View Full Version : Fun with language!!

04-19-2009, 05:08 AM
So, I'm taking a 'French for Reading Knowledge' course. It's a grad students only class where you basically learn how to read French just enough to use primary sources (and meet a language requirement, huzzah!). We don't speak French, we don't write French, we just learn to read, recognize grammar structures, and use the faithful dictionnaire to get us by.

The final project for the class is a 500 word translation of....something. As most of you know by know, I'm a theatre kid, so professor assumed I'd be translating a play. The problem is that I'm really most interested in early 19th century French theatre, mostly the Romantics. A) Pretty much all of those plays had been translated (we had to work on something that hadn't been translated before) and B) They're all writted in Alexandrine Verse - think iambic pentameter with twice as many rules (Hey, Eff You, Richelieu!!). I wasn't about to touch that.

My other main interest is a particular theatre that was in Montmartre (not far from le Moulin Rouge) from about 1898 to the 1960's called le theatre du Grand-Guignol. It started out as naturalism and just got slowly and slowly more bizarre. It's usually called the 'theatre of blood and fear' or somesuch. The plays were mostly very short (30 minutes or so) and several were performed in an evening; it was a weird combination of farce and horror. Sometimes it leaned towards violence - rape, murder, sometimes there was a focus on new scientific technology - dismembered heads in jars, that kind of thing, but the main focus was on psychological horror. Edgar Allen Poe was very popular.

Guignol is decently popular, there are various theatres around the US and France that perform 'Guignol-esque' plays. Sweeney Todd is usually tied to this tradition, as well as the 'torture porn' films like Saw. I find it kind of fascinating, mostly in the way the audience was manipulated and became part of the performance (and not in a pre-planned Rocky Horror sense). Wow, I'm really rambling about this - moving on.

So, a French theatre journal did a special issue on Grand-Guignol (and the Marquis de Sade, strangely enough). I picked an article to translate the first 500 words of. The title is "Bon sang! Maix ca creve les yeux!" (there are accents and stuff in that). The professor had warned me the second phrase was slang. So, I look it up, and the answer I finally find is "But it's blindingly obvious!" (now, how do you get that out of chilly eyes, I do not know). Then I looked back at the first part, which I had naturally translated "Good blood!" since this is a theatre of violence and horror. But it didn't make sense with the second part. So I look it up. And all I have to say is.....

Damn it! :p

(Bon sang! = Damn it!)

04-19-2009, 06:48 AM
French slang is so much fun. Especially the swear-words. It can be a lot of fun to translate that kind of thing, even when they make pretty much no sense at all!

04-20-2009, 04:41 AM
Nice work. I can't wait to start translating articles from English into French. Phonetics is harder than it looks and that's a WHOLE new language for me. (Part of my French course this year is translating French phonetics into written French)

04-20-2009, 04:56 AM
Fireheart - I'm translating from French into English. I couldn't even begin to start translating English into French! And phonetics...pssshhh. Those French people need to slow down. They all talk so fast! And it gets all jumbled together. :runaway:

04-20-2009, 05:33 AM
Hi Admin,
French is my first language. Let me know if you get stuck and need help w/ a translation.