Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation

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Treatment of Puns and Word Play in Translating Harry Potter
(Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese)


The 'Knight Bus'


When Harry hastily departed 4 Privet Drivet after inflating Aunt Marge, he found himself in the middle of Muggle suburbia with lots of luggage and no money. What's more, a huge black something with gleaming eyes was staring at him from across the street.

At this crucial moment, Harry inadvertently did the right thing - he tripped and his wand flew into the air. This simple action summoned that wonderful deus ex machina, the Knight Bus, 'emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard'. The name of the driver, Ernie Prang ('prang' means car crash in colloquial British English), and the conductor, Stan Shunpike (the bus not only shuns pikes, but also most other features of Muggle road transport) are a study in word play themselves. Unfortunately, neither is even hinted at in the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese translations so we'll leave Ernie and Stan to go on their way.

More interesting is the name of their bus, the 'Knight Bus'. This name incorporates a rather interesting pun. Spoken aloud, the name sounds like 'night bus' - a bus that runs at night. But the spelling is 'knight bus' - suggesting a knight in shining armour coming to the rescue. Let's have a look at how this virtually untranslatable pun is handled by the translators. There are two possible approaches:

1) Ignore the pun and just translate the name as 'knight bus'. This is what the Chinese and Vietnamese translators do.

2) The second approach is to make an attempt at translating the pun. This is what the Japanese translator does, and in a most ingenious way.

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