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Kid Speak in Literary Translation

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message 1: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 635 comments I'm reading the Three Body Problem for the first time (it was given away on Tor a few weeks ago). I just got to this scene:

"...How about you, Mi Mi? You want some
meat-meat? Oh, no, your mom told me that you shouldn’t eat so much meat-meat, not easy to digest. How
about some fishie instead? Look at this big fishie Granny bought.…”

Any Sword and Laser people here familiar with Chinese? Do they have an equivalent to "fishie" doggie, etc? If so, what does it literally translate to? I know multiple languages so I know that one does not do literal translations because the point is to convey meaning, but I'd be curious to see how kid speak works in Chinese.


message 2: by Sky (new)

Sky | 665 comments Eric wrote: "I'm reading the Three Body Problem for the first time (it was given away on Tor a few weeks ago). I just got to this scene:

"...How about you, Mi Mi? You want some
meat-meat? Oh, no, your mom told..."


I don't know the context, but my wife says it sounds like baby talk. You often say things double to babies and children. Are they talking to a little kid in this scene?


message 3: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 635 comments Yeah, someone's taking care of a bunch of little kids. They're old enough to be drawing and asking for food. So not literal baby talk. But yeah, is there an equivalent of "fishie"? Also doubling of words...if that occurs in Chinese it'd be interesting that it goes across languages and cultures. It's not the case in Vietnamese. And I don't remember anyone talking that way to little kids in Spanish - at least in Miami where it's mostly Cuban Spanish.


message 4: by Sky (new)

Sky | 665 comments Eric wrote: "Yeah, someone's taking care of a bunch of little kids. They're old enough to be drawing and asking for food. So not literal baby talk. But yeah, is there an equivalent of "fishie"? Also doubling of..."

Yeah, that would be interesting. Doubling of names as a nickname is also common, at least in Mandarin, like Mi Mi above. My wife's name is Wei-Mien but everyone called her mien mien.


message 5: by J (last edited Jul 26, 2016 02:20PM) (new)

J Austill | 72 comments I should ask my wife if it is the case in Vietnamese. She does refer to me as 'Ba Ba' to my daughter and that is saying Father twice.

I've never heard her say 'thit thit' which would be meat twice.


message 6: by Eric (last edited Jul 27, 2016 05:53AM) (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 635 comments sky: The interesting thing is that we have the nickname thing a LITTLE bit in English. Wasn't JFK's son called John John when he was young? I'm sure I've read that in older novels. I know in Vietnamese I hear similar things at least a little. Which makes sense.

J: Exactly. I've never heard anything like a doubling of food names in Viet. Nor in Spanish. Except for some small exceptions that are weird corner cases. So I never heard anyone say in Spanish "dog-dog". But the word that I heard many Cubans use is "wao-wao" which is basically "bark bark". As in "Look at the bark-bark". Also spanking referred to as "pao-pao" which is again an onomatopoeia for the sound of getting hit. But I argue it's not the same because you're not saying spanking-spanking.

Anyway, still no word on if there's "doggie" or "fishie" in Chinese. I guess we'd have to look for the novel in the original Chinese to see what Ken Liu is translating into "fishie". Because before that he has no problem doubling the nouns with meat-meat. I guess I'm just curious if there's an equivalent word or if that was just an artistic license in his translation. And we just don't have a word "meatie" in English. Hehe. Maybe the Chinese for that part says "fish-fish".


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Eric wrote: " But the word that I heard many Cubans use is "wao-wao" which is basically "bark bark". As in "Look at the bark-bark""

That happens in English, too, though it's more likely to be "woof-woof" than "bark-bark" (and there's also "bow-wow," which isn't quite a repetition). Likewise, little kids will refer to cats as "meow-meows" and sheep as "baa-baas".

In Japanese, they use honorifics like -chan (used for small children and teenage girls), -tan (the same, but cutesier) and -kun (teenage boys) for the same effect -- i.e. neko = cat, neko-tan = kitty. Since the Japanese got a lot of their ideas of linguistic formality from Chinese, I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese had something similar.


message 8: by Sky (last edited Jul 27, 2016 09:18PM) (new)

Sky | 665 comments My wife says fish are not spoken about in cute names in Mandarin. They are just eaten and not considered cute. Cats yes, dogs yes, fish no :D. If you wanted to make it cute you could say fish-fish but that is not common. So maybe that part was some artistic license.


message 9: by Eric (new)

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 635 comments Sky wrote: "My wife says fish are not spoken about in cute names in Mandarin. They are just eaten and not considered cute. Cats yes, dogs yes, fish no :D. If you wanted to make it cute you could say fish-fish ..."

OK, thanks for the info. I figured it might be artistic license, but having nearly 0 experience with Chinese, I couldn't know.

Sean wrote: "Eric wrote: " But the word that I heard many Cubans use is "wao-wao" which is basically "bark bark". As in "Look at the bark-bark""

That happens in English, too, though it's more likely to be "woo..."


Interesting, never heard of kids doing that in English, but I have a very small sample size. Very interesting.


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