“Close, but no cigar” in Danish?

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 “FĂĄ Ordren!” or “Luk salget!” (i.e. “Get the Order!”).

“As close as you can” was translated as “luk det sĂĄ godt som du kan” (“close it as well as possible”). The correct translation would be “sĂĄ tæt pĂĄ 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 slĂĄr 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

Rabat is a town in Morocco

The Danish word for “rebate” is “rabat”, which happens to also be the name of the capital of Morocco. So the English sentence “you can get 20% in rebates…” should not be translated as “du kan fĂĄ op til 20 % i rabat…”, because it can be understood as implying that you must be in the Moroccan town to receive it. A better translation is the omission of “in”:  “du kan fĂĄ op til 20 % rabat…”.

Vatican bank holiday, Pope’s holiday, Madonna’s “Holiday” and Pope’s holy day. All these holidays…I need a vacation from my vocation…

In English the word “Holiday” can refer both to a vacation one takes personally at some convenient time, as well as a Public Holiday, where banks and shops close, aka. Bank Holiday. A “public holiday” is not the same as a “personal holiday”, but of course they are used interchangeably in everyday English. In Danish we have two different words for those: “ferie” is what I do when I need a vacation and “helligdag” is when the banks close.

So, when things get mixed up we get these funny translations:

Send money as a holiday gift ==> Send penge som en feriegave  [Meaning: Send money as a vacation present. Should be: Send penge some en helligdagsgave, lejlighedsgave]

(Bank) Payment Holidays ==> Betalt Ferie [Meaning: paid vacations! 🙂 Should be: Bankhelligdage]

….And speaking of Holiday and cultural and linguistic adaptations….
These were the US promotional pictures for Madonna’s 1991 single “Holiday”:

 And these were the ones used in UK and France…:
Vive la difference! 🙂

Linguistics is an experiential journey

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.

English==> Danish:
Experience ==> Oplevelse, Erfaring, Aktivitet
Experiment ==> Eksperiment, Forsøg
Experiential ==> Oplevelsesmæssig, Erfaringsmæssig, Hands-on, Aktiv
Experimental ==> Eksperimentel

Now, now… you can relax, but not now

If the Danish prince Hamlet gave the English language the immortal sentence: “To be or not to be?”, so does modern-day English give us the wonder of “Now, know that first now is not the same as the last now, you know?”. Behold now, honored reader:

In the English sentence “Now, follow these steps to confirm your bank account” the word “now” actually does not mean “now” as in “this very instance”. It’s a filler-word more meant as a gentle nudge, or pause in speech, and synonymous (in this context only) with words as “next” or “please”. Or, another way to look at the uniqueness of this “now” is to realize that while the sentence above sounds pleasant and non-alarming, removing the comma and moving the “now” couple of places to the right results in the sentence “Follow these steps now to confirm your bank account”, which obviously expresses more of an urgency and somewhat of an alarm. And, interestingly enough, placing the “now” at the very end of the sentence further enhances the sense of urgency: “Follow these steps to confirm your bank account, now”.

And, of course, we have to note then in this context that in Danish, “now” does not have a double-life as as a filler-word. For Danes “now” means -ahem- now. Starting a sentence with “now” causes a sense of urgency in a Danish reader, so a direct translation of the original sentence with a leading “now”, would convey in this case the meaning but not exactly the spirit of it. In Danish, we have two words at our disposal: “Nu” means “now” (as in “this moment in time”). “Nuvel” is the Danish word we use, when we need a filler-word to let our mouth continue, while our brain pauses. It more or less is equivalent to the English “well, now..”.

And a propos, there was a very famous Danish radio- and tv-personality who so abused the word “now” in his live radio transmissions starting with the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and all the way through 40s, 50, 60s, 70 and 80s, that the Danish word for “now” (Nu) was forever ‘added’ to his name as little gentle mockery and a Danish sign of respect (Danes, being generally reserved and easygoing people, are not very good at direct praise 🙂 ). Gunnar “Nu” Hansen (1905-1993).
And since he could talk and talk (which of course you had to be able to do as a sportsradio reporter) also a line of licorice flavored throat lozenges was named in his honor: Nu Sportspastiller. His picture was on the outside and a collectable picture of a Danish soccer-star was always inside. The line of lozenges was discontinued in 1977.