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Notes on the English Translation

Students of linguistics will acknowledge the severe difficulties of translating

American into English. After all, American is more a conglomeration of idioms th
an a language. (I hasten to add, people who use idioms are known as “idiomaticists
,” not “idiots.”) For instance, an American would say “it’s the pot callin’ the kettle blac
,” rather than “that’s hypocritical.”
Once, when queried what poetry was, Robert Frost replied, “it’s what is lost in t
ranslation.” Now, Frost was admittedly an American, stubbornly so, a veritable Yan
k from New England. He meant “it’s wot’s lost in translation,” of course, but his point
is well taken, even on the more civilized side of the pond. In any case, this bo
ok should be rich in poetry, for our English friends. If something seems missing
, one may assume it is poetry. Similarly, if something is incomprehensible, one
should assume it is quite funny, indeed.
I present these notes on the translation of this estimable prose into English
. First, some vocabulary: “hood” means “bonnet”; “tires” means “tyres”; “trunk” means “boo
e was jumped by some hoods in Chicago, who threw us in the trunk, hit us with a
tire iron and stomped us with their boots” would be translated thus: “We were accost
ed by some bonnets in Chicago, who threw us into the boot, assaulted us with a t
runcheon and pummeled us with their shoes.”
There are more examples. “Windshield” means “windscreen.” “Diaper” means “nappy.” “Truck
rry,” and “starving” means “knackered.” “Attorney” and “lawyer” and “legal scum-sucking son
ch” all mean “solicitor.” Also, “freeway interchange” means “roundabout.” I can almost hear
e classic rock fans slapping their foreheads, saying, “oh, I get it!”
Occasionally words defy translation between American and English. One example
of this is the word “pissed,” used both by Americans and English. When Americans us
e the word, they mean “angry.” When Brits use it, of course, it means “drunk.” Brits wou
ld, quite appropriately, express incomprehension when confronted by the American
phrase, “No need to get pissed.” One would need to restrain oneself from expostulat
ing, “Why, it’s wot we do best!”
Allow me to present a few more nuanced examples of the dodgy (“crappy,” in Americ
an) business of translation. When an American says “literally,” he or she means “figur
atively.” And there are innumerable colloquialisms (“colloquialism” being derived from
the same root as “colonial”), to whit: “shout out,” meaning “salutations”; “goes,” meanin
and “Philly cheese steak,” meaning gastrological abomination.
In England, we stand for election; Americans run for elective office. This ma
y reflect the way the English prefer to have things come to us, while Americans
are always chasing after things.
I have used copious footnotes throughout the text for clarification. One migh
t also notice the English translation has been spiced with dozens of completely
superfluous “indeed”’s. (If the last word, quotation marks and apostrophe in the last
sentence seem horrendously ungrammatical, you may understand when you learn we u
sed the “Chicago Manual of Style” as arbiter for all grammatical disputes. Disputes
in Chicago involve truncheons and violent interpersonal exchanges.) Indeed, “Indee
d” has been placed throughout the text as would overstuffed chairs in a London gen
tleman’s club, which is where you may find this translator at the end of this assi
Allow me to suggest, in closing, let’s all get pissed! Cheers! Indeed.