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A game of survival, trade and exploration in the universe of Fallen London

Tribulations of a Translator (POTENTIAL SPOILERS) Messages in this topic - RSS

Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/17/2019
Hello, fellow zailors

I've taken upon myself the task of translating Sunless Sea into Spanish. I know it's a huge endevour and I don't know if I'll ever finish it, but I'm doing it mostly for my own entertainment. If it does come to fruition though, I'll be gald to share it, and open this amazing game to the Spanish-speaking community.

As it was to be expected, I've run into some difficulties, and I'm sure I'll run into more still, but I hope some of you may be able to help me extricate the more obscure meanings or etymologies of some of the game's concepts so I can find a suitable Spanish equivalent, or as close as possible to one.

The first doubt that has me puzzled is the term Lorn-Fluke, more particularly the "Fluke" part. What does it stand for? The most complete dictionary entry I have found for the word is the one in Wikitionary, but none of the meanings seem to me particularly suited to the monster, even the more maritime ones (either a flatfish, or the lobes in a whale's tail). Could it be a play on the phrase "turn flukes" which is "Of a whale: to go under, dive" aswell as nautical slang for "go to bed"? Or am I looking at this completely the wrong way?


If anybody can help, I would appreciate. Thanks in advance
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 10/17/2019
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Diptych
Diptych
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Posts: 3416

2/17/2019
Flukes are certainly sea creatures, and also covered in hooks and spikes, and also very unlikely to actually exist - they're putting their name to good use! I can't speak for FBG's writers, but the definition meaning the prongs of an anchor seems appropriate- both spiky and nautical, as well as representing the Flukes keeping the Rubberies anchored to their past.
edited by Diptych on 2/17/2019

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Jermaine Vendredi
Jermaine Vendredi
Posts: 547

2/18/2019
Isn't a fluke also a liver parasite? And a stroke of luck, of course. And doesn't lorn mean forsaken?
edited by Jermaine Vendredi on 2/18/2019

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/18/2019
Diptych wrote:
Flukes are certainly sea creatures, and also covered in hooks and spikes, and also very unlikely to actually exist - they're putting their name to good use! I can't speak for FBG's writers, but the definition meaning the prongs of an anchor seems appropriate- both spiky and nautical, as well as representing the Flukes keeping the Rubberies anchored to their past.
edited by Diptych on 2/17/2019


Yeah, while perusing the meanings, I was afraid it could be an "all of the above" kind of scenario, which makes impossible to find an equivlaent that keeps all the different meanings. As for the anchor prong, its Spanish equivalent is such a common word that I feel it doesn't work. I'll have to keeo thinking.

Thank you both.
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/18/2019
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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/18/2019
How about Cladery as in the Cladery Heir and the Cladery Heart? Is it just the family name or does it have some other meaning? Maybe something to do with the word "clad" but I think if there's a connection, it's tenuous enough that I can just leave it as is as a family name.

And Quaker's Haven, is it referring in any way to the Quaker faith, or just a common word derived form "quake". Considering the... "colorful" customs of the inhabitants of Mutton Island, I feel the formar would be potentially offensive, so I guess the latter?
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/18/2019
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Siankan
Siankan
Posts: 894

2/18/2019
I. On Lorn-Flukes: Don't underestimate the power of leaving a name untranslated. Yes, there are layered meanings in Lorn-Fluke, as in most all Failbetter names, but that doesn't mean everyone is picking up on them. Even for those who do, it is often less important than the alien feeling of the name. "Lorn-Fluke" might not say lonely-alien-spikey-fish-thing to a Spanish audience, but if it gets across "alien and strange," it's done its main work.

II. "Cladery" is connected to the cladent lobe which the Heir's mother cut off the Bazaar. This organ apparently is what compelled the Bazaar to travel.

III. Quaker's Haven definitely refers to Quaker in the religious sense. And no, the current inhabitants are certainly not Quakers.

Given how deep Failbetter goes into meanings, you'll likely need a serious dictionary for a project like this. The Oxford English Dictionary is the ideal, but not something you see on every shelf. If you live in an English-speaking country, you can probably find a library with one somewhere in range. If not, you'd probably have to subscribe to the online version. It's not cheap, but apparently there's a celebratory discount running through the end of March, 90 USD for American customers and 90 GBP for everyone else.

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/18/2019
Thanks, I'll keep all of that in mind. Leaving Lorn-Fluke untranslated was my last resource, because it could potentially make things awkward with derived words like fluke-core, but it might prove to be the lesser evil. I'll have to give it some more thought.


Edit: I'm thinking a partly-realted term. The parasitic worms called flukes in English are apparently called "duelas" in Spanish. That relates by sound to "doler" (to hurt) and "dolor" (pain), which could stand for the spiky horror part. there might be something there I can use.

Edit2: By the way, and this is not really about the translation as much as mere curiosity: is there any explanation on why the unterzee is called the unterzee? Was it discovered by a Dutchman? For my translation I'm keeping only the "z" theme and calling the zee "ozéano", which doesn't have the slightest lick of sense linguistically, but at least keeps the theme, so to speak
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/18/2019
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Diptych
Diptych
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Posts: 3416

2/18/2019
Oh, I like that duelas/dolor link. And, it was a Dutch explorer who rediscovered the Tomb-Colonies for London, so sailing became popularly associated with Dutch.

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Ixc
Ixc
Posts: 300

2/18/2019
There was a famous Dutch explorer whose accent was immortalized along with deeds (apparently discovering the Tomb Colonies), thus the z’s (or Zees) in nautical speech.

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Siankan
Siankan
Posts: 894

2/18/2019
The Unterzee is not a Dutch name. It's German. As it's left untranslated in the English text, standard procedure is to leave it untranslated when shifting to another language, as well. (It is your call though, and there have certainly been cases of translating such words when they'd cause confusion in the new language, because of false cognates or another reason.)

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Jermaine Vendredi
Jermaine Vendredi
Posts: 547

2/19/2019
@ Siankan
Except that the German term is Untersee, with an s, whereas Dutch does, in fact, use zee, as in Zuiderzee.

re. the Oxford English Dictionary. If you are a member of a library in the UK, your library card should / will give you access to online reference material, including dictionaries. Library card number is the sign-in.

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/19/2019
Siankan wrote:
As it's left untranslated in the English text, standard procedure is to leave it untranslated when shifting to another language, as well. (It is your call though, and there have certainly been cases of translating such words when they'd cause confusion in the new language, because of false cognates or another reason.)



The thing is that Unterzee is close enough to the English Undersea that anyone con understand it. That's not the case in Spanish (I mean, it could be understood through context and basic English knowledge but it would still be a bigger logic jump and the word would stick like a sore thumb among the Spanish text), and that's why I decided to translate it as Subozéano.
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/19/2019
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Siankan
Siankan
Posts: 894

2/19/2019
Jermaine Vendredi wrote:
Except that the German term is Untersee, with an s

You are absolutely correct, and my brain knew this if I'd slowed down a bit. Assuming the 'z' is not merely a matter of accent (which we must leave as a possibility, since the "nautical 'z'" is an established matter of accent already, and doesn't need to derive from the name of the sea), then the Unterzee is neither Dutch nor German, but a hybrid of both.

Cpt. Eructus wrote:
The thing is that Unterzee is close enough to the English Undersea that anyone con understand it. That's not the case in Spanish (I mean, it could be understood through context and basic English knowledge but it would still be a bigger logic jump and the word would stick like a sore thumb among the Spanish text), and that's why I decided to translate it as Subozéano.

Ah, but here we get into the stickier details of translation. Connotation and flavor are at least as important in choosing a word (especially an important word) as the dictionary definition. In those terms, Subozéano departs from Unterzee in two important ways.

1. It is Spanish, albeit Spanish with an accent. Unterzee is very much not English, even though (as you've pointed out) it's close enough for one to figure out. It already sticks out like a sore thumb. That foreignness is important. It sets the Zee off as something different, something strange. Had Alexis simply called it the Undersea, it wouldn't have had the same effect; it's at least arguable that the flavor of the entire game would have changed. The Spanish equivalent would be to give it a name in Portuguese, or French, or Italian (or, following the above, a combination thereof).

2. It is too broad, geographically. There is an important distinction in English between sea and ocean. Sea is a flexible term. In phrases like "going to sea" or "at sea," we are usually referring to crossing great bodies of water, and we can use "the sea" or "the high seas" to simply mean the vast body of water that is 2/3 of the Earth. However, when part of a name sea is always a smaller body, usually one bound in some way by land: the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Japan. It can even be used for what are (truth be told) large lakes: witness the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Ocean could never be any of those things. It always and only means the vast landless stretches that separate the continents, the "high seas," the ancient domain of Oceanus himself. Ocean is deep and unbridled and dangerous to men.

Why does this matter? The Unterzee is continually described as being a limited body of water. It has definite boundaries (although some of those boundaries do odd things with time and space). It is several times mentioned to be very shallow compared to Surface oceans. It is without tides or waves (except when something large disturbs it) or even storms (unless, again, some outside force disturbs it). The Unterzee, at end of day, is merely a large, calm underground lake; its dangers come from monsters and darkness and strange powers, not from the water itself. Unterzee helps carry that.

I am no Spanish expert (as I proved in class last week, when I suddenly couldn't remember the word mujer), but I believe that océano carries the same connotations as its English cousin. Zee and See and sea are all much closer in meaning to mar.

---

In short, Unterzee tells us that this body of water is strange and foreign, but also small and limited. Subozéano, if my limited Spanish isn't betraying me, does neither. Now, is there a perfect solution? Not if we believe the Palace gates. Omnis traductor traditor; something always has to give. Nevertheless, it may be that there's a closer translation waiting to be found.
edited by Siankan on 2/19/2019

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/19/2019
That's partly true, but I really wanted to keep the "z" accent thing and océano is the only word that I could think of that has a c/z sound. I considered other more uncommon or literary Spanish words for sea that would keep a certain feel of strangeness while still being understandable, but none of them had the required sound.


About using a foreign-but-close word like Portuguese or Italian, I don't like it because it would mean changing the established history of the world, and turning that Dutch explorer into an Italian or a Portuguese for no reason (keeping it in Spanish may be partly guilty of the same but at least is not adding a third unrelated language into the mix). It always irked me when dubbed films and tv shows made blatantly Hispanic characters Italian by default, so they could keep speaking a foreign language in the Spanish dub. I get why they did it and it's not an easy thing to work around, but it never worked for me, so I don't like to do it myself.

Besides, Suboc(z)éano is not exactly Spanish either. Spanish is not as flexible a language as English or German, you can't just slap a preffix before a word and call it an accepted word (although we sometimes do it in common speech), so the fact that I did exactly that, does sound a bit weird to a Spanish ear and not like a normal word you would hear in real life.

I appreciate the debate and making me question things. Please, keep'em coming!smile
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/19/2019
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Siankan
Siankan
Posts: 894

2/19/2019
Cpt. Eructus wrote:
About using a foreign-but-close word like Portuguese or Italian, I don't like it because it would mean changing the established history of the world, and turning that Dutch explorer into an Italian or a Portuguese for no reason (keeping it in Spanish may be partly guilty of the same but at least is not adding a third unrelated language into the mix). It always irked me when dubbed films and tv shows made blatantly Hispanic characters Italian by default, so they could keep speaking a foreign language in the Spanish dub. I get why they did it and it's not an easy thing to work around, but it never worked for me, so I don't like to do it myself.


There are a couple of thoughts to consider here:

1. The only Surface explorer I know of in Sunless Sea is Demeaux, who is certainly not Dutch. (If I have forgotten someone, I'm sure it will be pointed out to me.) Also, unless I've entirely missed it, there's never been an explanation given for how the Unterzee got its name. Thus, I don't think there's any history here to be obscuring.

2. The above is a moot point, because you're not preserving any linguistic history anyway. Subozéano is no kinder to any hypothetical namer than an Italian or Portuguese name would be. If not "changing the established history of the world" is a concern, then the only real route is to maintain Unterzee.

Captain Eructus wrote:
Besides, Suboc(z)éano is not exactly Spanish either. Spanish is not as flexible a language as English or German, you can't just slap a preffix before a word and call it an accepted word (although we often do it in common speech), so the fact that I did exactly that, does sound a bit weird to a Spanish ear and not like a normal word you would hear in real life.



I must point out here how un-English Unterzee is. It is not merely "a bit weird" or "not exactly" English; it is clearly a foreign word. Yes, the words are cognates, and yes, an English speaker can work out the meaning without overmuch effort, but the same is true of the Castillo de San Marcos, and nobody's mistaking that for an English name. Unterzee feels no more English than Mexico or Paris or Tennessee or Mediterranean. We recognize all those places as places, but the place-names are clearly borrowed from some other tongue. I don't think it's possible to maintain that familiar foreignness within a single language; for Spanish, it may not even be possible with Portuguese, which are as closely related as any two languages on earth. If anything, the relationship is like that between Spanish and French.

E.g., mar. In Portuguese or Catalan, the sea is still mar. In Italian, it is mare. In French, it is mer. The vowel-shift here between French and Spanish is understandable but foreign, much like the shifts between under and unter, sea and zee.


Now, as I've said before, something always has to give. That 'familiar foreignness' may be one thing that does. However, giving it up and giving up the sea/ocean distinction at the same time seems like a bad bargain.

Another note: The 'nautical z' is a challenge on its own. It works in Sunless Sea because it's so prevalent. Zailors zail the Zee, after all. It connects the ideas together with a verbal twist. That complex, as far as my limited knowledge goes, isn't going to be preservable in Spanish, where all the relevant words come from the wrong branch of the linguistic tree. Certainly Subozéano can't preserve it on its own. Without the zailing, zinging zailors, does preserving the 'z' in Subozéano do anything?

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/19/2019
Siankan wrote:
1. The only Surface explorer I know of in Sunless Sea is Demeaux, who is certainly not Dutch. (If I have forgotten someone, I'm sure it will be pointed out to me.) Also, unless I've entirely missed it, there's never been an explanation given for how the Unterzee got its name. Thus, I don't think there's any history here to be obscuring.

I don't know about that, I was going by what other people in the thread were saying.

Siankan wrote:
2. The above is a moot point, because you're not preserving any linguistic history anyway. Subozéano is no kinder to any hypothetical namer than an Italian or Portuguese name would be. If not "changing the established history of the world" is a concern, then the only real route is to maintain Unterzee.

Translating the term into Spanish may detract from it but I find I can justify it to make it more understandable; on the other hand, using a word from a language different to the two used in the original text aswell as the intended translation language, even if it replicates the original mechanism, makes me feel like it changes the setting in a way so jarring that I can't justify to myself doing it. Keeping it as Unterzee is something I did consider but together with the issue of it being more or less understandable, it opens a whole can of worms with the related words, such as zee-bat, zee-beast, etc. It's easier and looks better to have a translated word for zee to work into the translation of those terms than using zee with a Spanish word.

Siankan wrote:
I must point out here how un-English Unterzee is. It is not merely "a bit weird" or "not exactly" English; it is clearly a foreign word. Yes, the words are cognates, and yes, an English speaker can work out the meaning without overmuch effort, but the same is true of the Castillo de San Marcos, and nobody's mistaking that for an English name. Unterzee feels no more English than Mexico or Paris or Tennessee or Mediterranean. We recognize all those places as places, but the place-names are clearly borrowed from some other tongue. I don't think it's possible to maintain that familiar foreignness within a single language; for Spanish, it may not even be possible with Portuguese, which are as closely related as any two languages on earth. If anything, the relationship is like that between Spanish and French.

E.g., mar. In Portuguese or Catalan, the sea is still mar. In Italian, it is mare. In French, it is mer. The vowel-shift here between French and Spanish is understandable but foreign, much like the shifts between under and unter, sea and zee.

The problem with French is that while the French for sea is mer, the French for sailor aswell as the adjective for something pertaining to the sea is marin, so it doesn't keep the vowel-shift. But anyway, I already explained why I find using a fourth language so jarring and gratuitous.

Siankan wrote:

Another note: The 'nautical z' is a challenge on its own. It works in Sunless Sea because it's so prevalent. Zailors zail the Zee, after all. It connects the ideas together with a verbal twist. That complex, as far as my limited knowledge goes, isn't going to be preservable in Spanish, where all the relevant words come from the wrong branch of the linguistic tree. Certainly Subozéano can't preserve it on its own. Without the zailing, zinging zailors, does preserving the 'z' in Subozéano do anything?

I've been able to work the z treatment in a few other words, like Canzión del Ozéano for the Zong of the Zee, but certainly not as many as in the original. Then there's the fact that it doesn't really change anything in pronunciation, because in Spanish a c before e or i sounds exactly the same as a z, so you can certainly argue that it does nothing but keep a visual gimmick as kind of a shoutout to the original text. But I don't want to give the z treatment to the s, so that it actually sounds different, because that would sound too silly, at least in my native Castilian Spanish, and there's even less s's in the relevant words than there are c's.
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/19/2019
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Siankan
Siankan
Posts: 894

2/19/2019
Cpt. Eructus wrote:
Keeping it as Unterzee is something I did consider but together with the issue of it being more or less understandable, it opens a whole can of worms with the related words, such as zee-bat, zee-beast, etc. It's easier and looks better to have a translated word for zee to work into the translation of those terms than using zee with a Spanish word.

Out of curiosity, what is the precise challenge? Do you just find the "_____ de la Zee" formula inelegant?

Cpt. Eructus wrote:
The problem with French is that while the French for sea is mer, the French for sailor aswell as the adjective for something pertaining to the sea is marin, so it doesn't keep the vowel-shift. But anyway, I already explained why I find using a fourth language so jarring and gratuitous.

Oh, I wasn't suggesting French as an option. Even to my ears, Submer (or worse, Zubmer) is grating.

Cpt. Eructus wrote:
I've been able to work the z treatment in a few other words, like Canzión del Ozéano for the Zong of the Zee, but certainly not as many as in the original.

I have to say, I rather like it.

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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/19/2019
Siankan wrote:

Out of curiosity, what is the precise challenge? Do you just find the "_____ de la Zee" formula inelegant?

It certainly sounds somewhat awkward, to my ear at least, although I think it does sound better than what I had thought at first: "_____ del Zee" (Mar in Spanish can be indistintcingly masculine or feminine; masculine is more common overall, while feminine is more poetic and more usual among sea-folk, but I didn't think of using the feminine article with the unstranslated form). Something to keep in mind. Then again, ozéano lets me use adjectives like "ozéanico" in addition to "del ozéano"
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/19/2019
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Cpt. Eructus
Cpt. Eructus
Posts: 61

2/22/2019
Well, the creatures of the zee seem determined to be troublesome. I'm now scratching my head on how to translate Jillyfleur and Jillyfish. Do you think the "jilly" part actually means something or is it just a funny way of spelling jelly? Maybe it's some form or feminine moniker, derived form the name Jill (the jillyfleur's cap is supposed to look like a woman's face according to some events)?
edited by Cpt. Eructus on 2/22/2019
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Optimatum
Optimatum
Posts: 3540

2/22/2019
I'm pretty sure it's just supposed to be a corruption of jelly, yeah.

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