Bathrobe's 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)

 

Slughorn, Slug Club, Sluggish

 

These three words are taken from chapter titles in Book 6 and incorporate Rowlingesque puns.

'Horace Slughorn' (Chapter 4)

Professor Slughorn's surname is another of Rowling's delightful creations, ripe for punning and wordplay. It combines the two words 'slug' and 'horn', which have all kinds of possible meaning:

Most commonly, a 'slug' refers to the garden slug, a cousin to the snail but without the shell. It could also refer to a small lump of metal or a quantity of liquor or liquid. As a verb, 'to slug' means 'to strike heavily'.

'Horn' normally refers to the horns on an animal's head, or to protrusions similar to these (such as the horn of an anvil or saddle). It can also refer to a cup made from an animal's horn or a musical instrument.

On the surface, 'slughorn' looks like it might refer to the antennas of a garden slug -- but it has too many other possible meanings to risk pinning it down to this.

In fact, 'slughorn' is also a term in heraldry. A 'slughorn' is a kind of warcry found on heraldic achievements that is shorter than a 'motto'. The following is from JAG, a site about heraldic achievements: "THE SLUGHORN (or slogan or cri de guerre) is the warcry used by the clan or family to which the owner of the achievement belongs. Its appearance above the crest is typical of Scottish heraldry, but it will be found elsewhere. ... Warcries are short, meaningful and easy to distinguish aurally. Mottoes can be relatively long." Perhaps a significant connection with Rowling's Scottish roots?

However, none of the translators seek to translate 'Slughorn' literally. This is because:

  1. Translating as 鼻涕虫角 Bítichóng-jiǎo 'garden-slug+horn', etc., would pin the name down to only one interpretation, losing other possible meanings.
  2. A name like 鼻涕虫角 Bítichóng-jiǎo 'garden-slug+horn would be ridiculous and incomprehensible. While 'Slughorn' is outlandish in English it's not out-and-out impossible.
  3. CJV languages prefer to transliterate English names phonetically.

What all of the CJV translators actually do is simply represent the English pronunciation.

Chinese Mainland

The Chinese Mainland translators transliterate 'Horace Slughorn' as follows:

Horace Slughorn 霍拉斯・斯拉格霍恩
Huòlāsī Sīlāgéhuò'ēn
'Horace Slughorn'

The characters used to write 'Slughorn', 斯拉格霍恩 Sīlāgéhuò'ēn, are cumbersome and over-meticulous (every single sound is spelled out as a separate syllable) and have no particular meaning.

As a pun, this must be ranked a fail

Chinese Taiwan

The Taiwanese translators similarly transliterate the name:

Horace Slughorn 赫瑞司・史拉轟
Hèruìsī Shǐlāhōng
'Horace Slughorn'

史拉轟 Shǐlāhōng is a shorter, more impressionistic rendition of the pronunciation of Slughorn. (Note that the initial sh is pronounced s in the local Taiwanese accent.) There is a certain amount of inherent meaning in the characters, but not a lot. The three characters mean 'history' 'pull' 'boom!'.

Marginally better than the Mainland version, but still must rank as a fail

There is, however, a possible aural connection between the first two characters 史拉 shǐlā and 拉屎 lā shǐ, a vulgar expression meaning 'to take a shit'. If interpreted in this way, the name 'Slughorn' means something like 'shit go boom'. This is vulgar but as a pun quite good

Japanese

The Japanese translator transliterates 'Horace Slughorn' as follows:

Horace Slughorn ホラス・スラグホーン
Horasu Suraguhōn
'Horace Slughorn'

スラグホーン Suraguhōn is a conventional katakana transliteration.

As a translation of the pun, this is a fail

Vietnamese

The Vietnamese translator spells 'Horace Slughorn' exactly as it is found in English:

Horace Slughorn Horace Slughorn

Unlike in previous books, where a heavily Vietnamised pronunciation was often given in footnotes, this does not even try to indicate how it should be pronounced.

This is also a fail

 

'The Slug Club' (Chapter 7)

Slughorn prefers to associate with well-connected students or those with promising future careers. The coterie of students that he has collected around himself is known as the 'Slug Club', from the first part of his surname.

While Slughorn himself uses the name affectionately, it doesn't sound particularly flattering. It has associations with the garden slug (again). The name conjures up pictures of Slughorn as a large fat slug, or of the members as being slug-like. Slugs are regarded as slimy creatures, and in English 'sliminess' has connotations of 'despicable, morally reprehensible', as well as 'fawning'.

There are also possible associations with the 'sluggard' or 'slugabed', suggesting people who are habitually lazy, or of a 'slugfest', meaning an exchange of heavy blows, but these seem less appropriate.

The translators are faced with a dilemma:

  1. Use the Slug in Slughorn's name purely for its pronunciation, or
  2. Use some word meaning 'garden slug', 'sluggard', etc.
It's difficult to have it both ways.

Chinese Mainland

The Mainland name for Slughorn's club is:

The Slug Club 鼻涕虫俱乐部
Bíti-chóng Jùlèbù
'Snot-bug (=slug) Club'

This uses the word for 'garden slug', 鼻涕虫 bíti-chóng. It is quite fortunate that 鼻涕虫 bíti-chóng means 'nose mucus insect', because it goes well with the earlier chapter title 'An Excess of Phlegm'.

The connection between the 鼻涕虫 bíti-chóng and Professor Slughorn is not particularly evident to the Chinese reader and is mentioned at a footnote pointing out that "'Slug', the first part of the name 'Slughorn', means '(garden) slug' in English".

While the 'slug' may be regarded as somewhat disgusting, however, there is no connection in Chinese between 'slimy' and the concept of being morally despicable.

This attempt at translating the pun must be regarded as passable

Chinese Taiwan

The Taiwanese translates The Slug Club as follows:

The Slug Club 史拉俱樂部
Shǐlā Jùlèbù
'Shila Club'

This retains an obvious connection with Slughorn (史拉轟 Shǐlāhōng) through the use of the word 史拉 Shǐlā. However, it sacrifices any possible connection with the 'garden slug'.

This translation of the pun must be regarded as a fail

Japanese

In the chapter title, the Japanese translation chooses to render the meaning rather than the connection with Slughorn:

The Slug Club ナメクジ・クラブ
Namekuji kurabu
'Garden-slug Club'

The chapter title uses the term ナメクジ・クラブ Namekuji kurabu, meaning 'garden-slug club'.

Only in the body of the chapter do we find out the connection with Slughorn, conveyed through the use of rubi. Rubi involves giving スラグ・クラブ Suragu kurabu as the main text, with ナメクジ namekuji 'garden slug' in small letters (rubi) above the word スラグ suragu, thus:

スラグ ナメクジ ・クラブ

(The proper effect of the rubi above suragu only shows up in IE).

This indicates to the reader that the English word スラグ suragu means ナメクジ namekuji ('garden slug'). The word ナメクジ namekuji conventionally has physically (but not morally) repulsive associations in Japanese.

This translation of the pun must be regarded as passable

Vietnamese

The Vietnamese translator simply reproduces the English name Slug without change.

The Slug Club Câu lạc bộ Slug
'Slug Club'

The connection with 'Slughorn' is crystal-clear, but nothing more.

As a translation of the pun, this is a definite fail

 

'A Sluggish Memory' (Chapter 17)

The 'sluggish' memory is Slughorn's memory of what he said to the young Tom Riddle, which he himself tried to blot out. The word 'sluggish' suggest that the memory is slow, lethargic, and difficult to arouse.

Chinese Mainland

The Mainland Chinese translation uses the word 混沌 hùndùn 'chaotic, muddled' to translate 'sluggish':

A Sluggish Memory 混沌的记忆
Hùndùn de jìyì
'Confused memory'

There is no attempt to relate this to the 'Slug' of 'Slughorn', although it is clear from the chapter itself, of course, that it is Slughorn's memory that is in question.

This is a fail

Chinese Taiwan

The Taiwanese translation chooses to maintain the explicit connection with Slughorn:

A Sluggish Memory 史拉式回憶
Shǐlā-shì huíyì
'Shila-style memory'

'Sluggish' is rendered by taking the first two syllables of Slughorn's name, 史拉轟 Shǐlāhōng, and adding -shì meaning 'style', thus 史拉式 Shǐlā-shì or 'Slug-style'. The sense of 'sluggish' meaning 'hard to arouse' is not conveyed at all.

This is also a fail

Japanese

The Japanese translator tries to capture both aspects at once:

A Sluggish Memory ナメクジのろのろの記憶
Namekuji noro-noro no kioku
'Garden-slug slow-moving memory'

This translation brings together ナメクジ namekuji ('garden slug') and のろのろ noro-noro ('slow-moving' or 'sluggish'). The effect is to liken the memory to a very slow-moving slug! The connection with Slughorn is already familiar from the Slub Club (above), but is likely to escape the attention of the less alert reader.

This translation has an element of the curious or bizarre that is completely missing from the English, although it is undeniably imbued with its own charm. It must be regarded as passable

Vietnamese

The Vietnamese translator does not really try to capture the connection with Slughorn.

A Sluggish Memory Một ký ức bị nhiễu
'An interfered-with memory'

Một ký ức bị nhiễu describes what actually happened to the memory, i.e., it was 'subjected to interference' -- bị nhiễu. While quite acceptable as a chapter title, as an attempt to handle the pun the title is a straight fail

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