grafschaft have the same connotations in German that County
does in English?  I thought the nearest German equivalent of a county was a

For some reason lost in the mists of time, in English we have earls, but
counties, countesses and viscounts.  DWJ introduces a noblewoman in Crown of
Dalemark who actually holds an Earldom in her own right.  She's called the
Countess, which I always think of as clumsy but unavoidable.

The earldoms in Dalemark are sometimes called Marks.  I take it the word is
the same in German?  I don't know what you't call the ruler of a mark in
English.  Probably not a Marquess (sometimes spelt Marquis).  OTOH probably
not a Margrave either...

> Concering puns and counts, I only recently noticed that Sesame Street
> had a Count who like to count - he's called Graf Zahl in German, and
> that's not really funny (well, Zahl (number) sounds a bit like Zahn
> (tooth) and he's a vampire). Is he called Count Number? Or just Count?

Someone else will have to answer this one, I'm afraid :-)  I wouldn't put it
past them to call him Count Count, though.

(Not to mention Norman Hunter's character Count Backwerdz (?sp))

> Recently I read some German translations of Brust books I already knew
> in English, and I wasn't too happy with the translation. For unknown
> reasons, the translator kept some English words, e.g. Dragon remains
> untranslated, and apparently is supposed to be singular and plural
> ("Er gehört zum Haus der Dragon" "Das war typisch für einen Dragon")
> The Lords of Judgement become Lords des Jüngsten Gerichts which sounds
> strange. In Taltos the Catcentaur Mist (she's called Mist because
> every time she throws her spear -shut up) becomes Nebel (sie stochert
> nämlich immer im - Schnauze!), to translate a pun, good idea, but a
> sloppy editor didn't notice that she is still called Mist once or

Careless!  And Mist is a particularly unfortunate name for a character in
German, isn't it?

Talking of Nebel, there are some aliens in Way Station known as the Hazers
because they have an aura like a golden haze.  In the German, the haze
becomes Nebel, but the beings are still called Hazers (except once, where it
is misprinted as Hazars).  This strikes me as a trifle confusing.

Philip (a Lindwurm enthusiast, who doesn't fly kites, however you translate

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