Thursday, November 15, 2012

11 Odd Things Learned in the Course of Translation

--tidbits picked up in translating Beyond the Islands (Alicia Yánez Cossío) and Trafalgar (Angélica Gorodischer)--

Some days, translation is like a treasure hunt, a sanctioned scavenge after curious words and unfamiliar allusions. (Happily, I'm a fan of dictionaries and reference books; my dictionary stand is a prized possession.) When the project's finished, some of those definitions and associations slip back out of mind and beyond memory, but others linger. These details may already have been known to many of you, but they were new to me.

Boulevard Oroño
Riddle or rest?
  1. Aerugo is another word for verdigris (a green or bluish patina formed on copper, brass, or bronze surfaces exposed to the atmosphere for long periods of time).
  2. A tero is a Southern lapwing, a loud-voiced bird common in South America. 
  3. Rosario's Oroño Boulevard is indeed lined with "cold, serious, heavy houses, with grilles but without gardens, maybe at the most a tile patio paved like the sidewalk" -- and also with palm trees, Sphinx benches, and Sunday strollers. 
  4. José de Villamil, born in New Orleans in 1788, later became an advocate for Ecuadorian independence and was the first governor of the Galápagos islands.
  5. Baby's breath is also called gypsophila.
  6. A pair of embracing skeletons, found in an 8000-year-old burial site on the Santa Elena Peninsula (Ecuador), have been called the pre-ceramic Adam and Eve or Los Amantes de Sumpa.
  7. Newell's Old Boys (one of Rosario's soccer teams--early team of Lionel Messi) can also be spelled Ñuls.
  8. Aguamala is a word for jellyfish (not nasty water).
  9. Opuntia is a prickly pear.
  10. Cheviot is a fine, wool fabric. Also a breed of sheep.
  11. And Trafalgar is not only a the name of a battle, and--in Gorodischer's stories--a proper name, but the title of a Bee Gees song.

I'm getting ready to start a new project. I wonder what I'll learn this time around?

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