TRANSLATION OF METAPHORS AND SIMILES



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TRANSLATION OF METAPHORS AND SIMILES



 

Metaphor is a transference of some quality from one object to another.267 It is an implicit comparison of two unlike objects. The purpose of metaphor is to liven up the text, make it more colorful, dramatic and witty - that is, metaphor carries out an emotive function.268

Simile is a more cautious form of metaphor. It is a comparison of two objects when the linkage is made explicit, like drumming like a noise in dreams.

Metaphor is inherent in language. In this case it can go unnoticed in everyday conversation, like she attacked my views; an ailing economy; to have a load taken off one’s mind. Language metaphors are stock metaphors. They are trite and typical for many users, and fixed by the dictionary, as mostly idioms.* They are sometimes called dead metaphors.

Other metaphors are occasionally constructed in individual speech. They are neologistic and euphemeral unless they become language metaphors by being diffused through popular speech and, later, the media.

Metaphor is the main feature of imaginative writing. In his/her work, a translator must be fully aware of its sense and the emotive effect it produces through its image. Both sense and image should be preserved as much as possible.

Peter Newmark, an outstanding British theorist of translation, suggests the following procedures for translating metaphor, in order of preference:269

1) Reproducing the same image in the target language. This procedure is employed if the image has comparable frequency and similar associations in the appropriate register. For example, ray of hope – луч надежды. But associations may differ from language to language, becoming tricky for translation. For an English-speaking person, the image of duck is associated with a darling: Look Jenny! What a little duck of a dog! (R. Hitchin) – Смотрите, Дженни, какая прелестная собачка!* For a Russian receptor, the image of duck raises negative connotations: Ольга Федоровна чудовищно растолстела, была обжорлива, как утка, и нечистоплотна. (В. Вересаев) Выбежала из светлицы Настя, и, лениво переваливаясь с ноги на ногу, как утка, выплывала полусонная Параша. (П.Мельников-Печерский)

2) Replacing the image in the source language with a standard target language image. What you hear is not genuine. She makes clouds with one hand, rain with the other. She is trying to trick you, so you will do anything for her. (A. Tan) – Ее слова лживы. Левая рука не знает, что творит правая. Ей хочется поймать тебя в ловушку, чтобы ты делала для нее все, что ей угодно. This procedure is not infrequent in translating similes: ноги как ватные – legs like jelly. The tongue is a fire. – Язык как бритва. Sometimes the image substitution helps the translator to play upon the extended metaphor: She was inclined to think … that her brother was the apple of Mrs. Ashbury’s eyes, and (that she thought) the apple was full of worm-holes. – Она была склонна думать, что миссис Эшбери … носится со своим сыном как с писаной торбой, и что торба эта гнилая.

3) Translating metaphor with a simile, retaining the image. Books are mirrors. – Книги как зеркало. Translating a metaphor (simile) by simile plus sense (i.e. plus explanation of the sense). This transformation is used if there is risk that a simple transfer of metaphor will not be understood by most readers.

4) Converting metaphor to sense, that is explicatory translation: I guess I keep hoping that if we stay right where we are, she’ll come back, and we can turn the clock back. (D. Steel) – Мне кажется, я все еще надеюсь, что если мы останемся здсь, она вернется и все будет как прежде. This procedure is justified only in case of a dead metaphor. In other cases, the expressiveness of the metaphor should be compensated in a nearby part of the text.

5) Deletion, or reduction. This transformation is employed only if the metaphor is redundant. A deletion of metaphor can be justified only on the ground that the metaphor’s function is being fulfilled elsewhere in the text.

6) Using the same metaphor combined with sense. Calque translation of metaphor supported by explanation is recommended only if the translator lacks confidence in the metaphor’s power and clarity.

 

TRANSLATION OF EPITHETS

 

Today’s imaginative literature is characterized by the great role of epithet as an ornamental element able to express the author’s attitude to the character, idea and overall narration.270 To convey the author’s intent, the translator must be very careful in selecting words with the same denotative and connotative meanings.

There are some specific problems of translating the epithet. One of them is enantiosemy, or using a word in its paradoxical meaning when the word is capable of carrying two opposite significations. Usually the enantisemic epithets reveal a negative attitude of the speaker.271 He is a fine fellow as ever I saw. He simpers and smirks and makes love to us all. I am prodigiously proud of him. I defy even Sir William Lucas himself to produce a more valuable son-in-law. (J. Austen) The words simpers and smirks show an ironic attitude of the speaker to the character. The epithets valuable and prodigiously proud are understood in the opposite sense. This irony must not escape from a target text reader.

Enantiosemy is characteristic of both English and Russian literature. For example, Откуда, умная, бредешь ты голова? – addressing an ass. In translation the paradoxical meaning can be shown with the help of particles, word order, etc.: My good fellow! – Любезный ты мой! A nice place to live away from. – Ну и местечко! A pretty story! – Хорошенькая же история!

Another problem is the transferred qualifier,oran epithet syntactically joined to a word to which it does not belong logically.272 He ran a tired hand through his hair. (D. Steel) – Устало он провел рукой по волосам. The word tired logically is linked with he, syntactically with hand. In translation the logic disagreement is normally corrected, since the structures of this type are not typical of modern Russian, though it is interesting to note that in the 19th century they were used in Russian fiction: Здесь кажут франты записные

Свое нахальство, свой жилет

И невнимательный лорнет.

(А.Пушкин. Евгений Онегин)

In English transferred epithets are used not only in poetry and prose, but also in journalism and in everyday conversation.

Translation of the transferred epithet often requires word order change: a British breakfast of depressing kidney and fish – наводящий тоску завтрак из почек и рыбы; or extension: He raised a supercilious eyebrow. – Он поднял бровь, и лицо его приняло высокомерное выражение.273 Stock epithets are calqued: her sapphire glance – ее сапфирный взгляд; dumb love – немая любовью

Inverted epithet is a word syntactically functioning as a headword, but semantically serving as a modifier to a dependent noun: a darling of a girl, a bear of a man. This epithet is very expressive and should be rendered in Russian by an appropriate expressive means: прелестнейшая девчушка; не человек, а медведь.

Gradation of epithets, that is a sequence of synonymous epithets, is constructed on a different basis in English and in Russian. In English, gradation is based on rhythmical sequence; in Russian, this device is logic-centered: the word, most important logically, is positioned in the end of the sequence. This inevitably causes word order change in translation: Privacy is viewed as a requirement which all humans would find equally necessary, desirable, and satisfying. – Частная жизнь – это требование, которое абсолютно все люди считают положительным, необходимым и желательным.

 

TRANSLATION OF PERIPHRASE

 

Periphrase, or periphrasis, is circumlocution, or extended rewording of an object through one of its aspects: Green continent = Australia, pub-crawler = drunkard; канцелярская крыса = чиновник, цветы жизни = дети. The term is derived from the Greek periphrasis, ‘roundabout expression’. It should not be confused with ‘paraphrase’, or a restatement of a text or passage in another form or other words in order to clarify the meaning. The Russian equivalent to periphrase is перифраз(а), and ‘paraphrase’ is equivalent to ‘парафраз’ or ‘перефразировка’.

The periphrase carries out two main functions in the text – cognitive and expressive. The cognitive function implies that the periphrase deepens our knowledge of the phenomenon described: three R’s = reading, writing and ’rithmetic, forming the base of children’s education; Madison Avenue = advertising, as this New York street is famous as the center of the advertising industry. The expressive function of periphrase allows authors to use it as a stylistic device: Меж тем как сельские циклопы (= кузнецы) перед медлительным огнем российским лечат молотком изделье легкое Европы (= кареты), благословляя колеи и рвы отеческой земли …(А.Пушкин) By using periphrase, Pushkin shows us his humorous attitude towards Russian country life.

To translate a periphrase, it is important to understand both denotative and connotative meanings. The translator must realize the degree to which the receptor is aware of the meaning and associations connected with the periphrase. Dictionaries and reference-books can be helpful, especially dictionaries of language and culture.1

Some periphrases have analogue equivalents in the second language: канцелярская крыса – desk drudge, pencil pusher, red-tapist; черный ящик – 'black box’, human mind. Others are transliterated: John Bull – Джон Буль; or most commonly, calqued and explained: the Last Frontier – последняя граница, прозвище штата Аляска; the Aloha State – гостеприимный штат, прозвище штата Гавайи; the Evergreen State – вечнозеленый штат, прозвище штата Вашингтон.

However, calque translation may cause false associations with the receptor if a similar designation exists in his/her culture: the three sisters for a Russian receptor is associated with A. Chekhov’s play, whereas in English the phrase means ‘the fatal sisters, the Fates’ (from Greek mythology), which corresponds to Russian 'мойры, богини судьбы’.2

 

TRANSLATION OF PUNS

 

A pun is a play on words to produce a humorous effect.

There are several ways to create a pun:

1) Play on a word polysemy: the direct meaning is contrasted to a transferred meaning of the word:

“Owl,” said Pooh solemnly, “you made a mistake. Somebody did want it [the tail].”

“Who?”

“Eeyore. My dear friend Eeyore. He was fond of it.”

“Fond of it?”

Attached to it,” said Winnie sadly. (A. Milne)

The following two meanings of the word form ‘to be attached’ are played upon: a) to be connected; b) to be fond of. The same principle of word playing is possible in Russian, as the participle ‘привязан’ has the same two meanings:

- Сова, - сказал Пух торжественно, - он [хвост] кому-то очень нужен.

- Кому?

- Иа, моему дорогому другу Иа-Иа. Он … он очень любил его.

- Любил его?

- Был привязан к нему, - грустно сказал Винни-Пух. (Пер. Т.Ворогушин, Л.Лисицкая)

2) Play on direct and figurative meaning of a phraseological unit:

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.

“What does ‘under the name’ mean?” asked Christopher Robin.

“It means he had the name over the door in gold letters, and lived under it.”

The figurative meaning of the phrase ‘to live under the name’ is ‘to live with a false name’. This meaning is contrasted with the direct one explained in the extract, which is derived from the meanings of its components. The Russian correspondence of the phrase admits the similar play:

Винни-Пух жил в лесу один одинешенек, под именем Сандерс.

- Что значит «жил под именем»? – немедленно спросил Кристофер Робин.

- Это значит, что на дощечке над дверьюбыло золотыми буквами написано «Мистер Сандер», а он под ней жил.

3) Play on homonymy is most difficult for translation. Generally, contextual substitution is employed like this:

“If she [governess] couldn’t remember my name, she’d call me ‘Miss’ as the servants do.”

“Well, if she said ‘Miss’ and didn’t say anything more,” the Gnat remarked, “of course you’d miss your lessons. That’s a joke.” (L.Carroll)

The form ‘Miss’ is homonymous. As a verb, it has the meaning ‘to fail to attend or perform, to leave out or omit’ (to miss a class, a day of work). As a noun, it denotes a title of courtesy. The clash of the two meanings gives a humorous ring to the extract. The translator into Russian had to use a contextual substitution to preserve a pun:

- Это мне не поможет, - возразила Алиса, - даже если она забудет мое имя, она всегда может сказать: «Послушайте, милочка

- Но ведь ты же не Милочка, - перебил ее комар. – Ты и не будешь слушать. Хорошенькая вышла шутка, правда?

(Пер. Демуровой)

As we see, in the translation, a common and a proper name are opposed. The common name performs a phatic function that is also observed in the English sentence.

4) Play on paronymy. Paronyms are assonant words with differing meanings. Another example from Through the Looking-Glass by L. Carroll:

“I beg your pardon,” said Alice very humbly, “you had got to the fifth bend, I think?”

“I had not!” cried the Mouse sharply.

“A knot?” said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and looking anxiously about her. “Oh, do let me help to undo it!”

Alice’s misinterpretation of the negative particle not, pronounced by the Mouse, is manifested by the collocation to undo a knot. It is almost next to impossible to find a Russian correspondence in the paronymous form for this couple of words not-knot. Translator Demurova based the pun on homonymy:

- Нет, почему же, - ответила Алиса с недоумением. Вы дошли до пятого завитка, не так ли?

- Глупости! – рассердилась мышь. – Как я от них устала! Этого просто не вынести!

- А что нужно вынести? – спросила Алиса. – Разрешите, я помогу!

Contextual substitution is accompanied by the change of image.

5) Play on the word sound similarity: contamination. If two words have similar sounds or sound clusters, the common sounds are joined and a new word comes into life. This occurs according to the formula: (a-b) + (b-c) = a-b-c. For example, bread-and-butter + butterfly = bread-and-butterfly; баобаб + бабочка = баобабочка. A translator uses the same procedure of contaminating assonant words and coins a new “nonsense” (at first glance) word. Similarly, we see a hybrid word in the extract from Winnie-the Pooh by A. Milne:

“Bother! Said Pooh… “What’s that bit of paper doing?”

He took it out and looked at it. “It’s a missage,” he said to himself, “that’s what it is.”

The contaminated word missage is coined by Winnie-the-Pooh from the noun message and the verb to miss. Boris Zakhoder, when translating the story, substituted the verb by the one that is assonant to the noun послание -–спасти. What has come of it is this:

Он вытащил бумажку и посмотрел на нее.

- Это Спаслание, - сказал он, - вот что это такое.

This pun principle may involve not only words, but also phrases. Mock Turtle, a character from Alice in Wonderland by L. Carroll, reminisces about his school teacher: We called him Tortoise because he taught us. Demurova makes a play with the noun, on the one hand, and noun and preposition, on the other: Учителем у нас был старик Черепаха. Мы звали его Спрутом, … потому что он всегда ходил с прутиком.

6) Play on associative meanings. By “corrupting” a word, the author aims at the receptor’s background associations. This metalingual function of the text must be retained in translation. That is why the translator looks for an assonant word, bringing about similar associations on the part of the translation receptor: Reeling and Writhing studied at sea school in Alice in Wonderland is definitely associated with Reading and Writing, difficult subjects of an elementary school. The translators substituted the nouns with verbs according to the context: сначала мы, как полагается, чихали и пищали (associated with читали и писали) (пер. Демуровой); учились чесать и питать (пер. В.Набокова).

In search for a proper means of compensation or substitution, translators are apt to be rather free: Carroll says that at school children studied Mystery, Ancient and Modern (associated with History, Ancient and Modern), Seaography (Geography), Drawling (Drawing). Here the translators seem to be competing with each other as for the number of school subjects and their expressiveness: Demurova’s version of translation: У нас было много всяких предметов: грязнописание, триконометрия, анатомия и физиология. The list of subjects in Orel’s translation is increased: Еще была Болтаника и Уродоведение; …Палкебра и Драконометрия; Водная Речь; Хроматика, Морквология, Свинтаксис; Физия и Хихика. And V. Nabokov compensated the nouns by saying that they studied the following subjects: Лукомория, древняя и новая; арфография (это мы учились на арфе играть)… Затем делали мы гимнастику. Самое трудное было – язвительное наклонение.

So the crucial principle of a pun translator is receptor-centered translation, taking into account the equivalent effect upon the receptor.

 



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