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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Sunday May 26, 2002
03:13 AM

Purple Monkey Dishwasher

[ #5221 ]
Dear Log,

My Purple Monkey Dishwasher system runs by pulling content from and pushing it thru Games::Dissociate.

It has its bits of brilliance.

Today it coined an interesting term: "sexual action figures".

The interesting thing is that what this referred to already exists.

Recently a European arts magazine asked me to write about Purple Monkey Dishwasher. So I did! I wonder when it'll be in print... August maybe?

But the magazine is in German, and I don't know German. So I wrote it in English, and they're translating it. It is extremely strange to write something that will never appear in the original, but will appear only in translation.
It's not the sense of being "at the mercy" of the translator -- I figure I might as well just trust her, and not worry about it. But what is weird is that the whole feeling of "the right word" is completely out the window. For example, if I wanted to alliterate, this would be quite lost in translation, unless I (quite demandingly) pointed out the alliteration to the translator and said "could you make this alliterate in German too?". So obviously alliteration is on the list of things I would avoid.

But many "figures of rhetoric" do translate rather easily: however you say "The nights are cold, but the days are hot" in translation, the phrase "the nights are cold" will almost certainly have the same structure as "the days are hot". I do sense, however, that I have to avoid fine semantic distinctions: it would be a mistake to make a great point of the difference between "reason" and "rationality", "intent" and "meaning", "answer" and "response", or even "mind" and "spirit".

On the one hand, when I look at the English that I've written, it reads to me as if it were already a translation -- but I'm too close to it to have any perspective. On the other hand, I have the strong impression that writing for translation has kept me honest, in a way.

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  • Have you read Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot? If you haven't, I'm sure you'd find much in it to interest you.
  • I recently wrote a README in pod in English that most people will never see in that form and which I myself will probably never understand in its translated forms... immediately after I finished the README it was translated to Japanese, Korean, Traditional, and Simplified Chinese. It felt really weird to see one's text in a script one does not understand. (The said pod will be in Perl 5.8.0, as perljp, perlko, perlcn, and perltw.)