Monday, May 07, 2007

Imus/Maledicta followup

Well, in the course of a busy day (but a good busy, largely), and in between reading the fine comments from the Ridger and Ben Zimmer on the latest post, I had a conversation with a colleague who's attuned to matters of race and language. He praised Reinhold Aman for clarifying blunders in translation of Imus's slurs in the international press, but raised a question:
What was the appropriate target for a translation here?
He rightly points out that how Imus understood the word ho and how young African-Americans understand the word are almost surely different. Aman is clearly aware of that, but is taking the latter interpretation as the one that's relevant for translation. Building on that, I figure, Aman's use of Waiwa, the Bavarian equivalent of German Weiber (roughly 'broads'), for ho may well be giving Imus too much credit: For all we know, Imus was assuming 'prostitute'. Do you translate Imus's intent or the language he was crudely trying to ape? Translating nappy as 'diaper' might be just plain stupid, but it gets tougher once you get beyond that. I guess to be really accurate, you'd need to gloss both meanings and explain the mismatch.

Even as I type this, I'm listening to Jon Stewart's rerun from April 30 with "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore, who builds a nice routine around a distinction between ethics and efics. "Looking fresh" is a part of the latter that Larry wants to stress. Race and language is a topic that's everywhere today.

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