Sonderling Sunday – Chapter Nine – The Seltsamen Sonderlinge’s Squires

It’s time at last for another issue of Sonderling Sunday, where I play with words by looking Der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, the German translation of James Kennedy‘s The Order of Odd-fish, and find translations that give interesting insights or are simply fun to say.

The title of this post is a warped German-English hybrid to say The Squires of The Order of Odd-fish. I plan to look at only the beginning section of Chapter Nine. We’ll see if I get carried away….

We’re beginning on page 78 in English, Seite 100 auf Deutsch.

Interesting. Here’s a pretty direct translation:
“homelier” = heimeliger (I wonder which word meant “ugly” first?)
“arched brass ceiling” = verzierten Messingempore (“ornate brass gallery” says Google)

I like this one. It’s so obvious:
“vines” = Schlingpflanzen = “sling plants”

“unidentifiable fruit” = undefinierbaren Früchten (“undefined fruit.” This appeals to my mathematical brain.)

This sentence has a candidate for longest word at 16 letters:
“It was as if they had all been stolen from different places.” = Die Teile schienen von überallher zusammengeklaubt worden zu sein.

More fun to say in German:
“filthy black robes” = schmutziger, schwarzer Roben

Here’s the word for Squires:
“Squires” = Knappen (Ah! So my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Knapp, may have had a squire in his ancestry. Only in German, the K is pronounced.)

“precisely knotted bow tie” = einer sorgfältig gebundenen Fliege (Interesting. The word for “bow tie” is also the word for “fly.”)

Better in English:
“teetering trays” = beladenen Tabletts

Better auf Deutsch:
“rushing back and forth” = hin- und herhuschten (“there and here scurried”)

I’ve mentioned this one before but love it:
“tiptoe” = Zehenspitzen (“toe points”)

“discredited metaphysics” = Ungnade gefallene Metaphysik (“disgrace-befallen metaphysics”)

“a beloved eccentric.” = ein hochgeschätzter Exzentriker

“flash photography” = Fotos mit Blitzlicht (very descriptive, nicht?)

More fun to say in German:
“wooden stool” = hölzernen Hocker

“one weirdly birdlike” = der einem Vogel unheimlich ähnelte

“an unfortunate nose” = eine knubbelige Nase (“knobbly nose”)

I like this better in German, too. You could say your kid is in this, and it sounds mysterious and important:
“growth spurt” = Wachstumsphase

“perpetual stoop” = ständig gebückt

“babbling” = plapperte

“the Silent Sisters” = der Stummen Schwestern

Shorter in German!:
“a tattered tan corduroy jacket” = ein verschlissenes Cordsakko

Maybe a little more dignified in German?:
“the wispy beginnings of a mustache” = der erste Flaum eines Bartes (“the first fuzz of facial hair”)

That’s the end of the first section, and all I have time for tonight. To sum up:

Most logical: Schlingpflanzen
Most fun to say: hin- und herhuschten
Most descriptive: Fotos auf Blitzlicht
Best German short form: Cordsakko
Best Euphemism: der erste Flaum eines Bartes

Armed with this knowledge, I can aspire to be ein hochgeschätzter Exzentriker!

4 Responses to “Sonderling Sunday – Chapter Nine – The Seltsamen Sonderlinge’s Squires”

  1. I’m glad you’re back in the saddle! I enjoy this hugely. I liked “der Stummen Schwestern” quite a bit. I’ve been walking around the house saying it in ominous tones.

    • I still say, James, that I’m not sure there are other people out there who enjoy this as much as we two do. But I really do enjoy it. Now, I could never ever have come up with some of the bizarre phrases to translate as you have put in your book. And something about putting them into German makes them yet more delightfully outlandish! I feel sorry for my son when he’s in the same room when I’m writing this out, because of course I have to try out all the phrases. (Though I say that, but I’m dreading when he goes off to college next month, and I won’t be able to try them out on him. His German is better than mine.)

      I’m curious: Did you ever happen to read that charming little volume, French for Cats? It’s hilarious — phrases a cat would say, translated into French. This project feels like that kind of humor to me. The REALLY important things to be able to say in German.

      And, of course, I laughed out loud at the image of you walking around the house saying “der Stummen Schwestern” in ominous tones. If you’re compelled to speak these words aloud then, yes, I have succeeded.

  2. lisainberlin says:

    I have so much respect for translators. Thankyou for this!

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