The exhibtion about the building of the bridge is in French and English … very technical vocabulary – a good learning experience. I was rather tickled however by the name given to this device built specially to build the bridge and called in French “le translateur”. The English for it is “the conveyor”, it conveys or carries, it bears the weight of and transports. This of course set off lots of thoughts about translation and how that conveys thoughts, ideas and communication from one language, one culture, one context to another.
Well, now I’m just tickled myself, laughing, wondering even more at technical words and notions for translation. Let’s see how far we can carry this over here.
First, by Jane’s post, I’m reminded of a rather funny sentence Willis Barnstone once wrote in a rather fun Parable he once told in his rather important book The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice. It’s called the “Parable of the Greek Moving Van”; and the long, therefore funny, sentence goes like this:
In a word, to come to Greece and find that even the moving vans run around under the sun and smog of greater Athens with advertisements for transportation, for metaphor, and ultimately with signs for TRANSLATION should convince us that every motor truck hauling goods from one place to another, every perceived metamorphosis of a word or phrase within or between languages, every decipherment and interpretation of a text, every role by each actor in the cast, every adaptation of a script by a director of opera, film, theater, ballet, pantomime, indeed every perception of movement and change, in the street or on our tongues, on the page or in our ears, leads us directly to the art and activity of translation.
Barnstone is discussing the real-life logo on the side panels of transport vehicles around Peloponnisos at the Greek port Piraeus: it’s the word, μεταφορά. Barnstone goes on to say the modern word means, ambiguously, “translation.” And he argues “translation is metaphor.”
I thought you might like to see a real picture now that you have Barnstone’s metaphorical picture, his parable, that carries all of this forward for us. Couldn’t find those trucks around Peloponnisos, so will this one do?
If you’re looking as closely as I am, then you’re thinking, with me, the following: “This looks like one of Aristotle’s trucks.” Why are we thinking that? Well, because it has one of Aristotle’s logos on it. It not only has the word METAPHORA but also has the IKE (that ‘icky’) suffix attached. Trademark Aristotle.
Now, what I’m wondering is why Aristotle had so much to say about metaphor but so little about translation.
(Somebody on wikipedia has rather incorrectly tried to make the ancient Greeks be responsible for some Aristotelean distinction here. Wrong. Ha! They pin this on one Christopher Kasparek in some obscure essay in some dusty newsletter, saying:
The Ancient Greek term for translation, μετάφρασις (metaphrasis, “a speaking across”), has supplied English with metaphrase (a “literal,” or “word-for-word,” translation) — as contrasted with paraphrase (“a saying in other words”, from παράφρασις, paraphrasis). Metaphrase corresponds, in one of the more recent terminologies, to “formal equivalence”; and paraphrase, to “dynamic equivalence.”
If I had a picture to show you here, I would. The best I can do is to draw the letters LOL in uppercase).
Maybe we should listen to Sara J. Newman. Newman, an Aristotle and metaphor expert, says:
[M]etaphor has always enjoyed an independent scholarly life and an ascendant theoretical status. In contemporary coinage, then, metaphor can refer either to an “implied comparison” or to “figurative language” more braodly construed. Finally, these attitudes and their attendant problems owe a considerable debt to Aristotle’s definition of metaphor in the Poetics and the Rhetoric which is the source of all subsequent metaphorical theories and of metaphor’s purported figural authority (in fact, his broader discussions of figures are the foundation for all subsequent systems of tropes and schemes….) [page 236, “Recognizing a Rhetorical Theory of Figures: What Aristotle Tells Us About the Relationship Between Metaphor and Other Figures of Speech,” in Advances in the History of Rhetoric: The First Six Years].
Now, do we want a picture? Well, Aristotle uses the same truck for metaphor as he does for translation. So, look again at that truck above.
And know that there’s another metaphor expert, one I. A. Richards (interested in The Philosophy of Rhetoric) who actually uses the word “vehicle” to define and to carry (yes, it’s my pun) his notion of metaphor. Richards did not like Aristotle’s definition too much, did not like the Greek’s vehicle, made vehicle part of metaphor instead of the whole thing in which Metaphor IS a Vehicle, a Truck.
So enough of that, we’re out of time. I’ll try to show soon what a novelist like Harper Lee lets a little girl like Scout Finch get out of translation and from metaphor. Until then, make sure you visit Jane’s post to check out how she’s carried on there, conveying French and English and a picture with it all.