Roald Dahl Day | Difficulties in Translation

Tuesday 13th September is Roald Dahl Story Day! An annual celebration which commemorates both the genius of the author and his marvelous stories. Schools across the United Kingdom participate by dressing up, reading stories and enjoying lots of wonderful activities.

Now, many people will know that Roald Dahl published 20 books for children in his lifetime and 48 books overall. However, what people may not know is that his works have been translated into approximately 60 languages!

Roald Dahl Day

This means that children all around the world can see the utter brilliance of his imagination and the complete wackiness of his language.

Roald Dahl and his Gobblefunk

From terms such as ‘buzzburgers’ and ‘trogglehumper’, Roald Dahl delighted in pushing the boundaries of the English language. In fact, he created so many terms that in 2016 Oxford University Press published the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary. Although these terms (known as ‘Gobblefunk’) may seem like utter nonsense, there is actually sense behind them. The joy of Roald Dahl’s vocabulary is that we can piece together the meaning from the sound, the feeling and a little bit of meaning.

Take ‘Gloriumptious’ for example. Immediately when saying the word, you can hear it has positive connotations. I mean, try saying ‘gloriumptious’ with a straight face – I bet you can’t! What is more, combining the words ‘glorious’ and ‘scrumptious’ we can deduce that this adjective must describe something pretty spectacular. If something is both glorious and scrumptious that is definitely something we want to see!

Roald Dahl Day

As you can see therefore, there is a little logic behind the madness!

However, whilst this creates a piece of work that is unique and adored by all, it does create some difficulties for those translating the work. After all, how can you convey sound, feeling and a little bit of meaning whilst also staying loyal to the source text?! 

Translation and Thinking Outside of the Box

Well, the answer is you probably can’t! It is incredibly unlikely that you will find a word that sounds the same in both your source and target language that also retains the same meaning and feeling.

Translating Roald Dahl’s works therefore is quite a difficult task and it requires the brains of some of the very best translators – translators who need to think outside of the box and be just as creative as Dahl himself. After all, neither ‘jorobanoches’ nor ‘troglogoblo’ sound like ‘trogglehumper’ nor offer a literal translation of the term (which for context is Dahl’s term for a bad dream), but they both wield a comedic sound, a funny feeling and a little bit of meaning for Spanish and Italian readers.

The Bigger Picture

Although it is unlikely that your advertising will include terms such as ‘frobscottle’ and ‘whizzpopping’, it’s fair to say your content isn’t plain corporate text either.

Roald Dahl Dahl

The odd metaphor may appear and alliteration may filter through the text as well.

Consequently, creative thinking is also needed when translating your content and you need experts in the field to help you do so!

This is where Web-Translations comes into play! At Web-Translations, our linguists are not merely trained in their field of expertise, but they equally have invaluable experience that will guarantee they retain the creative flair of your English content. If you have any marketing content that you’d like to have translated, why not contact us today! Let us help you find the ‘jorobanoches’ to your ‘trogglehumper’ 😊

Happy Roald Dahl Day!!