The word “Close” is hard to translate without context.
In English it can mean both to shut something down, be near something or someone, or to successfully finish a sales negotiation. Of course this opens up a plethora of pitfalls for the diligent linguist/translator, even in-context:
“Close the deal!” was translated as “Luk handlen!”, which can be understood as “Shut down the business!”. 🙂 It should have been something like “Få Ordren!” or “Luk salget!” (i.e. “Get the Order!”).
“As close as you can” was translated as “luk det så godt som du kan” (“close it as well as possible”). The correct translation would be “så tæt på som muligt”.
“It is close to my heart” ==> “det er mit hjerte nær”. Interestingly when we go “poetic” in Danish we like to reverse the word sequence. Saying “det er nær mit hjerte” would be a geographic description of something located near my heart, with no emotional content.
Close, but no cigar!
And what about “Close, but no cigar!”: what would be a good translation of this Idiom into Danish? Maybe “Lige ved og næsten slår ingen mand af hesten”? (“Close-to and almost does not knock any man off his horse”).
Erik Moldrup has compiled a very impressive list of English-to-Danish idiom translations at: http://lakjer.dk/erik/engelsk/enidiomstb.html . But “Close, but no cigar” is not amongst them. Ahem… close, but no cigar… 🙂 I will ask him for advice.
There’s also an impressive list of Danish proverbs with explanations (in Danish) at: http://da.wikiquote.org/wiki/Danske_ordsprog
and a corresponding one of English proverbs in English: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/English_proverbs
Sometimes the issue is with words which are “oh, so correct” but therefore also rarely used, obscure and largely unknown. Case in point:
“Gift certificates for services (including but not limited to experiential and entertainment certificates) are subject to the terms and conditions of the vendor providing the services”
“Experiential” anyone? Experiential, in this context, means something that lets you experience something. In other words: an Activity.
When the sentence was translated originally the translator mistook “experiential” for the more common: “experimental”, which created the funny idea in Danish of “experimental gift certificates”. 🙂
Gavecertifikater til tjenester (herunder, men ikke begrænset til eksperimentelle certifikater og underholdningscertifikater) er underlagt vilkår og betingelser fra den leverandør, der leverer disse tjenester.
The correct translation could be:
Gavecertifikater til tjenester (herunder, men ikke begrænset til aktivitetscertifikater og underholdningscertifikater) er underlagt vilkår og betingelser fra den leverandør, der leverer disse tjenester.
Experience ==> Oplevelse, Erfaring, Aktivitet
Experiment ==> Eksperiment, Forsøg
Experiential ==> Oplevelsesmæssig, Erfaringsmæssig, Hands-on, Aktiv
Experimental ==> Eksperimentel
The “domestic relations matter” in the sentence “Except as expressly permitted in writing, Reward Points and awards are not transferable or assignable under any circumstances, including (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise by operation of law.” was translated as the opposite of “foreign relations matter”, which it obviously also can be, however not in this case, where it actually refers to a divorce and such. Probably formulating the English sentence as “…(ii) as part of a divorce settlement or property division…” would have been significantly better.
So, the translation became “Medmindre det udtrykkeligt er tilladt skriftligt af banken, kan præmiepoint og bonusser ikke overføres eller tildeles under nogen omstændigheder, herunder ved (i) død, (ii) som en del af nationale forhold, eller (iii) ellers i kraft af loven.”
It should have been: “…(ii) som følge af skilsmisse eller ejendomsfordeling,…”
“Under no circumstances shall the company be liable to you or to any other person for any indirect, incidental, consequential or punitive damages arising out of…”
looks perfectly good in English, but it actually has no less than two linguistic quirks that come to the surface under translation. The first quirk is that the last one of the “damages” is a completely different beast than the first three ones. “Damage” is something unpleasant that happens to you and under that we can have indirect, incidental and consequential damage. “Damages”, on the other hand, are awarded by a court as monetary COMPENSATION for those unpleasant things, loss or injury, that happened to you. And they become “punitive” when they exceed the value of actual damage caused and are therefore a punishment. And actually, it’s not “they”, it’s “it”. Legal damages is a singular noun (see Wikipedia). Indeed in Danish we have two different words for the damage that happens to you vs. the damages you are awarded in court (the latter: more like compensation (“straferstatning”)).
The second quirky thing is the word “Punitive”. As I commented to my colleagues on the potential pitfalls of the above sentence when subjected to I18n internationalization, one of them said “but wait, I don’t see anything wrong, I can easily see how you can suffer damage that is punitive”. Indeed you can. But that has to do with the dual meaning in English of the word “punitive”: Punitive in this context, when attached to Damages, means: “as a punishment”, but the word Punitive is also used in non-legal speech to mean “terminal” or “decisive”, “grueling” or “inflictive”, like in a “punitive blow to the head”, i.e. a SERIOUS blow to the head (from which it is hard to recover).
So, YES, you can be damaged punitively (meaning: ~seriously, irrecoverably) as the result of something bad happening to you, but “punitive damages” is something else.
With English having relatively few inflection rules, many words in English have to do double-duty as both nouns and verbs, or nouns and adjectives. Take, for instance, the word “Pay“: Depending on the bigger context it can stand for a gentle order: “please pay now”, a choice in infinitive form: “you can chose to pay now or later”, or a noun: “receive your pay“. Unfortunately, we often see it just standing there all by its lonesome self in source materials to be localized.
When localizing to a language with slightly different inflection rules, like Danish, each of the above contexts of “Pay” calls for a different translation:
Pay (verb, order) ==> Betal
(to) Pay (verb, infinitive) ==> (at) Betale
(monthly) Pay (noun) ==> Løn
Payment (noun) ==> Betaling
I hope someone pays attention! -Which by the way would be total rubbish in most other languages, if translated literally.
In Danish we “are attentive” or “give attention”, but we don’t “pay attention”. 🙂
“Plastic surgeon”… Is that a surgeon made of plastic? Or maybe a surgeon specializing in operating on latex dolls? (George Costanza of “Seinfeld” fame and his stint as latex salesman at Vandelay Industries come to mind, or to those Scandinavian, the history’s probably one and only hit song dedicated to an inflatable doll. It was 1969 and it was Swedish) :-).
Of course we know (somehow) that a plastic surgeon in English is also known as a cosmetic surgeon and is a live person operating (and funny enough: NOT “surging”, similar word, seemingly with the same root, but with a quite different meaning) on live people.
Why the confusion, then? It is because in this context “plastic” is an adjective. It’s derived from the Greek word ‘plastikos’ meaning to mold or shape. It so happens that it’s the same word in English as the noun “Plastic”, which refers to usually stiff objects made out of a plastic (<–adjective) material, a material to which we often refer to as simply “Plastic” (<–noun). And voilá: an easy joke.
A deficiency (or difficulty) of English is that often a noun and an adjective version of a word is the same word: “bet on the red (<–noun)” and “the red (<–adjective) bike”. And that then leads to another issue with the English language: since the two forms of a word are often the same, some times a different (correct) adjective form exists, but is not used in daily speech. Case in point: “Face surgeon”. Yes, we all know it’s the doctor operating on your face. But since “face” here is supposed to be an adjective describing the surgeon, we are actually here strictly speaking describing a surgeon facing us (in a crowd). Like in “face value” (the value you can see). The correct wording is actually “Facial surgeon”, because “Facial” is the adjective pertaining to what happens to a face.
But nobody talks like that.
Linguists, however, sometimes have to understand nuances between how a language should be used and how it is actually used, because otherwise it can come out really funny at the other end.