Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation
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Chapter 2: A Peck of Owls

 

Chinese (Mainland)
一群猫头鹰
Yī-qún māotóuyīng
= 'one'.
qún = 'crowd, bunch, group'.
猫头鹰 māotóuyīng = 'cat-headed hawk' = 'owl'.
A bunch of owls
Chinese (Taiwan)
貓頭鷹大隊
Māotóuyīng dàduì
貓頭鷹 māotóuyīng = 'cat-headed hawk' = 'owl'.
大隊 dàduì = 'large body, specifically batallion, regiment, group, or brigade (depending on organisational context)'.
A contingent of owls
Japanese
ふくろうのつぶて
Fukurō no tsubute
ふくろう fukurō = 'owl'.
no = connecting particle
つぶて tsubute = 'throwing stones' (or stones so thrown).
Pelted with owls
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Một bầy cú một = 'one, a'.
bầy = 'flock, pack'.
= 'owl'.
A flock of owls

There is no problem saying 'a flock of owls' in CJV, but the word play involved in this little slip of the tongue (Uncle Vernon meant to say 'a pack of owls' but said 'peck of owls' instead) is not so easy to reproduce. (See Wordplay: '...a peck, I mean, a pack of owls').

Alas, the 'peck of owls' must be sacrificed for the prosaic 'bunch of owls' in the Mainland Chinese version, a 'large body or contingent' of owls in the Taiwanese version, and a 'flock' or 'pack' of owls in the Vietnamese.

The Japanese translator comes up with the most ingenious translation. The word つぶて tsubute means 'throwing stones' and can also refer to the stones that are so thrown. The Japanese title thus means 'Owl stone(s)', with the implication that the owl or owls come pelting at you like stones. This is no doubt exactly how Uncle Vernon felt about the owls that kept bringing letters to Harry.

(A summary of this chapter can be found at Harry Potter Facts. Detailed notes on the chapter can be found at Harry Potter Lexicon)

Chapter 1
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