DCML digest, Vol 1 #847 - 10 msgs

Mike Pohjola mikep at iki.fi
Thu Feb 28 04:40:22 CET 2002

> Anyway, the thought that *good* dialogue is being mucked up by an editor
> somewhere is rather disturbing to this storyteller.

Curiously enough, it seems that the Finnish translators treat your stories
in a very special way. I guess this is mostly because you're so incredibly
popular, and because they know you don't like actual facts changed. (Like
Sir Francis Drake being Disney-fied as Sir Francis Vaakku = Sir Francis

What I mean is, that whereas most stories are translated rather freely,
and the Finnish used is, albeit very formal, also very fluent and pleasant
to read.

Your stories immediately have a much more American feel to them, somehow.
Sure, they do try to focus on different dialects and accents you use to
make the end product more like you'd intended it to be. But they also
translate idioms and slang in a very straight-forward way.

For example, in one of the Klondike stories ("Hearts of Yukon"?), some
character says somebody else is like the south end of a northbound horse.
I'm quoting from memory here, but it was something along those lines. Now,
that's a funny way to call a person a horse's ass. Becose "a horse's ass"
is an American idiom for a dork, an idiot. When I first read this in
English, it worked very well for me.

In Finland, however, when we call someone a dork, we don't call them
horse's asses. We might say lots of other things, but horses usually don't
step into the equation in any way. 

Your new version of the old idiom, however, was translated word-for-word
not working half as well as the original. Not only is it alot less fluent
to say it in Finnish ("pohjoiseen kulkevan hevosen etelänpuoleinen pää"),
the comic effect is mostly lost. Sure, you can guess they mean nothing
nice when saying this, but it just ain't that funny anymore. They could've
well used some Finnish idiom, and created the same comic effect by saying
it in a similar manner. Now it doesn't look like real speech, it looks
like a translation.

A similar situation was in the Kalevala story. Louhi says in Kalevala
verse that "dung is about to hit the windmill". Of course, any Finn who's
seen an American action movie knows what it means when shit hits the fan,
but that's not something that's in common use over here. Again, they
could've localized the idiom, but chose to translate it word-for-word.

This is something that has been bothering me quite a bit, 'cause often
the translated dialogue in your stories seems kinda difficult. (And then
again, sometimes it's very good.)

On a brighter side, I've adopted the idiom "dung hitting the windmill"
into common speech. It's just too funny to forgo. Maybe that's what the
translators thought, too.

> None of the Scottishmen or other "foreigners" in "Life of Scrooge"
> talks with an accent.

The situation's the same in Finland, as well. However, I'd guess this is
largely because there's no Scottish accent for Finnish. Nobody's ever
heard a Scotsman trying to speak Finnish. French we can imagine, but not
Scottish. Swedish, Turkish and Russian accents, those we hear all the

Nynorsk for alle!

Mike Pohjola
mikep at iki.fi            +358-50-5238399            http://www.iki.fi/mikep

More information about the DCML mailing list