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For Michael Matola

Mapraputa Is
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There is a book, "Twelve Stories of Russia: A Novel, I guess" by A.J.Perry (in English). Here is the site with sample chapters and author's interviews. He lived in Russia for 6 years, and wrote a book about it. I found it via these cool forums.
Quote:
I read on:
"2) American dollars can be exchanged for Russian rubles at the approximate official rate of one dollar to six rubles (1USD=6RUR). In addition it is often more convenient to purchase rubles from men in black leather jackets who offer unofficial rates that are much more attractive; however, this can be illegal and therefore should never be attempted at night.
3) Some Americans have had problems with local conmen and petty thieves; when speaking to strangers say you are from Canada.
4) Remember not to attract unnecessary attention to yourself. When possible look and act as a Russian would. Do not talk loudly. Do not gesticulate beyond reason. And most importantly:
Do not smile."
[ October 08, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Mapraputa Is
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Is it only me, or this guy has a deep, surrealistic sense of humor?
"Irina, unlike the other two, was neither intelligent nor polite; she was strictly business, writing furiously in her notebook and interrogating me on subtle grammatical points. To each of my answers she would stare distrustfully at the words before writing them down and proceeding to her next question. Dutifully, I did my best to appease her, and in fact everything went smoothly enough until one day she asked me to explain the difference between high and tall.
Well, I answered, Inflation is high but Gorbachev is tall.
I don't get it? she said.
Okay, just try to remember it like this: a building can be tall but not high; a bird can only be high.
What about a mountain?
Well a mountain is high. But it can be tall sometimes too, depending on the mountain. For example, if the mountain is taller than you, then it would be considered high. But if it were even higher than that, then it would most definitely be tall.
Irina had stopped writing in her notebook.
It was our last lesson."
http://twelvestories.narod.ru/passages.htm
Mapraputa Is
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I am probably oversensitive to the foreigners' impressions about Russia (Ok, what did they get wrong this time?) but this one dissolves all my suspicions in its wonderful dark humor that is the only intellectual tool useful in Russia:
"Olga Mikhailovna is the name of the woman who reminds me to pay my rent; Vadim calls her "Mom" and although she has become a second Aunt to me, I still refer to her as I have from the beginning of our relationship; affectionately I call her "Landlady."
Landlady was born sixty-four years ago in Leningrad. She is silently heroic, slightly tragic, energetic, and honest to a fault. At any given moment she will either be laughing or cleaning. Usually both. During her short lifetime she has survived war, starvation, dictatorship, communism, stagnation, Gorbachev, a putsch, rebellion, inflation, and now the uncertainty of reforms; her life has not come easy and that is why she, like other women of her generation, maintains a large collection of disposable containers and sacks.
Landlady is old but optimistic, out of date but not out of touch; it was she who taught me how to peel potatoes thinly; from her I learned not to discard bread; by her example I found the value in explaining complex ideas using generalizations. Russia's gypsies, she once informed me, are like the blacks in America: absolutely nobody likes them but for some reason they all sing in restaurants."
John Smith
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[b]Map: Is it only me, or this guy has a deep, surrealistic sense of humor?[b]
You left the non-Russian ranchers in complete darkness as to what you find humorous in those quotes. I understand the humor, but only because I happened to live in Russia, and I still like black leather jackets. I am sure that the quotes from a guide for American tourists would be taken at face value by the non-Russian readers.
This reminds me of an American correspondent in some refugee camp in Africa that I recently saw on TV. The guy wore the bullet-proof jacket and the helmet, while the thousands of refugees were running almost naked around him and laughing at him. I found it very humorous, too. But the correspondent was puzzled: "Don't these people realize that they are in danger? Sometimes you can hear the gun shots over here! Apparently they think I am funny!"
It's always the context of a country, culture, or setting, that makes some normally ordinary thing funny. Without understanding the context, you would not understand the joke. Remember, you recently posted some 3 rules on which all jokes are based?
Mapraputa Is
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You left the non-Russian ranchers in complete darkness as to what you find humorous in those quotes.
That's what I was afraid of. How do you explain that something is funny? Well, "funny" is a wrong word here... Forgot who said it: "When somebody beautifies reality, we call him a realist. When somebody writes things exactly how they are, we call him "satirist". That's the humor of highest quality for me, when it's hard to say where humor is.
Mapraputa Is
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I got the book yesterday and I am half through. The thing that torments me, why is it written in English. There can be some practical reasons, but you see the problem. Only a small percents of Russians can read a book in English. As for Americans who could read the book out of interest to Russia, they will be lost soon, I am afraid. The reality the authors describes is absurd by itself, plus he sometimes distorts and sometimes just makes things up. As a result we have a remarkable literature achievement, highly enjoyable reading -- if you can solve the puzzle.
But let's check.
Quote 1.
I am amazed as old women one after another fall from an apartment window. They fall and fall and when they have stopped falling I take the well-thumbed Anna Karenina from the upper shelf of my cabinet.

This isn't taken out of context too much, it's a beginning of a subsection without any particular connection to the previous text.
Quote 2 - a dialog

What do you do?
I teach people to speak.
Does it pay well? It... well actually I do mostly volunteer work... I do not charge for my lessons. I mean I sort of charge but not really... actually I have a sort of agreement whereby my students pay by barter.
Barter?
Right. That way I do not get in trouble with the tax authorities. It's a good system. For example I have a student who works in a chocolate factory and so he pays me in chocolate, another student works in a perfume store and so she pays in perfumes. I have a third student who works at a flower stand and so she brings me red roses, you know the expensive long-stemmed kind that women like... Another student of mine is a tax inspector...
Well, I do not understand. What can she offer? As far as the flowers and the chocolate and perfume... well that I can understand, but the tax inspector...?
I can see that you are new to Moscow. The tax inspector, you see, brings me all three - flowers, chocolates, and perfumes.
I don't get it...?
Hang in there. Sooner or later you will."

How true do you think is this story? What looks plausible and what not?
Too often I read a book written by a foreign author and couldn't make any sense out of it. But here the author made a book enigmatic for his own compatriots, and used a language unknown for another part of potential audience. In other words, he builds a cultural barrier for people who have no problem with the language, and a lingual barrier for people who have no problem with cultural artifacts. And this is intentional -- he said he had a special concern to write the book so that translation into Russian would be impossible.
I need to read the second part, now I cannot wrap my mind around it. This isn't a complain, more like amusement...
P.S.
Explanations on quote 1: this is a reference to Daniil Kharms', Russian poet and absurdist writer, short story "Falling old ladies". It is said before that the author is reading Kharms, but it won't help much if the reader doesn't know this particular story.
P.P.S. I deleted some posts from this thread as they were made in mode.
[ October 18, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Jim Yingst
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P.P.S. I deleted some posts from this thread as they were made in mode.
And I have reciprocated. Sorry 'bout that, it was only intended as gentle ribbing...
Too often I read a book written by a foreign author and couldn't make any sense out of it.
Biting my tongue here...
[ October 18, 2003: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Mapraputa Is
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Jim: And I have reciprocated. Sorry 'bout that, it was only intended as gentle ribbing...
And I was told so! Dammit, I envy how you Americans can read each other...
But you did not answer any of the two puzzles.
In case you wonder why I am so excited about this book, I do not remember reading any book about my country written by a foreigner. I can be wrong though. But I am positively sure I never read a book about Russia written in English. In case you wonder what's the difference as long as you know both languages, habibi, there is a difference. HS Thomas could explain things out, but he is too busy hiding his first name.
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Well, the book as pretty much translatable, as I can tell. Another question is: should it be translated? I got a strange feeling while reading, that I do not want it translated. Maybe this analogy would help: you need to explain yourself to, say, North Korean people. To do that, you take off all your clothes, including underwear, and put on North Korean officially approved clothes. Now can you recognize yourself? Are you sure? Wouldn't you prefer to keep at least something for yourself?
Mapraputa Is
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Map: Well, the book is pretty much translatable, as I can tell.
Gee. Here we have it:

In theory значит means it means, which means it means both it means as well as значит. But that is in theory. In practice значит not only means it means, but also doesn't mean it means. In fact, значит doesn't mean it means as much as it doesn't mean it means, and it means that although it means it means, значит doesn't really mean anything at all. In fact, it means nothing.
Although it's as frequent as finally, it is, at the same time, as meaningless as I mean.
Значит...

If to parse the paragraph above, we have that the Russian word значит can be translated as "it means". However, it is often used as an expletive, just like "I mean" in English. Ok, now how do you translate the whole paragraph into Russian?
This reminds me Hofstadter's comment in his "Metamagical Themas":
Ionesko once remarked, "The French for London is Paris." (Use-mention fanatic that I am, I assume that he meant "The French for 'London' is 'Paris'", although it is pungent either way.)

The problem is somewhat congruent to another Hofstadter's puzzle:
How should one translate the French sentence Cette phrase en fran�ais est difficile � traduire en anglais? Even if you do not know French, you will see the problem by reading a literal translation: "This sentence in French is difficult to translate into English."

[ October 19, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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I think we are getting at something... Another translatability problem.
A wedding party.

Boris raises his glass:
To Vadim and Olga! He says.
For the next few seconds the sound of toasting fills the room as the guests touch their glasses to s many other glasses as they can reach. Happily, they swallow their champagne.
Boris also swallows his champagne happily.
But then, suddenly, Boris makes a distorted face as if he has consumed something toxic. Looking suspiciously at his emptied glass he yells out:
It's bitter!
Yeah! Somebody else yells, Bitter!
Soon everybody is chanting in unison: Bit-ter! Bit-ter! Bit-ter!
Taking his cue, Vadim grabs Olga and kisses her long and passionately.

If to translate this text into Russian something will be lost.
"So what?" - a Russian would ask, if it occurred to him to ask "So what?" at all. While an American would ask "So what?" if it occurred to him to ask "So what?" at all.
The correct term for something is ostranenie, or, to put it simply, Verfremdungseffekt.
It’s rather that communicating in another language is such a direct way of making the familiar strange (Shklovsky’s ostranenie or Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt).
Relatively speaking.

[ October 20, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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Anti-translatability again. (I prefer "untranslatability" term, but my spell-checker insisted on aggravation, actually makes sense...). One of Amazon reviews said:
I think this book is a masterpiece of the new culture, culture of multilingual people, citizens of the World <...>.

<hidden quotes are possible>Maybe this is the point. Emigration isn't about moving from point A to point B and becoming B-nian in process - I did not know that. A lot is written within both A-nian and B-nian cultures, but AB-nians and BA-ninas live in neither place, neither here nor there, neither there nor here, but where here mets there. This third culture would be misunderstood or incompletely understood by both A-nians and B-nians, in their respective ways. There was an example in my previous post, here is another one (this time with explanations )
</hidden quotes are possible>
A New Year party.
As it turned out, each of the men had worn black to the party; that is to say, black slacks with black buttoned-up shirts. The women, in contrast, wore dark gray. Surprisingly, the men felt no qualms about this coincidence. Not surprisingly, the women were all named Tanya.
Sitting festively in my white pants and yellow polka-dotted shirt, I remembered all the black clothes I had left at home. In my apartment. In America. All the black turtlenecks that I had wanted but never thought to buy.

"Russian Way" type guidebooks will explain that in their clothes Russians prefer dark colors -- I never realized that when I was Russian... Turned out, this slant in color preferences is extremely irritating to Americans, who find it "depressing". In Russia, combinations of penetrating magenta with no less penetrating joyful green are reserved for children under 7, and adults are doomed to more sophisticated color schemas. Since majority of population isn't well educated in harmonic color combinations, their choice is pretty much limited by "safe" dark colors.
Now if I read the quotes above when I was Russian, I would think that the author is simply being cute without any particular reason. Not sure what Americans would think...
[ October 22, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Well, the book as pretty much translatable, as I can tell. Another question is: should it be translated? I got a strange feeling while reading, that I do not want it translated. Maybe this analogy would help: you need to explain yourself to, say, North Korean people. To do that, you take off all your clothes, including underwear, and put on North Korean officially approved clothes. Now can you recognize yourself? Are you sure? Wouldn't you prefer to keep at least something for yourself?


How is this translation?
Mapraputa Is
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Oh my. Maybe I am overreacting. What she is trying to achieve? Apparently she is going to translate the whole book and put it online. Are you Ok with it?
This text is much better. I mean at least it sounds Russian. Maybe that's why I hate it even more -- it's so much in "Russian Soul" spirit. I guess, I am overreacting again... Well, let's say it’s a female translation. Like female version of "Dictionary of the Khazars" If you do not mind amateur translations, then there should be male and female versions, actually, *this* would be fun.
Well, if male and female versions are legitimate, then why not "Russian" version of "Twelve Stories of Russia". As long as nobody confuses it with the original. :roll:
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Well, if male and female versions are legitimate, then why not "Russian" version of "Twelve Stories of Russia". As long as nobody confuses it with the original. :roll:

...But they will...! Which is why it�s probably better to stick with the underwear that I am currently wearing.
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But they will...!
Confuse it with the original? Hm... Surely they will. And there is no escape route -- absolutely.
I read an article about three translations of Camus' "L'etranger" into Russian. All three were totally different. I mean, they used the same words, but soul, spirit, tone, whatever, was so different!
And all three translations were made by high-class professionals, no doubt about it.
I guess, translation is an "art of possible", and all the author can do is to chose a translator remotely similar to him/her-self, which itself is a doomed task in jungles of a foreign language.
[ October 25, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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Map: I read an article about three translations of Camus' "L'etranger" into Russian.
Here is this article (for Russians only )
I mean, they used the same words, but soul, spirit, tone, whatever, was so different!
This was pretty stupid thing to say. Of course, words were different. But what do you expect from me posting at 2.00 a night...
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
[QB]Map: I read an article about three translations of Camus' "L'etranger" into Russian.

It�s interesting that even before the author alluded to her preference regarding these three translations (somewhere about two-thirds of the way through the text), I had already come to much the same conclusion. Of course this is tricky because it�s based on the passages she cited and on my reading of an English translation some time ago. (I don�t know French). Is it just a coincidence, or is there a lesson to be learned here? Could it be that although each of us has a unique and valid artistic perspective, there are some whose perspectives are objectively better than others� ?
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I liked Gal's translation (pieces of it, actually) better, because she stressed author's ideas, while another translation softened them (basically worked against). Gal's approach is more faithful to the original, and this is more or less objective criterion. Then, her text is "neutral", more open to interpretations, while another text imposes certain interpretation. I would probably prefer the first approach in any case (and this is subjective), but it seems that Camus' text itself is ambiguous, and this quality should have been preserved, of course.
That's funny that I remembered about this article - pure coincidence. When I read the first translation, I felt an urge to send a link to Gal's book, which I read a while back and which is very good for amateur translators. And the article was at the end of this book. But now thinking about it, if anybody seriously employed himself with translations of "Twelve Stories of Russia", he would face a similar problem Camus' text has to offer -- "the loss of a living connection", if to borrow Eva Hoffman's vocabulary.
Here is a quote from her:
There are other phenomena I encounter that I cannot fit on any grid. It happens rather regularly that students whom I barely know stop me in the library or the cafeteria to unburden themselves of some confession. The campus eccentrics gravitate toward me, perhaps because they sense in me a fellow outsider who will not judge them by the mainstream standards. People compliment me on being a "good listener," but they're wrong. I'm more like a naturalist trying to orient myself in an uncharted landscape, and eyeing the flora and fauna around me with a combination of curiosity and detachment. They might be upset if they knew the extent to which I view them as a puzzling species, but instead, they see a sort of egalitarian attentiveness. Since I don't know what's normal and what weird here, I listen with an equally impartial and polite interest to whomever approaches me.

Her attitude to herself is a bit negative and I disagree with it. This lost of orientation gives a rare opportunity to actually listen to people, instead of automatically sorting them into "normal" and "weird" boxes. I do not know how other experience this (if at all), maybe everybody at different degree, but I definitely can relate to it and I found the same suspended moral judgment, "a combination of curiosity and detachment" in your book.
Could it be that although each of us has a unique and valid artistic perspective, there are some whose perspectives are objectively better than others’?
This is A.Maslow's idea, that some people by their very nature know better what's good for the rest of us, from food to arts. I remember, he persuaded me when I was reading... forgot what's the name of the book was, and it was a Russian translation where they combined several his works, so they probably gave their own title anyway. :roll:
Mapraputa Is
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Al: Is it just a coincidence, or is there a lesson to be learned here? Could it be that although each of us has a unique and valid artistic perspective, there are some whose perspectives are objectively better than others’ ?
Interesting, in his new book Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation Umberto Eco advocates "common sense" rather than somebody's perspectives that are objectively better:
Irrespective of the fact that some philosophers or linguists claim there are no rules for deciding whether one translation is better than another, everyday activity in a publishing house tells us that it is easy to establish that a translation is wrong and deserves severe editing. Maybe it is only a question of common sense, but common sense must be respected.
http://books.guardian.co.uk/extracts/story/0,6761,1074337,00.html

I guess, yeah. Umberto Eco's common sense can do that.
[ November 03, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Interesting, in his new book Umberto Eco advocates "common sense" rather than somebody's perspectives that are objectively better:


"Common sense" seems to be a fairly unambitious criterion for judging translations. Perhaps in technical literature this would be appropriate, but in more creative forms I think you really have to look beyond "what it means" to see "what the author intended"--not so much in any one particular sentence, but in the overall work as a whole. What Eco is mentioning is basically something that is obvious: the translator has to preserve the author's main intent. In the case of literature and poetry it is a process of give-and-take that at best results in a crude approximation of the original, and at worst can be a betrayal of it.
BTW: A famous example of "mouse-rat" is the one Pavel Pashchenko gives about an interpreter at the UN who translated the Russian idiom "to kill two rabbits" as killing two birds. Although this was a perfectly reasonable solution, when a later speaker tried to refer back to that speech by creating an allegory of "birds" in flight--the interpreter back into Russian was faced with a dilemma: either translate it literally which would leave the Russian-speakers scratching their heads as to why in the world this guy was suddenly talking about birds; or somehow try to deal with the alternative of flying rabbits.
Unfortunately, he chose the former.

p.s. Thanks for the moniker. It's a keeper!
Al
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Al: "Common sense" seems to be a fairly unambitious criterion for judging translations.
I wouldn't expect it from somebody like Umberto Eco, but you never know
Perhaps in technical literature this would be appropriate, but in more creative forms I think you really have to look beyond "what it means" to see "what the author intended" -- not so much in any one particular sentence, but in the overall work as a whole.
Ha! And exactly how many people are capable of this? And what about those who are incapable? They all have their freedom of speech protected! Never mind, I am just learning wonders of democracy...
There was an interview with a translator on a Russian Journal, where she was asked how she react to her colleague critics. She said that she doesn't get any critics because she is the only specialist in this particular language. (I forgot what language it was but it isn't even an alive language). Now this is the worst possible state of loneliness I can imagine! When there is nobody in the world who can judge (or misjudge if you still care by this point) your translation.
Moniker -- I love my "Map" name so much, but I could never dream anybody would like a name I gave to him. Life is full of miracles, but you only truly realize it when you grow up.
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is the one Pavel Pashchenko gives
You mean Gorbachev's translator? I really like him. He is so honest and well-intended, I even started to think better about Gorbachev because he had this translator
His latest interview is here but you probably know this.
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Originally posted in "Twelve Stories of Russia: A Novel, I guess":
The group of students was unique in that each knew English from A to Z, and would have spoken fluently if not for articles. It is so difficult, they complained. I know, I said. Can you explain it to us? they asked. I'll try, I said. Can you try again? they pleaded. I just did, I said.
But we still don't understand!
Patiently, I tried to be patient. Understandably, they tried to understand. But it was hopeless. The mistakes continued. The three women struggled, then despaired, then eventually accepted their fate, each coming to terms with it in her own way. Irina used the, Irina used a; and Irina, the laziest of the three, simply omitted articles altogether.

LoL
To help me accept my fate, I have developed my own theory of articles.
Here, on the third page of my beloved "Translation and language comparison" thread.

To hijack this conversation - I figured out why I do not use articles. Because when I am trying to say something, I do not naturally distinguish "a thing" from "the thing". When later, during serialization process, I add them (sometimes), it only distorts what I am trying to say. If we agree that the goal of writing is to convey one's thoughts, then my anti-articles policy promotes clear communication.
<...>
imagine that every time you want to use a noun, say, "bread", you have to decide is it "he", "she" or just "it". Normally, dictionaries provide you with such an info, but imagine they do not. What they provide you with are vague recommendations to decide whether in this context, and depending on what exactly you want to express, this is "she-bread" or "he-bread". But you really do not care if this is "she-bread" on "he-table", or it is "he-bread" on "she-table" or they both are of the same sex. I have four possible solutuions to offer:
1) you make your best guess and you are wrong about as often as right
2) you chose gender at random
3) you make a preference and always call things "he" or "she"
4) you leave this construction empty and allow your reader to substitute whatever gender pleases them most
I think, my own strategy evolved exactly in this direction, from 1 to 4, with number 4 as my current preferred approach, as it is lest intrusive/less harmful.


[ November 08, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

To help me accept my fate, I have developed my own theory of articles.
Here, on the third page of my beloved "Translation and language comparison" thread.
[ November 08, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]

Hey Map, I just read a thread about translation and language comparison...

Curious as to which thread I read? Well, then try this one...

Hey Map, I just read THE thread about translation and language comparison...

See?!? Articles aren't parasites, after all!

Yesterday I had to do a running translation of a Russian anecdote into English (my in-laws are in town!) and it went like this:
A Georgian man comes running into the train station and sees that the train (paravoz) is leaving the station. "She's gone!" he screams and bursts into tears. "She's gone!"
"Who's gone?" somebody asks.
"The train. She's gone!"
"But sir," the bystander points out, "train isn't a she. It's a he!
"Well," says the Georgian, "it's not like I had time to check under her tail!"

Anyway, that's the joke. Of course when I translated it on the spot, I didn't expect the grammatical twist and butchered it to the point that everyone was left scratching their heads and wondering why Russians bother telling jokes at all. The point is, however, that in your world this joke would be deprived of all meaning, even in Russian....
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AL: "But sir," the bystander points out, "train isn't a she. It's a he!
All Russian nouns are gender specific (male, female, or neutral), of course, and it seems that English speaking people long for that explicit relation in their language. I was taking a ride with my colleagues (all Americans) the other day, and we observed a butterfly near by. When it disappered, one of my colleagues said, "Oh, he is gone". When I asked the colleague about why he decided to use a "he" (not a "she") in reference to a butterfly, he couldn't explain. I then recalled that there is a grammatical rule in English that when you try to personalize an object, you should use your gender. So, although many people would not realize it, an English-speaking woman would say "She is gone", and an English-speaking man would say "He is gone", both referring to the same butterfly.
Anyway, I think it is time you tell us more about yourself, Al Labout. Everyone who has been around MD for a while knows when Map had her first orgasm, and what I liked about Siberia, yet we know too little about you. Where were you born?
[ November 09, 2003: Message edited by: Eugene Kononov ]
Mapraputa Is
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Al: See?!? Articles aren't parasites, after all!
Ha! Thank you for an experiment. I gave some thought to how my language instinct works when writing articles, now I know how it works when reading them. I read your first sentence, parsed it as an introductory, then stumbled over the second version. "Why the same sentence again? Maybe he hit "paste" button twice..." then I re-read from the beginning and noticed a change in articles. Conclusion: 1) when I read your first sentence I understood what thread about translation and language comparison you have in mind 2) when reading, I simply ignore articles, unless they are too unusual to get my attention (like once I met "a same" expression, meditated on it over a half an hour yet failed to grok what it was designed to express).
Digression: have you noticed my extensive vocabulary (grok)? Never mind.
But I did make some progress since the end of "Translation and language comparison" thread. Here is a good quote about translating Wodehouse's poetry into French. I have no idea who is this Wodehouse guy, and I do not know French, but this part I was able to understand:
Next to the peculiar use of one that was just analyzed, another characteristic of Wodehouse's style is his manipulation of the definite article. Aside from the traditional English uses of the --which do not strictly overlap the range of the French definite article and may be sources of translation difficulties in their own right--Wodehouse plays with the presence or absence of the article in unexpected contexts to achieve a number of stylistic effects. The most striking of these idioyncrasies is probably the systematic use of the definite article to refer to body parts in place of the expected possessive adjective. In contexts where an English person would shake his or her head, Bertie almost always uses the, as for instance in "I moved up to his end of the table, licking the lips" or "I raised the hand".
Roger Billere. TRANSLATING HUMOR: P. G. WODEHOUSE AND FRENCH
PDF cached version.

The point is, however, that in your world this joke would be deprived of all meaning, even in Russian....
Hm... What is my world, an "articleless" world? Why would it be deprived of all meaning? The only world where it would be deprived of all meaning I can think about is a genderless world, like the English speaking world. Here is an interesting question how people in whose language a train *is* "she" would understand this anecdote, would they guess that in Russian (if you told them this is a Russian anecdote) a train is "he" or not. I think that some would (especially if the had experience with other languages) and some would not.
In case somebody besides members of our Slavic Union read this thread, to add to what Eugene explained, Georgian men according to Russian mythology possess particularly strong libido and relentlessly express sexual interest to any moving object of human size.
Here is another anecdote (and my bad attempt to translate):
A Georgian man and a girl are on the train. They sit there in silence for long time and finally the Georgian loses patience.
- Дэвушка! ("Girl" with supposedly Georgian accent). Why to be silent?
- Because I want to! :roll:
- She wants and she is silent! - exclaims the Georgian in utter disbelief.
(it's better in Russian:
- Дэвушка! Ты пачэму малчишь?
- Хочу и молчу!
- Хочет и малчит!!!)
[ November 10, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
Mapraputa Is
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Eugene: I then recalled that there is a grammatical rule in English that when you try to personalize an object, you should use your gender. So, although many people would not realize it, an English-speaking woman would say "She is gone", and an English-speaking man would say "He is gone", both referring to the same butterfly.
I did not know that! I noticed that my husband refers to any creature as "he" but I thought this is out of general sexism. Myself I think refers to any creature according to their Russian grammatical gender. So "butterfly" would be "she" but a crocodile or a tiger "he".
Anyway, I think it is time you tell us more about yourself, Al Labout.
Yeah. I would only add that my duty as an official sheriff is to explain your two rights. You have a right to refuse to answer any question, and you have a right to consult your lawyer. Ok, I am kidding
Seriously, I love this place because it is fairly all-including. Everybody are welcome, as long as they do not attack other drivelers. This place is rather peaceful and kinda boring lately, when all major combatants already exhausted each other in attempts to explain our Rightness and other party's Wrongness, so I guess we just decided to let each other be. But this only causes more interest to any new deep thinker -- Joe being our last victim If you do not want to reveal too much (if anything) you do not have to. Especially considering that we already know almost everything about you.
Everyone who has been around MD for a while knows when Map had her first orgasm, and what I liked about Siberia, yet we know too little about you. Where were you born?
Well, *I* know where Al was born.
--------------------
"I do not care who wrote this sentence - whoever he is, he is a damn sexist!" -- D. Hofstadter, Metamagical themas
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Al: See?!? Articles aren't parasites, after all!
Ha! Thank you for an experiment.

Sorry, Map, which experiment were you referring to?
Okay, here�s a better example. You and I talk about a car that I want to buy. The next day I call you up and say, "I bought the car." In response, you would say "Congratulations!" Alternatively, I call you up the next day and say, "Hey, guess what? I bought a car!" What would you say here? You would say, "Really, which car?" Believe me this is true. Of course 90% of the time you can understand from the context, but every once in a while this ambiguity creeps up and bites you. Actually, I think I�ve seen Russians solve this problem by using intonation. "I bought a car" (я купил ма-ШИН-у . Versus: "I bought the car" (Я ку-ПИЛ машину (все-таки . But, of course, it would depend on the situation. Rearranging the order of the words might also have the desired effect. I didn�t mean to imply that all meaning would be lost without articles�just that the meaning of that joke would be lost. Actually, all language is based on convention, so as long as you and I agree to write in article-less, gender-less sentences, our shared world will be a rosy one.
(I suppose you and I could do an experiment of sorts with me writing in English without using articles, and you writing in Russian without using gender. It would be quite instructive indeed to see which of us sounds more ridiculous...)
Anonymous
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Sorry, I don't know why there're all these winking things in the middle of my last message. I must have Tourette's Syndrome or something...
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
[b]
Anyway, I think it is time you tell us more about yourself, Al Labout. Everyone who has been around MD for a while knows when Map had her first orgasm, and what I liked about Siberia, yet we know too little about you. Where were you born?
[ November 09, 2003: Message edited by: Eugene Kononov ]

My name is Alyantus (Alan) Labout. I was born in 1974 on the Eastern shore of Lake Elbonia. I had a happy childhood...
Seriously, Eugene, I�m not too fond of talking about myself�primarily because it�s not a topic that is particularly interesting for me, and, I would assume, even less so for others. I was born in Tucson, Arizona. (Now how interesting is that?!)
BTW: I�m not sure I agree with your grammatical rule about speakers referring to animals, butterflies, and the like using their own sex. I think the better rules of thumb are: (1) use "it" when you want to be objective or neutral; (2) use "he" or "she" to emphasize affection toward the animal�actually, most people will instinctively use "he" if they don�t know the gender; (3) use "she" only in situations where you�re sure of the animal�s gender, for example if it�s your own dog, or if you�re writing a book to be published anywhere on the East Coast. In the specific case of butterflies, which as far as I care to imagine are not known for their sexual attributes, I believe the more natural choice would be "it", though "he" would probably be common as well.
Al
John Smith
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Al: In the specific case of butterflies, which as far as I care to imagine are not known for their sexual attributes, I believe the more natural choice would be "it", though "he" would probably be common as well.
But you see, given a choice between "he" and "she", you opted for the former. Now ask your wife, girlfriend, or any other American woman, -- what choice whoud she make when referring to a butterfly? While you are conducting this experiment, I'll do the search for the specific grammar rule that I am talking about (I first read about it in some "Learn English" book many years ago).
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
Now ask your wife, girlfriend, or any other American woman, -- what choice whoud she make when referring to a butterfly?

Unfortunately, my wife is Russian. But I'll try to dig up some other women to ask...
Al
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
[QB]If you do not want to reveal too much (if anything) you do not have to. Especially considering that we already know almost everything about you.

I hope you're not confusing me with that guy in the book...!
Mapraputa Is
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I hope you're not confusing me with that guy in the book...!
Nope, I confuse you with that guy in the interviews!
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
I hope you're not confusing me with that guy in the book...!
Nope, I confuse you with that guy in the interviews!

The book is truer.
Mapraputa Is
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Al: The book is truer.

At least the info about where you were born is correct. (!) This is important, your know.
John Smith
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Al Labout: I�m not sure I agree with your grammatical rule about speakers referring to animals, butterflies, and the like using their own sex.
Ok, I found the book where I first read about it, -- it's "Дружеские встречи с английским языком" by Колпакчи, an insanely popular book during the time when I studied English in Russia.
Here is an excerpt from the "ОЛИЦЕТВОРЕНИЕ ОБЕЗЛИЧЕННЫХ" chapter:

Близкие сердцу или жизненно необходимые предметы, как, например, скрипка для скрипача, трость для хромого и т. д., в устах владельцев стали очеловечиваться, принимая любой род. Журналист, для которого пишущая машинка - не предмет, а �незаменимое я�, скажет про нее he или she в зависимости от собственного пола.
My typewriter must be handy, he is my second self (журналист - мужчина .
Если врач, посетивший ребенка - женщина, ребенок скажет про оставленный врачом фонарик:
Daddy, the doctor telephoned and said she had left here her flashlight, she must be somewhere in the bedroom. - Папа, звонила доктор и сказала, что оставила у нас фонарик, он (в английском тексте �она�) должен быть где-нибудь в спальне.
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
Журналист, для которого пишущая машинка - не предмет, а �незаменимое я�, скажет про нее he или she в зависимости от собственного пола.

Wow! Thanks for the textbook reference, I'm pretty amazed you still have your old grammar books! Anyway, even judging by the quotation you gave above, it would seem that this isn't a general rule to apply to all situations, but rather an individual example of how a journalist--for whom the typewriter is a part of him/herself--might choose to refer to it. In this case, of course, it would make sense for the sex of the appendage to depend on the sex of the speaker. I don't think the authors intended this rule to go beyond that.
Actually, whenever an English speaker animates an otherwise lifeless object, it is with a certain purpose (usually a humorous one) in mind. I know some people--male and female--who for whatever reason refer to their cars as "she". Others choose "he".
I did, by the way, conduct an informal survey of American women to find out how they would describe a butterfly. The resounding answer was that they would call it "it." Of course the sample pool consisted of 1 (one) survey participant, so I'm not sure what the statistical margin of error would be on it.
Al
John Smith
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Al: Wow! Thanks for the textbook reference, I'm pretty amazed you still have your old grammar books!
Actually, I found it online, -- I don't have a hard copy. I was browsing the web searching for "gender specific nouns in English" and came across some Russian forum dedicated to English study. One poster in an unrelated question identified the book, and I immediately recalled that it was my reference. Anyway, I posted a question about gender-specific nouns there, let's see what the compatriots have to say about that. I also posted it in a more inclusive forum here, and got 15 responses in one day! Most of them are garbage, but a few are insightful. For example, it looks like most people would refer to spiders and cats as "she", but to birds as "he".
I don't think the authors intended this rule to go beyond that.
Well, in the second example with the doctor and her flashlight, it does seem to go beyond that, although it really sounds like broken English, so I am starting to question the author's credibility.
Actually, whenever an English speaker animates an otherwise lifeless object, it is with a certain purpose (usually a humorous one) in mind. I know some people--male and female--who for whatever reason refer to their cars as "she". Others choose "he".
Yeah, that's a special case. Cars to Americans are what ships are to British, so personalizing them is a cultural thing.
Cars aside, I now think that assigning gender to nouns by English speakers is in a Freudian realm, not in the realm of the English language usage and grammar.
[ November 10, 2003: Message edited by: Eugene Kononov ]
 
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