Voices from Russia

Sunday, 11 March 2018

11 March 2018. It’s How You Say It That Counts…

Filed under: cultural — 01varvara @ 00.00
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Писать is a dual-meaning word in Russian. It depends on which syllable you stress. If it’s писать (stressed syllable in bold), it means “to write”. If it’s писать, it means “to pee”. That’s QUITE a difference. In English, we have dual-meaning words and phrases that trip up foreigners. I remember a local market owned by two Greek brothers over 30 years ago. They painted on the side of the building, in BIG BOLD letters:

YOU CAN’T BEAT OUR MEAT!

That became grist for the jocular, as the phrase is slightly scatological… meaning “to play with our (male) genitalia”. The poor guys didn’t realise that and became the laughing-stock of the town. I can assure you that I’m WRITING now and not PEEING (I know what syllable to stress)…

BMD

Sunday, 7 August 2016

7 August 2016. Adventures in Translation Land… Y’all Come and Be Welcome!

00 russia ukha fish soup 070816

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Literally, “Милости прошу к нашему шалашу!” means “Ask grace upon our humble hut”, or more idiomatically, “Welcome to our humble abode!” This is idiomatic colloquial Russian at its best. It’s always informal and jocular, usually used as a cheerful invitation to share a meal. In English, the direct equivalents would be “Y’all come and be welcome”, “The door’s open wide, do step inside”, and “Sit a spell and take a load off your feet”. Translation is an art, not a science… it’s NEVER boring…

One last thing… the image is a pot of Ukha… the famous Russian fish soup, best made with freshly-caught fish from one’s own hand over a fire at camp at the lakeside in the shade…

BMD

Saturday, 9 July 2016

9 July 2016. Further Adventures in Translation Land

00 putin russia soda 070716

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The literal translation of Не лей колу в рот! Выпей бабушкин компот! is “Don’t put cola in your mouth! Drink Grandma’s Compote!” is just jangly and no damned good as a catchy jingle (as it is in Russian). Therefore, my Englishing of this sentiment is:

Don’t drink cola; it’s bad.

It just drags you down!

Drink Baba’s Kompot, it’s cool.

You can beat the whole town!

That, I think, expresses exactly what the original poster had in mind. THAT’S what translation is all about… getting the essential idea from one language into another… yes, sometimes things do “get lost in translation”, and the brevity of this was one such…

BMD

Update 22.15 9 July 2016:

A friend sent me the following:

Don’t drink cola; it just drags you down!

Drink Baba’s Kompot; it’s the best in town!

Why didn’t I think of that one? God has blessed me with friends, not with money… which makes me very rich, indeed…

BMD

Sunday, 13 March 2016

13 March 2016. From the Russian Web… DIG RIGHT IN!

00 Dig right in! Russian Cooking is the Best in the World! 100316

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Pitfalls await the unwary translator at every turn… literally, “Щи и каша, пища наша” (“Shchi i kasha, pishcha nasha”) is “Shchi and kasha, that’s our food”. That not only doesn’t rhyme, it has none of the “flavour” and “savour” of the Russian original. I’d say that its idiomatic English equivalent is, “Kasha and shchi, that’s for me!” That not only rhymes, it restores some of the original’s “taste”…

Be careful… “false friends” and false cognates abound… so, do have a care for the MEANING and the FLAVOUR of the language…

BMD

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