GONE GOWN: Skeleton Plot Found Online

Have you ever stumbled upon a thread of messages on a forum or board?  If you’re not directly involved, the experience resembles eavesdropping, even voyeurism. I think of it as found plot, similar to found art, l’objet trouvé. While pursuing an excellent wedding site (theknot is in the name), I discovered these messages (spring 2012) which tell the basic tale of a stolen wedding gown.

Everything flows from true messages with names changed to protect the innocent. You’ll wonder: Was the gown really stolen?  Will she ever find it or get her money back?!

Remember, the women involved are strangers but rise to the occasion with sage advice or practical suggestions. You’ll notice how the bride describes her feelings for the gown. It’s clear that we’re talking about a wedding gown, the most important dress in a woman’s life.

Seven years have passed but identifiers were removed to protect people’s privacy. If anyone is offended, my sincere apologies.

One respondent had cute graphics about how long she’d been married! Those you’ll see below.

What would you have suggested?  I’d have told the bride to keep trying with the maker of the dress (Demetrios) but to sketch the gown and find a seamstress capable of producing something similar. Cost not time is a factor. I stop now to not spoil it.  Read on.  Here is the initial post.


my wedding dress was stolen

I need some help in locating a dress very similar to the one I bought that was just recently stolen. 

I went to a resale shop and just happened to find a gorgeous dress by Demetrios, no style number tag in the dress. The dress was almost a perfect fit, and I glowed. Because the dress was a resale I only paid $150. My finace [SIC] and I don’t have a lot of money and I am frugal by nature so spending a lot of money on a dress to wear for 6 hours doesn’t work for me.  Anyways the owner of the store told me she would send it out to be dry cleaned. Weeks went by and I went into the store to make sure she hadn’t forgotten. When I went in, the dress was still there waiting to be sent out. This was about 2 weeks ago. Yesterday the owner calls and tells me the dress was stolen. It came back from the dry cleaners and she put it in a room that she thought was safe. It disappeared. She told me I can come in and pick out another dress but I honestly don’t want another dress I want that dress. So I am attaching a picture of a dress and I am hoping someone can tell me where I can find this dress to purchase. I have some time yet as we aren’t getting married until October 2013. (sorry for the picture being sideways the app I am using won’t allow me to rotate)

Initial REPLY

Re: my wedding dress was stolen

I am so sorry to hear this.  It is horrible that someone would steal your dress.  I would be so mad!  I hope you are able to find another one.  

Sympathy Only REPLY

I’m no help but sorry about your dress! Good luck finding another one (you have plenty of time, so don’t worry or stress out!)

You don’t know the designer or style number or anything? Can you describe the dress in more detail? (I can’t really see much in the picture because it’s so small, but the more detail you give the more likely it is that someone will be able to identify it).

Also, people ID dresses on the Attire & Accessories board all the time, I would XP this there.

A Take-Action -Now REPLY from Z

I might drive over to the store again and make sure that the dress is not on the property anywhere.  It seems to me she might have decided to sell it to someone else or decided that she did not want to pay the dry cleaning bill.  Also, make sure she gives you your $150 back!

You could go to Demetrios with the picture and see if any of their managers could ID it. But they probably would just want to sell you a new dress, so the Knot boards would be the best route.  You could also try Wedding Bee and some of the other forums. 

Yeah, I agree with Z— that something’s fishy in this water. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry finds out his dry cleaner has been wearing his clothes — even his mother’s fur coat!

Bride-to-Be REPLY

Thank you all for your suggestions and well wishes.

The dress reminds me of fireworks, is the best way to describe the swirls. All the beading is silver. The bottom looks like swirls going up the dress. The top has the same swirls going down. The middle section is left blank to really draw the eye to the right areas.  The back is a zip up, and a very long train with the same beading all along the edge and going up the dress. The straps are thin with beading. The store owner thinks the dress was a sample dress and thats [SIC] why there are no tags to give any more information.

I will be going to the store tomorrow and will be checking. I honestly don’t know if I want to get another dress from the store. I think it is kind of her to offer to give me any dress of my choice she has in stock. But I just don’t know.

Heartfelt REPLY Posted by cj
Screw that. I’d demand my money back. Good luck finding the dress. I agree maybe taking it to Brides by Demetrios would be helpful.

Not Debbie Downer’s Suggestion REPLY

Wait...so she sold you the dress, didn’t get it cleaned for weeks, then conveniently lost the dress? Please tell me you got your money back and aren’t seriously considering buying something else from that store. I’d take my money and take my business elsewhere!

And I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but it is highly unlikely that you will find that dress. I doubt it was STOLEN…odds are, she just resold the dress to someone else. 

Agreeing Helpful Hopeful Replier

OMG, I am SO sorry to hear this. I can’t ID the dress, but here are other options (though you may not get the same dress back)

There is a massive Salvation Army in Utica, on (I think) Van Dyke. There’s another one in Auburn Hills that has high class stuff…………priced a bit more than other communities, but worth looking into.

I agree with everyone else………tell her you post on The Knot and other budget friendly internet boards. You will trash the name of her company if you are not given a full refund, maybe deducting the dry cleaning bill (which she has to produce). This is unacceptable.

Good luck dear. Keep us posted.

Dream Donation REPLY

Oh girl it sounds like you got scammed : (  If your dress was actually stolen, it should’t be the only item taken. I would demand to see the police report. Try calling Darlene at Every Girls Dream. I donated a few dresses to her and she has a ton! If you tell her your story i bet she would give you a dress. Good luck!!


Thank you everyone. I went back to the store, did get my money back. I now have a local paper helping and I have also put an ad up on Craigslist to see if I can get any further help from there. As soon as I get a free day I will be heading over to Brides by Demetrios to see if anyone there can help me and give me at least the style number for the dress. 

I know it is a long shot to find this dress or even another one but I have a year to track one down  

Thanks again.

Practical Archivist REPLY

I was trying to find one like yours, but it’s hard to tell from the picture.

Is it like this? http://demetriosbride.com/index.php?page=details&styleID=176

Or this? http://demetriosbride.com/index.php?page=details&styleID=167

So sorry to hear about what happened, I hope you find the dress.I’m glad you got your money back!!  Good luck with your search.

No Happy-Ending Conclusion

As you can see, Dear Reader, the story may or may not have a happy ending, but we feel the passion in these voices. They become inspiring seeds of characters. There’s an emotional up and down story line: Gown gone. Money gone. Store guilty. Replacement suggestions. Now, to find out what happened!


A Short Evocative Title

Dolor y gloria (2019)

A Short Evocative Title, à la Almodóvar    

The director’s Julieta was supposed to be his English-language debut – a sweeping adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning Canadian author’s work with Meryl Streep. But then, much like an Alice Munro story, life got in the way!

To use a cliché, no problema.

Pedro Almodóvar is getting the band back together. The Spanish filmmaker will reunite with two of his former stars, Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, for Dolor y gloria. The movie ( literal translation: power and glory) becomes his 21st feature film.

Unlike many of Almodóvar’s most famous works, Dolor y gloria  will center around a male protagonist.

The protagonist, played by Antonio Banderas, is a movie director in his twilight years reflecting on his career. Some of the people the retired director recalls are his first loves, his mother, and actors with whom he worked from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The plot details confirmed for Dolor y gloria  might sound like Almodóvar is creating his own version of Federico Fellini’s 8½. The storyline suggests Banderas’ character (Dolor) may resemble that of  Guido Anselmi, played by Marcello Mastroianni in the Fellini film.  Actresses Penélope Cruz and Julieta Serrano play women from Banderas’ past.

Dolor y gloria will mark Banderas’ first Almodóvar feature since 2011’s The Skin I Live In. The actor was a staple of the director’s early career, having starred in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989).  Of course, Cruz has won best actress at Cannes. In fact, she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in the haunting Volver (2006), considered one of Almodóvar’s finest works.

Why Pedro Almodóvar?

As a Canadian translator with some Spanish blood, I have been a fan of this famous cineaste since his first international hit, Mujeres al borde de una crisis de nervios (1988), frequently shortened to Women on the Verge in English. I follow on twitter his film production company El Deseo, now run by his younger brother. I have contacted El Deseo twice and received a polite acknowledgement of receipt at least.  My desire (pun intended) is to be able to meet Pedro Almodóvar someday.  I tried to meet Jean-Paul Gaultier who has created costumes for two of Pedro’s films but failed last year in Montreal.  It is starting to sound like I’m a teenaged fanatic or a stalker, no? I simply would like to discuss my novellario project with him, maybe over tapas! I do dream in colour, as they say. Vivid colour, like Almodóvar’s films.

Again, Why Almodóvar?

Almodóvar’s tales lend life a sense of the uncanny mixed with 
telenovela chic. Casts usually include strong, daring women.  
At times playful, Almodovar’s cinematography corresponds to my vision; i.e., his energetic use of space, shape and colour.
His original choice of music always strikes a chord with me. 
The soundtracks of  his films evoke both the multi-faceted character of Spain and incredible plot twists.
The latest film has reportedly wrapped up filming and is slated to open in 2019.
PROXIMAMENTE as they say in Spanish. I say “I can’t wait”!

Lack Translations


One Dress, One Day is not a translation but rather like a subtitled script!

As a translator and teacher of translation, I found this recent article revealing. We know from the work of Venuti and others that the need to translate literature into English is great given the incredible imbalance in statistics. Far more documents are translated from English into Spanish, literary and other genres.  Since the BOOM, less literature has been translated, it seems. Perhaps more non-native speakers of English are writing in English, too. We know that English-speaking people do not read much in foreign languages and reject subtitled or dubbed films.  Hollywood remakes of successful French films (Cage aux folles) prove the last point! Overall, the problem lies in taste and commercial power.  Let’s hope that the situation will change as more Hispanic or Latino creators (Shape of Water, Coco) reach the mainstream in the USA. 

A recent day-long event in New York highlighted the travails Spanish-language publishers have finding traction for translations in the US market.

Source: Spanish Publishers Frustrated By Lack of English Translations

Nordquist advises on Gosh, OMG IFYOUSEEKATY

ONE DRESS, ONE DAY takes place in Barcelona. It is written in English but with much Spanish flavour, as seen in the dialogue. My mission was to give readers the experience of watching a foreign film and reading a novella at the same time (novellario).

A swear word is a word or phrase that’s generally considered blasphemous, obscene, vulgar, or otherwise offensive. Also known as swearing, bad word, obscene word, dirty word, and four-letter word.

“Swear words serve many different functions in different social contexts,” notes Janet Holmes. “They may express annoyance, aggression and insult, for instance, or they may express solidarity and friendliness” (An Introduction to Sociolinguistics, 2013).

From Old English, “take an oath”

Examples and Observations

  • Spock: Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall we say, more colorful metaphors, “double dumbass on you” and so forth.
    Captain Kirk: Oh, you mean the profanity?
    Spock: Yes.
    Captain Kirk: Well, that’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.
    (Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986)
  • Uses of Swear Words
    “A final puzzle about swearing is the crazy range of circumstances in which we do it. There is cathartic swearing, as when we hit our thumb with a hammer or knock over a glass of beer. There are imprecations, as when we suggest a label or offer advice to someone who has cut us off in traffic. There are vulgar terms for everyday things and activities, as when Bess Truman was asked to get the president to say fertilizer instead of manure and she replied, ‘You have no idea how long it took me to get him to say manure.’ There are figures of speech that put obscene words to other uses, such as the barnyard epithet for insincerity, the army acronym snafu, and the gynecological-flagellative term for uxorial dominance. And then there are the adjective-like expletives that salt the speech and split the words of soldiers, teenagers, Australians, and others affecting a breezy speech style.”
    (Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature. Viking, 2007)
  • Social Swearing
    “Why do we swear? The answer to this question depends on the approach you take. As a linguist–not a psychologist, neurologist, speech pathologist or any other -ist–I see swearing as meaningfully patterned verbal behaviour that readily lends itself to a functional analysis. Pragmatically, swearing can be understood in terms of the meanings it is taken to have and what it achieves in any particular circumstance. . . .”Typically, a social swear word originates as one of the ‘bad’ words but becomes conventionalised in a recognisably social form. Using swear words as loose intensifiers contributes to the easy-going, imprecise nature of informal talk among in-group members. . . . In sum, this is jokey, cruisy, relaxing talk in which participants oil the wheels of their connection as much by how they talk as what they talk about.”
    (Ruth Wajnryb, Language Most Foul. Allen & Unwin, 2005)
  • Secular Swearing
    “[I]t would appear that in Western society the major shifts in the focus of swearing have been from religious matters (more especially the breaching of the commandment against taking the Lord’s name in vain) to sexual and bodily functions, and from opprobrious insults, such as coolie and kike. Both of these trends reflect the increasing secularization of Western society.”
    (Geoffrey Hughes, Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English. Blackwell, 1991)
  • George Carlin on “Bad Words”
    “There are four hundred thousand words in the English language and there are seven of them you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is! Three hundred ninety three thousand nine hundred and ninety three . . . to seven! They must really be bad. They’d have to be outrageous to be separated from a group that large. ‘All of you over here . . . You seven, you bad words.'”That’s what they told us, you remember? ‘That’s a bad word.’ What? There are no bad words. Bad thoughts, bad intentions, but no bad words.”
    (George Carlin with Tony Hendra, Last Words. Simon & Schuster, 2009)
  • David Cameron’s “Jokey, Blokey Interview”
    “David Cameron’s jokey, blokey interview . . . on Absolute Radio this morning is a good example of what can happen when politicians attempt to be down with the kids–or in this case, with the thirtysomethings. . . .”Asked why he didn’t use the social networking website Twitter, the Tory leader said: ‘The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it–too many twits might make a twat.’ . . .”[T]he Tory leader’s aides were in defensive mode afterwards, pointing out that ‘twat’ was not a swear word under radio guidelines.”
    (Haroon Siddique, “Sweary Cameron Illustrates Dangers of Informal Interview.” The Guardian, July 29, 2009)
  • S***r W***s
    “[N]ever use asterisks, or such silliness as b—–, which are just a cop out, as Charlotte Brontë recognised: ‘The practice of hinting by single letters those expletives with which profane and violent people are wont to garnish their discourse, strikes me as a proceeding which, however well meant, is weak and futile. I cannot tell what good it does–what feeling it spares–what horror it conceals.'”
    (David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon, Guardian Style, 3rd ed. Guardian Books, 2010)
  • Supreme Court Rulings on Swear Words
    “The Supreme Court’s last major case concerning broadcast indecency, F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation in 1978, upheld the commission’s determination that George Carlin’s classic ‘seven dirty words’ monologue, with its deliberate, repetitive and creative use of vulgarities, was indecent. But the court left open the question of whether the use of ‘an occasional expletive’ could be punished.”The case decided Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations, No. 07-582, arose from two appearances by celebrities on the Billboard Music Awards.”Justice Scalia read the passages at issue from the bench, though he substituted suggestive shorthand for the dirty words.

    “The first involved Cher, who reflected on her career in accepting an award in 2002: ‘I’ve also had critics for the last 40 years saying I was on my way out every year. Right. So F-em.’ (In his opinion, Justice Scalia explained that Cher ‘metaphorically suggested a sexual act as a means of expressing hostility to her critics.’)

    “The second passage came in an exchange between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in 2003 in which Ms. Richie discussed in vulgar terms the difficulties in cleaning cow manure off a Prada purse.

    “Reversing its policy on such fleeting expletives, the commission said in 2006 that both broadcasts were indecent. It did not matter, the commission said, that some of the offensive words did not refer directly to sexual or excretory functions. Nor did it matter that the cursing was isolated and apparently impromptu. . . .

    “In reversing that decision, Justice Scalia said the change in policy was rational and therefore permissible. ‘It was certainly reasonable,’ he wrote, ‘to determine that it made no sense to distinguish between literal and nonliteral uses of offensive words, requiring repetitive use to render only the latter indecent.’

    “Justice John Paul Stevens, dissenting, wrote that not every use of a swear word connoted the same thing. ‘As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows,’ Justice Stevens wrote, ‘it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent.’

    “‘It is ironic, to say the least,’ Justice Stevens went on, ‘that while the F.C.C. patrols the airwaves for words that have a tenuous relationship with sex or excrement, commercials broadcast during prime-time hours frequently ask viewers whether they are battling erectile dysfunction or are having trouble going to the bathroom.'”
    (Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Upholds F.C.C.’s Shift to a Harder Line on Indecency on the Air.” The New York Times, April 28, 2009)

  • The Lighter Side of Swear Words
    “‘Tell me, son,’ the anxious mother said, ‘what did your father say when you told him you’d wrecked his new Corvette?'”‘Shall I leave out the swear words?’ the son asked.”‘Of course.’

    “‘He didn’t say anything.'”
    (Steve Allen, Steve Allen’s Private Joke File. Three Rivers Press, 2000)

Alternate Spellings: swearword, swear-word

Nordquist, Richard. “What Are Swear Words and What Are They Used For?” ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2018, thoughtco.com/swear-word-term-1691888.

From Learning to Living a Language

Of Spanish ancestry, I sustained the connection between family Spain and Canada by studying the language. Spanish has proved more enriching than one could imagine. Hotel staff in the USA, musicians and poets in Europe, all eager and thankful to speak the language of Cervantes. A tool to keep sharpened.

Lives and Times

Without Spanish, I’ve wondered, where would I be? Without Castellano, I know, I’d be without nearly a decade of accumulated experiences, small and large, which in their totality amount to a significant part of my very self. Learning a language, then, is to embark on a process of self-transformation and expansion through communication and cultural accumulation.

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Self-Translate, Another DIY Project?

DIY to Save Money

A recent piece on e-publishing reported that “one big hurdle in translating self-published books and ebooks has been the expense”.

The same article mentioned an interesting model, which overcomes the expense of translating fiction, in particular, a new site called Babelcube.

Babelcube. Name reminiscent of Babblefish, this trademarked moniker evokes both an earlier automated translation tool and a Biblical episode reinterpreted throughout the centuries.

The Tower of Babel

Many have been taught that the Lord punished Man for trying to build a tower to high. Obviously if the workers spoke different tongues, then they could no longer cooperate in constructing this supposedly glorious structure rising toward heaven. The ancient Greeks spoke of a form of hubris which could be loosely compared to the Christian sin of pride.  Others inferred that God did not want Man to become too close because a lesser being. Some refute the name Babel entirely but the message retained:  many languages mean many misunderstandings. Happily, Babel and babble possess an onomatopoeic even ludic effect. The word reminds us of baby talk but may initially referred to foreigner talk, rather like one suggested etymology for barbarian. That, of course, is another story!

The hypotheticals of history, language and literature flood the mind whenever these translation questions arise.  Until the mid-twentieth century, authors usually knew another language through travel, education or background.  Several had translated, either as scholar or professional, certain classics.  Some had translated other authors, some wrote in another language. A few classic, well-known examples are Kafka, Benjamin, Baudelaire, Conrad, Nabakov, and of course, Beckett.

Mercier et Camier, Beckett’s fourth novel, was published only in 1970. The novel actually presaged his most famous work, Waiting for Godot, written not long afterwards. More importantly, Mercier et Camier was Beckett’s first long work that he wrote in French, the language of most of his subsequent works. Despite being a native English speaker, Beckett wrote in French because—as he himself claimed—it was easier for him thus to write “without style”.

Like most of his works after 1947, the play was first written in French with the title En attendant Godot. Beckett worked on the play between October 1948 and January 1949. It premièred in 1953; an English translation appeared two years later. A critical, popular, and controversial success in Paris, it opened in London in 1955 to mainly negative reviews, but the tide turned with positive reactions in The Sunday Times. A flop in Miami but a qualified success in New York City, Waiting for Godot went on to became popular and is frequently performed today.

Beckett translated all his works into English himself, except Molloy, a collaboration with Patrick Bowles. Waiting for Godot opened up a career in theatre for Beckett leading to full-length plays, like Fin de partie (Endgame) (1957), Krapp’s Last Tape (1958, written in English), Happy Days (1961, also written in English), and Play (1963). In 1961, Beckett was awarded the International Publishers’ Formentor Prize, which he shared that year with Borges. [Ndlt. Please see upcoming post on Borges.]

What if? What would Beckett say?

As a translator who once studied Beckett, I do wonder.

Ironically, Samuel Beckett might have appreciated the computer translation as something ‘without style’?  Given that idiomatic expressions, word choice and syntactical variations infuse style, the fact that computer translation flattens these out or gets them wrong would give the famous Irish playwright more material for the “theatre de l’absurde”.  After all, what could be more absurd on stage than nonsensical phrases that sound nearly normal but not really? Therein lies the charm of the absurd. The characters grow all the more striking without becoming stereotypes.  As  revealed in Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano (La Cantatrice chauve), the trite phrases of an British couple in French are deliciously dry and detached regardless of language.  Better yet, Ionesco, a Romanian playwright of the same school, was inspired partially by  frustration with  the Asimil method to learn English.  Knowing that tidbit makes the whole farce  richer.

Yet ‘without style’?  I wonder if something neutral could be said to be without style.  Did he mean the English-language style, the baggage of his education? Much depends on one’s definitions.  Style remains elusive.  Of course, foodstuffs can be without flavour but still nourish. Texts can be ‘without style’  but still inform or entertain.

Nul n’est prophète dans son propre pays

Samuel Beckett enjoyed success in his second language and second country. As the saying goes, no one is a prophet in his own land. Few authors self-translate professionally and successfully. Yann Martel, a Quebecois, was criticized for penning The Life of Pi in English. (Interestingly, his parents translated the novel into French.) Recently an English speaking woman produced a popular novel in Italian, which she had studied as an adult.  What range, control, freedom can an author gain in the second language? What range, control, freedom can the translator wield in the target language

As a translator, I feel the pendulum swing between preferred terms, adages, swear words in the different languages that I know to varying degrees.  The golden rule for translation is to translation into your mother tongue or your language of education. It would seen the same for writing.  As always, exceptions make the rule. Not to forget that genre, culture and market play roles in the success of a work, as seen in the American mystification with the late Jerry Lewis’ or Woody Allen’s reputation abroad. The public is always waiting for the next phenomenon so perhaps always waiting for Godot.

Castellano in English?


The story unfolds in Spain over 24 hours. Names, brands, food, music, all of these components reflect the place and times:  Barcelona, Holy Week, 1990. The day is divided using Spanish words: madrugada, mañana, mediodía, tarde, siesta, anochecer, noche, las altas horas de la madrugada, amenacer.

Why use castellano (Spanish)? Why does a translator not translate all the words?  Why make a text sound unEnglish?

The flavour, the evocative or connotative powers of words may not resonate as readily in Language 2 as they did in Language 1.   How to judge when it is better to retain a foreign word or translate it?  Obviously literary translation might permit this more than legal or technical translation. However, questions of habit, metaphor, and cultural reference permeate style in several sectors.

Native speakers, even bilinguals, often forget the metaphorical uses, the very visual idiomatic expressions, and the typical turns of phrase used in certain contexts until they are confronted with a translation. If not used to reading material in a field, how to know? Context and experience guide the professional.

For example, it is a commonplace that spoken English especially prefers simple, even monosyllabic “Anglo-Saxon” words to Latinate terms. The rise of plain language means that this applies to written English also, depending on the public targeted.  The two broad categories of English etymology emerge clearly when translating to French, a romance language closer to its Latin roots.  Récupérer quelque chose becomes get back something.  Note the short, go-everywhere verb ‘get’ and the post-verbal preposition ‘back’.  Yes, recuperate exists in English but is not used in this context.  I recuperated my lost gloves?  (Sounds sic!)  A possible Latinate term would be retrieve but the level of language shifts.  Usage stands with context and experience here as guiding lights for translators.

What if the translator wished to make the text sound foreign?

While this may be desirable in novels, it is hardly sought after in insurance policies or instruction manuals! (Who among us has not experienced confusion or convulsion while reading the label or handy instruction leaflet for a product made in Asia?!) Unfortunately poor renditions abound.  Weak translations may actually function, thanks to photographs, diagrams or consumer background knowledge. Many people are satisfied with a ‘gist’ translation that provides the essence.  Google may provide this on occasion.  Hopefully the reader can figure out the rest safely.  Human error and computer error are not mutually exclusive!  Warnings like “This bag is not a toy” serve a primarily legal purpose as most people know that a plastic bag is not a toy.  The message, no matter how well or poorly translated, has been placed as a precaution intended to save the lives of small children unable to read yet.

Recipes sometimes fool the finest home cooks because ingredients and preparation may change.  How one cuts a lemon or tomato, how one treats garlic to be put in a sauce may vary from one culture to another, from one cuisine to another, hence from one language to another.  Think about it:  Are there quarters or slices of tomato in salad? Is the garlic crushed or chopped? This may explain the popularity of lush photos in cookbooks alongside step-by-step instructions.

Foreignizing or domesticating a text

The linguistic term is foreignization, a term associated with Lawrence Venuti in translation theory. The concept is not new.  Briefly, foreignization requires keeping touches of the original language, either vocabulary or syntactic structure. The technique is not new either.  Note it may be found in original writing, as seen in this fine example from Hemingway, who wrote the passage below in English to make it sound like Spanish. A hotel guest reports on his arrival in The Sun Also Rises (1954:240):

“Did I want to stay myself in person in the Hotel Montana?

Of that as yet I was undecided, but it would give me pleasure if my bags were brought up from the ground floor in order that they might not be stolen. Nothing was ever stolen in the Hotel Montana. In other fondas, yes. Not here. No. The personages of this establishment were rigidly selectioned. I was happy to hear it. Nevertheless, I would welcome the upbringal of my bags.”

Often words evoke memories, so place names, first or last names remind us of another space and time.  Brands, ads, song titles or lyrics reflect the trends of the day and place.  In One Dress, One Day, a duplication or doubling of words usually gives the Spanish in Italics, followed by the English within the text.  One example is the brand Heno de Pravia directly associated as an adjective for soap in the text. However, Churros are described as fritters. Bits of text or dialogue appear within the manuscript like archival material with suggested subtitles. This is the case of diary pages penned with doodles by Nieves. Some Berlitz-style phonetics lend humour to the thief’s efforts at speaking French (peu becomes poo).

In fact, as a hybrid genre, One Dress, One Day gives readers the feel of a foreign film without the need for subtitles.  A key advantage of staging directions, sound effects and colloquial dialogue is precisely the foreign taste many are unable to access because of their location or because of their distaste for subtitles, not to mention dubbing! Terms related to local customs combine with  paraphrase-translations in dialogue, as seen in popular novels like Khalid Hossein’s The Kite Runner (Persian), or in Rawi Haj’s De Niro’s Game (Arabic and French).

One Dress, One Day will make most readers feel they understand the language of Cervantes while experiencing a tale infused with Spain.

NOTE re Translation and the Foreign:

In terms of literary translation, the usual figure of 2 to 3% of literature translated into English has not changed much despite globalization. In passing, fiction especially offers a window into the lives of others in a way that travelling rarely does. Compare that paltry percentage to translation in France, where approximately 27% of all books published are in translation or with the Spanish figure of 28%.[1]


[1] bbcnews@enews.bbc.com    BBC  Newsletter Culture 9 September 2014  Why won’t English speakers read books in translation?