Two Japanese Jabberwocky Poems (2017)


60 points | by riboflavin 11 days ago


  • riffraff 11 days ago
    If you enjoy the idea of discussing how to translate (poetry in particular) I can't recommend enough "le ton beau de Marót" by Douglas Hofstadter of "Godel, Escher, Bach" fame. It explores various approaches to translation, discusses a lot of funny stuff and has a zillion different translations of the same poem, which is pretty entertaining tho it gets boring after a while.

    And interestingly enough, the Italian version of GEB contains a pretty horrible, in my opinion, translation of the Jabberwocky, where the monster name is translated as "mascellodonte", which seems academic and dinosaur-like rather than fantastical as the English one.

  • kazinator 11 days ago
    How is this for title + first verse:

    ガヤ暴禽 (がやぼうきん、Gayabōkin)






    Migureda. Nyobatōbu ga,

    mizunga de gorogūn-to.

    Borogōn ga mimamema,

    ubaigaru nezumon.

    Title explanation:

    - jabbering is ガヤガヤ, so I took half of that.

    - bōkin is a play on mōkin (猛禽) which refers to a fierce bird of pray. I replaced mō (猛) which refers to severity, extremity, ferocity with bō (暴): violence, force, to create a new word.

    Other notes:

    見ぐれ (migure) is supposed to evoke twilight by association with みる (miru, seeing) and 夕暮れ (yugure): twilight. So that gives us the counterpart for "brillig".

    にょば (nyoba) is a onomatopoeia similar to nyoronyoro: wrigg.

    みずんが (mizunga) is a portmanteau of mizu + unga (water + canal). That gives us a made-up word that evokes some kind of wetland setting corresponding to "wabe".

    ごろぐーんと(gorogūn-to) an invention that hopefully evokes gorogoro: heavily rolling. This is our "gyre and gimble".

    ボロゴーン (borogōn) is inspired by borogove.

    見ま目ま (mimamema) is our "mimsy". 目眩 (memai) means dizzy.

    ネズモン (nezumon) is from nezumi: mouse. This gives us "mome rath".

    奪い狩る (ubaigaru) is a made-up compound nouned verb: 奪う (ubau) is to snatch, steal. 狩る is "to hunt". E.g. 魔女狩り (majogari): witch hunt. This is our "outgrabe" candidate.

    • kazinator 11 days ago
      Let's keep going.






      O-i! Gayabō ni chūi!

      Kamu ha, tsukamu tsume.

      Jabu-jabu tori mo sakete.

      Kōkotsu no Ju-ketsu-ki mo.


      Hey, watch out for the Gayabō!

      Teeth that bite, claws that catch.

      Also avoid the Jabu-Jabu Bird.

      And the slybone Bloodtaker.


      Made up words: 狡骨 (kōkotsu) is a pun on 狡猾 (kōkatsu: sly, cunning crafty) by sound and kanji similarity. 骨 means bone. For some reason I decided to equate "frumious" with "cunning". Juketsuki also a made-up word inspired by 吸血鬼 (kyūketsuki), vampire.







      Juei tsurugi-o motte,

      kataki wo busshoku shite,

      Tamtam ki no juei de,

      shibaraku shikō shiteta.


      Holding to "cursharp" sword,

      searching high and low for the foe,

      in the shadow of the Tamtam tree,

      thought for a while.


      Did not work in "manxome" unfortunately.

      However, there is a nice pun between the made up word "juei" 呪鋭 and a real word "juei" 樹影.

      呪 (ju) refers to being cursed, and 鋭 (ei) to sharpness. The vorpal sword is magically enchanted so that it is always sharper than sharp. (That seems to be the interpretation of "vorpal" in the world of D&D, which can be taken as authoritative, haha).

      This juei: 樹影 is the shadow of a tree. Not exactly shade, so there is a liberty being taken here. Shade is more like 日陰 (hikage) "tamtam-no hikage de" works and scans, but that pun thing is lost.

      • kazinator 11 days ago





        Kare no uff to muchū toko,

        Moeru me no Gayabōkin ha,

        Fyō-to shigu mori-o tooshi,

        "Geru"-to naki nagara kita.


        In his "uff" daydream moment,

        Burning-eyed Gayabōkin,

        Went like "fyou" through the thicksy woods,

        Coming as it cried "geru".







        Ich'ni, Ich'ni, sē-no, tsuki-tsuki,

        juei no ha jiku-shaku to shita.

        Yattsuke, namakubi-o totte,

        pakkashi de kaetteitta.


        One-two, one-two, heave-ho, thrusting-thrusting,

        cursed-sharp blade went "shiku shaku".

        Defeating, taking the freshly severed head,

        He "gallumped" back home.







        Gayabōkin o koroshita kai?

        Nikoyakko, kono ude ni koi!

        Kagamashii nichi da, yarra yarē,

        Narashi-waratte yorokonda.


        Did you kill the Gayabōkin?

        Beamish-kid come to these arms!

        It's a glitterous day, "yarra yareh",

        Snort-laughing he rejoiced.







        Migureda. Nyobatōbura ga,

        mizunga de gorogūn-to shite,

        Borogōn ga mimamema natte,

        nezumo ga ubaigatteta.

      • xrd 11 days ago
        Genius. I would sign up for your Patreon if you had one for this kind of thing.

        The vampire pun is great.

      • euske 11 days ago
        The OP missed another translation included in GEB by Naoki Yanase (a guy who translated Finnegans Wake into Japanese, which tells something).
        • xrd 11 days ago
          I absolutely loved this discussion.

          It reminded me a lot of the time I watched Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV in amazement in an Izakaya in Kanazawa. It boggled my mind that someone could translate the clever vulgarities and the double entendres (often enough) into Japanese. Truly a labor of love.

          • wink 11 days ago
            I find this a bit of an odd example, but maybe I am completely preoccupied by translations of technical texts, where clarity is important and staying exact at the same time. I've hardly come across words that were so foreign and weird that you'd be thinking very long if the "normal translation" was ok. This poem especially seems to be an exercise in crypto linguistics, most of the time trying to figure out the original meaning first, and then finding some fitting translation, with a task that seems more like writing a poem on your own and less "translation". But as I said, maybe it's me thinking about howtos and manuals.

            Disclaimer: I have no professional experience as a translator, just a software developer who writes READMEs and technical documents in German (native) and English and has also translated stuff in the past.

            • kazinator 10 days ago
              My attempt at this is now hosted here.