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)

 

U-NO-POO

 

This is another example of the scatalogical humour in Harry Potter that seems to delight so many younger readers.

At Chapter 13 in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we are introduced to the multifarious attractions of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, a joke shop run by Fred and George Weasley. In the right-hand front window is a huge poster emblazoned with flashing yellow letters:

Why Are You Worrying About You-Know-Who?
You SHOULD Be Worrying About
U-NO-POO --
the Constipation Sensation That's Gripping the Nation!

The poster is obviously advertising one of Fred and George's trick products. Judging from the name, it is a concoction or spell designed to induce constipation in the unfortunate soul to whom it is administered.

The name incorporates a pun on You Know Who, the name by which Voldemort is known amongst those who don't dare speak his real name. U-NO-POO rhymes with 'You Know Who', and in more conventional orthography might be written 'You No Poo'. 'Poo', of course, is a children's word for what is technically (but not very delicately) termed 'faeces' or 'excreta'. The product in question would appear to prevent the subject from 'doing a poo', i.e., passing stool.

The challenge in translating this is to find a name for the Weasleys' trick product that suggests Voldemort's nickname and has a meaning along the lines of 'no defecation' or 'constipation'.

Chinese (Mainland)

你为什么担心神秘人?
应该关心
便秘仁 ——
便秘的感觉折磨着国人!

Nǐ wèi shénme dānxīn Shénmì-rén?
yīnggāi guānxīn
Biànmìrén
Biànmì de gǎnjué zhémo-zhe guórén!
Why do you worry about the mysterious person?
You should be concerned about
Constipation Pill --
The feeling of constipation is tormenting the people of the nation!

The Mainland Chinese version calls Voldemort 神秘人 Shénmì-rén, or 'the mysterious person'.

For the name of the Weasleys' product, the translators come up with 便秘仁 Biànmìrén. 便秘 biànmì is the Chinese word for 'constipation'. rén has several meanings. One is 'benevolence' or 'humanity', a Confucian virtue. Another is 'kernel, stone, or nut', as in the seed of a peach, plum, etc. More to the point, however, rén is a word traditionally found in the names of Chinese medicines. It is thus clear that 便秘仁 Biànmìrén is some kind of medicine for constipation -- although in the Weasley brothers' case, it is not a medicine for curing constipation but for causing it.

Both the rhyme between 神秘人 Shénmì-rén and 便秘仁 Biànmìrén, and the clever suggestion of a medicine related to constipation makes this a very good translation. In fact, I will award it a brilliant

(Note: the word 'sensation' is rather poorly translated as 感觉 gǎnjué 'feeling'. The translator has interpreted it as meaning 'feeling' or 'sensation', whereas the actual meaning is 'a state of excited interest' caused by the Weasley twins' product.)

Chinese (Taiwan)

你乾嘛要擔心『那個人』?
應該要擔心的是『怎麼拉』——
造成全國恐惶的便祕問題!
Nǐ gànmá yào dānxīn "Nàge rén"?
Nǐ yīnggāi yào dānxīn de shì "Zěnme Lā" --
Zàochéng quánguó kǒnghuāng de biànmì wèntí!
Why are worried about "That person"?
What you should worry about is "How to poo" --
The constipation problem that is causing national panic!

The Taiwanese translation calls Voldemort 那個人 nàge rén, 'that person'. The word 那個 nàge 'that' conveys a rather negative impression.

The name of the Weasley twins' product is 『怎麼拉』 Zěnme Lā, meaning 'How to Poo?". , literally 'to pull', is the verb in 拉屎 lā shǐ, a colloquial word meaning 'to shit', although it is not quite as vulgar as the English expression. The pronunciation is the same as the question 怎麼啦? zěnme lā? -- "What's up with you?"

The parallel between 那個人 nàge rén and 『怎麼拉』 Zěnme Lā can only be described as very poor. Moreover, the name 『怎麼拉』 Zěnme Lā is rather crude and simplistic and not really a very witty or interesting name for a trick medicine. About the best that can be awarded to this attempt is a passable

Note: 'Sensation' is translated as 全國恐惶 quánguó kǒnghuāng 'national panic', which is a little wide of the mark as a literal translation, but is relatively close to the meaning of 'widespread excitement and interest' that is conveyed by the English word 'sensation'.

Japanese

『例のあの人』なんか、
気にしてる場合か?
うーんと気になる新製品
『ウンのない人』
便秘のセンセーション
国民的センセーション!
"Rei no ano hito" nanka,
Ki ni shite iru ba'ai ka?
Ūnto ki ni naru shin-seihin
"Un no nai hito"
Benpi no sensēshon
Kokumin-teki sensēshon!
Is this the occasion
to be worrying about "That person"?
The new product that is greatly weighing on our minds:
"Person with no luck (or poo)"
Constipation sensation
National people sensation!

Voldemort is known as 例のあの人 rei no ano hito 'that person' in Japanese. This is an expression used in Japanese when both speaker and listener know who is being talked about, even though the name is not mentioned.

The name of the Weasley twins' product is ウンのない人 Un no nai hito, 'Person with no un'. This contains a pun on un meaning 'destiny, fortune, luck' and うん un, short for うんち unchi, a children's word meaning 'poo'. It can thus mean either 'a person with no luck', or 'a person with no poo'. As a bonus, the expression うーんと ūnto in the previous sentence means 'greatly', but also echoes the word ウン un in ウンのない人 Un no nai hito.

The pun with 例のあの人 rei no ano hito ('You Know Who') is not particularly compelling, but this is salvaged by the pun on un and うん un, which is on a similar level of childishness to Rowling's. It is hard to decide between good and brilliant

Note: 'Sensation' is correctly translated as センセーション sensēshon, which has been borrowed into Japanese with the same meaning as the English word 'sensation' as used here.

Vietnamese

Tại Sao Quý Vị Lại Lo Lắng Về
Kẻ-Mà-Ai-Cũng-Biết-Là-Ai-Đấy?
Quý Vị NÊN Lo Lắng Về
AI-CŨNG-KHÔNG-Ị
Cái Cảm Giác Táo Bón Đang Kìm Kẹp Đất Nước!
Why do you worry about
He-who-everyone-knows-who-he-is?
You SHOULD worry about
NO ONE CAN 'UMPH'
The constipation feeling that is tormenting the nation!
Quý Vị = 各位
Cảm Giác = 感覺

The Vietnamese translation calls Voldemort Kẻ-Mà-Ai-Cũng-Biết-Là-Ai-Đấy, meaning 'He-who-everyone-knows-who-he-is'.

The name of the Weasley twins' product is AI-CŨNG-KHÔNG-Ị. This name uses the words Ai-Cũng 'everyone' from Voldemort's nickname and combines it with không ị, meaning 'not defecate'. The word , which means 'defecate' or 'faeces', originally represented the vocal sound supposedly made when a person is straining to pass stool, which is why I gloss it as 'umph'.

The parallel between Voldemort's nickname and the name Ai-Cũng-Không-Ị is not terribly compelling but is passable. The product name incorporating is good in that it reproduces the juvenile feeling of 'poo'. All in all, this must be described as good

Note: Like the Mainland Chinese translator, the Vietnamese translator has been misled into thinking that 'sensation' means 'feeling or sensation', which is translated as Cảm Giác.

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