|Cover art for the Wreck|
prior to composition
Beneath Grubb’s singlet she could mark the contours of his affection and so knew not only his longing, but how long it was.
A bit of archly lascivious punning. Impelled by curiosity, TOF consulted Der Fluss der Sterne, where he found the line rendered thusly:
An Grubbs leichter Hose zeichneten sich die Konturen seiner Zuneigung ab - sie konnte nicht nur sein Verlangen erkennen, sondern wusste auch, wie groß es war.At iGoogle, this back-translates as
At Grubbs lighter pants loomed the contours of his affection - she could not only recognize his desire, but also knew how big it was.And then El Naufragio de "El Rio de las Estrellas," where it ran as follows:
Bajo la camiseta de Grubb podía apreciar los contornos de su afecto y por tanto sabía no sólo de sus ansias sino también que eran antiguas.This back translates from iGoogle translations as
Under Grubb's shirt [she] could see the outlines of his affection and therefore know not only their anxieties but they were old.The intriguing thing is that neither translation preserves the pun between longing and long. Both translate the crude physical reality: that the Lotus Jewel could see Grubb's erection outlined in his coveralls.
The German Verlangen does have the quality of English "longing": ver-langen. But "long" has been grossly rendered as groß, which can be translated: big, great, tall, high, wide, long, grand, full, etc., though there is a perfectly good adjective lange, which would have preserved the pun:
...sie konnte nicht nur sein Verlangen erkennen, sondern wusste auch, wie lang es war.It's also noteworthy that while English gets by with a single "knew" ("...knew not only his longing, but how long it was."), the German wants two verbs. The longing was erkennten but the length was wusste. I'm reasonably certain that this is because the latter is known by direct sensing but the former is known by intuition or inference.
The Spanish translation is odder, at least do far as TOF can tell, which is admittedly not very far. Ansia includes "longing" among its meanings, but also anxiety, anguish, and worry, which is not strictly denoted by either longing or Verlangen. If antiguas was an attempt to pun -- perhaps the ansias/antiguas pronunciations are similar? -- it produced a strange meaning. Old? I admit I don't get it.
Digression: English needed 23 words to say this and German needed 24. (TOF counted "zeichneten ... ab" as a single word: "abzeichnen" but the reflexive form "sich abzeichnen" as two words.) The Spanish needed 26 words. TOF understands that Spanish generally needs more words, mostly perhaps because where German can add -s or English can add -'s, without increasing word-count, Spanish adds de or de los or something of the sort, one or two extra words. Also the German ability multiwordcombines to create and the English word-trove that lets us shade a meaning by word choice rather than by adding an adjective or adverb.So the thought for the day is that you can't always depend on a translation to capture every nuance of the original. In German, "the cow is on the ice" is not a scientific assessment of bovines on frozen water. It is an idiom that means one is confronted with a difficult problem. (Think: how do you get a cow off the ice?) There will be turns of phrase, shades of meaning that will be lost from one language to another. St. Augustine noted that "in some languages there are words that cannot be translated into the idiom of another language." And he gives multiple examples of faulty translation of Hebrew and Greek into Latin.
But hasty and careless readers are led astray by many and manifold obscurities and ambiguities, substituting one meaning for another; and in some places they cannot hit upon even a fair interpretation. Some of the expressions are so obscure as to shroud the meaning in the thickest darkness.
-- Augustine of Hippo, On Christian doctrine, II:6