Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Saucy Tricks for Tricky Sorts



Simplified Chinese (China)
Duìfù èzuòjù de jǐnnáng miàojì
对付 duìfù = 'to deal with'.
恶作剧 èzuòjù = 'practical joke, mischievous prank'.
de = connecting particle
锦囊 jǐnnáng = 'brocade bag'.
妙计 miàojì = 'excellent plan, brilliant scheme'.
Bag of Tricks that Counters Mischievous Pranks
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)
Táoqì wūshī de èzuòjù bǎodiǎn
淘氣 táoqì = 'mischievous'.
巫師 wūshī = 'wizard'.
de = connecting particle
惡作劇 èzuòjù = 'practical joke, mischievous prank'.
寶典 bǎodiǎn = 'treasured book'.
Treasured Book of Mischievous Pranks for Mischievous Wizards
Torikku-zuki no tame no oishii torikku
トリック好き torikku-zuki = 'trick-lover' (トリック torikku 'trick' + 好き suki 'like').
ため no tame = 'for, for the benefit/purpose'.
no = connecting particle
おいしい oishii = 'delicious'.
トリック torikku = 'trick'.
Delicious Tricks for the Trick Lover
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Mánh Độc Để Chơi Khăm mánh = 'trick'.
độc () = 'wicked'.
để = 'in order to'.
chơi khăm = 'play practical jokes, dirty tricks'.
Wicked Tricks in Order to Play Practical Jokes

The book contains interesting tricks that can be used by people who like such tricks. Its seemingly simple title has pitfalls for the translator in virtually every word, including the preposition 'for'.


English speakers are generally unaware of how tricky and complex prepositions can be. Websters, for instance, groups its meanings into ten. They include the following:

    Indication of purpose, intended goal, object or recipient of a perception, desire, or activity; being or constituting; because of; suitability or fitness; in place of, behalf of, in favour of; number of quantity; in spite of; with respect to; duration; and in honour of.

In the title, the intended nuance (which isn't actually very clear from the Webster definition) is 'designed for' or 'for the benefit of' tricky sorts. Failure to properly understand this will affect the entire translation.

The Japanese and Taiwanese translators understand the meaning correctly.

    The Japanese translator indicates that the tricks are 'for the benefit of' tricky sorts (のための no tame no 'for the benefit of').

    The Taiwanese translator simply uses de, the ubiquitous connecting particle. The meaning is literally 'mischievous pranks of mischievous wizards', but this is all that is needed to convey the nuance of the English.

Both the Simplified Chinese (China) and Vietnamese translators get it wrong.

    The Mainland translator, as elsewhere, assumes that 'for' means 'designed to deal with' (对付 duìfù 'to deal with'). There's no reason that it couldn't mean this, but in idiomatic English it just doesn't.

    The Vietnamese translator interprets 'for' as meaning để 'in order to', forcing her to put a verb after it ('in order to play practical jokes').

Having got the significance of the crucial preposition wrong, both translators continue even further off the rails in interpreting the meaning of the title. This is not surprising since 'saucy tricks' and 'tricky sorts' are slightly slangy expressions.

Saucy tricks

'Saucy tricks' carries nuances that are hard to translate directly, especially the word 'saucy'. 'Saucy' refers to an attitude that is overly familiar for one's position or station, e.g., children may be saucy or cheeky when they talk back to adults, men may be regarded as saucy when they take small liberties with women. 'Saucy' may indicate disapproval or approval, depending on the speaker's intent. Often the actions it describes are winning or attractive precisely because they dare to go beyond the bounds of acceptable behaviour.

Here the term is one of approval, implying that the tricks in question are slightly cheeky or impertinent, but attractive for their boldness or flair.

    The Japanese translator uses おいしい oishii ('delicious'), conveying the idea that these tricks will be appreciated for their flair. 'Trick' is translated using the borrowed word トリック torikku.

    The Vietnamese translator uses độc meaning 'wicked', which is slightly less successful in conveying the nuance. 'Trick' is translated as mánh 'trick'.

    The Taiwanese translator subsumes the sense of saucy in the noun, 惡作劇 èzuòjù, meaning 'practical joke, mischievous prank'.

    The Mainland translator translates 'saucy tricks' as 锦囊妙计 jǐnnáng miàojì, a 'brocade bag of excellent or brilliant schemes'. This translation uses a very traditional Chinese expression (see below).

Tricky sorts

'Tricky sorts' means 'tricky people'. 'Sort' here is also a slangy expression. Understanding it is important for translating the title correctly.

    The Japanese translator correctly renders 'tricky sort' as トリック好き torikku-zuki or 'trick-lover'.

    The Taiwanese translator also correctly interprets this as 淘氣巫師 táoqì wūshī 'mischievous wizard'.

The Simplified Chinese (China) and Vietnamese translators, led astray by their misinterpretation of the meaning of 'for', come up with incorrect translations.

    The Chinese translator, assuming that 'for' implies a need to deal with this thing called 'tricky sorts', misunderstands 'tricky sorts' as 恶作剧 èzuòjù 'practical jokes' or 'mischievous tricks'.

    The Vietnamese translator translates 'for tricky sorts' as để chơi khăm, that is, 'in order to play dirty tricks/practical jokes'.

As a result, two our four translations come up with completely skewed interpretations of the title.

Bag of Tricks:

The Simplified Chinese (China) translation uses the expression 锦囊 jǐnnáng means 'brocade bag'. The expression 锦囊妙计 jǐnnáng miàojì (literally 'brocade bag of excellent plans') means 'wise counsel' or 'instructions for dealing with an emergency'. It derives from an episode in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an ancient tale of military wiles and exploits set in the 3rd century AD.

    In the story, the king of Wu invited Liu Bei, ruler of the kingdom of Shu Han, to come and marry his young sister. The king's plan was to quietly take Liu Bei hostage. However, Liu Bei's strategist, the legendary Zhuge Liang, smelt a trap and gave a set of instructions in a brocade bag to the general accompanying Liu Bei. Each time a problem came up Zhuge Liang had foreseen it and provided a suitable strategy.

    The first instruction was: 'Spread word of the proposed marriage around when you arrive'. The king of Wu had originally planned to take Liu Bei captive without any fuss, but with the marriage already public knowledge he had no choice but to go ahead with it.

    After the wedding, the king of Wu detained Liu Bei in Wu by providing him with a life of luxury and pleasure. The second message instructed Liu Bei's general to sound a false alarm that Shu Han was being attacked by a third country. Liu Bei had to leave for home to deal with the emergency.

    When the troops of Wu tried to prevent Liu Bei from leaving, the third instruction was to have Liu Bei's new bride, sister of the king of Wu, come out and handle it. Naturally, the troops of Wu didn't dare disobey the king's sister.

    In this way, the 'brocade bag of excellent plans' came into popular use to mean resourceful schemes for dealing with problems, in this case, a book of statagems.

Another famous brocade bag in Chinese history was that used by the Tang dynasty poet Li He to scribble down lines of poetry when he was out riding on his horse, to be assembled into complete poems later.

Category: Spells and Charms (Popular)

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