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Translating the Jabberwocky

Started by Cramulus, October 22, 2020, 02:06:58 PM

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The Jabberwocky is a nonsense masterpiece. The context and sound of each nonsense-word implies its meaning. "...he chortled in his joy", "...he came galumphing back" -- you can kinda understand it, right? a wheezing snorting laugh? exuberant, triumphant steps to show father what you did? ('chortle' is so clear that it's a 'real' english word now)

A recent fascination of mine is how the Jabberwocky is translated into other languages. They have to invent new nonsense words! But those words need to have recognizable connotations.

Take the couplet "Beware the JubJub bird, and shun the Frumious Bandersnatch". One French translator writes "Bandersnatch" as "Band-à-prend". Another Spanish translation chooses new animal names to make the line flow better: "Cuídate del pájaro Rapiña y del altanero Halcón." So interesting!

But how do you write nonsense in a language where you use logograms (like Chinese, or Ancient Egyptian?) One Chinese translator, Y.R. Chao, invented new glyphs by combining parts of existing glyphs, making symbols which don't have an explicit meaning but do have recognizable elements. The character he uses for "Jabberwocky" combines symbols which mean "exploding", "neck", and one that sorta looks like "dragon". Great article about his translation, here:

Finally, how do you present The Jabberwocky in sign language? Sign language is very expressive--meaning is relayed not just by the signs themselves, but by the expression and energy of the signer. Youtube has a ton of "Jabberwocky in sign language" videos, here's one by a guy named Crom Saunders. (he really looks like a Crom Saunders, no?) I really enjoy his expression of these nonsense words using his hands, face, and body.