Breaking news from World Headquarters: So Yesterday was just bought by Bonnier Carlsen, a publishing house in Sweden. Big props to Whitney Lee at Fielding Agency for selling that book all over the globe.
I always suspected that So Yesterday might sell well internationally. As a consumer satire, I figured that it should appeal to foreign folks who find us inch-using, doctor-paying, soccer-not-playing ‘Mericans to be inherently funny. I’m glad to see that I was right.
I didn’t think of this when the French rights sold, but I’m very curious as to how the Spoonerisms in the book will work. (For you who are too lazy to click: a Spoonerism is a humorous reversal of word beginnings, like “May I sew you to your sheets?”)
Spoonerisms form a key plot point in So Yesterday, and are supposed to generate a lot of laughs. But does Swedish even have them? I mean, William Archibald Spooner himself was a don at Oxford (the place where they make that cattle-stunning dictionary of English) so there’s no guarantee that speakers of other languages even know what Spoonerisms are . . .
Sounds like a tough ask for the translator. I just hope he or she is a shining wit.
Now, I’m a self-confessed language geek. (My sophomore novel, Fine Prey, is about a xenolinguist, and you can’t get much geekier than that.) But I know next to nothing about Swedish. So I have no guesses as to the Swedish title, or whether the character-name puns (like “Hunter”) will translate well, or how those all-important Spoonerisms will fair.
My only tidbit to share comes from my Swedish-Aussie pal Kim Selling, who once explained to me during a long car ride in the Outback that the Swedes are to farting as the Inuit supposedly are to snow. That is, they have a lot of words for it. This is probably the result of spending a lot of time in saunas together, a natural environment for the linguistic dissection of flatulence.
So a brief and probably inaccurate primer on Swedish gas-passing:
â€¢ FjÃ¤rt–a fart (the English root-word)
â€¢ Pruttar–a sputtering fart (very onomotopoetic, that one)
â€¢ Ã„ggmÃ¶k–a smelly fart
â€¢ GÃ¶ra en stinkare–literally, to make a stink
â€¢ MÃ¶rt-a silent but deadly one (bringing new meaning to the title Morte, d’Arthur)
I’m sure there were more. I’m waiting for Kim and any other Swedaphones to weigh in on this important issue.
And if you object to this post, just remember that Spamalot just won a butt-load of Tonys. Don’t make me pruttar in your general direction, yo.
8 thoughts on “So Yesterday in Swedish!”
Congratulations on the Sweden sale, very exciting–I don’t know about Swedish and spoonerisms–but from one language geek to another (seriously, there’s a chapter in my new academic book about the eighteenth-century elocutionists, I’m obsessed with this historical linguistic stuff), did you know that the Swedish translator of PYGMALION (I think this must have been in the 1920s) was stymied by his task, b/c in Stockholm everyone supposedly speaks with more or less the same accent, regardless of social class? At least that’s what GBS says, he may have been making a polemical point rather than an accurate observation.
So i was reading along, learning about spoonerisms and whatnot. And so inevitably in my mind i start moving words around for every sentence, and i must say, when you said ‘Sounds like a tough ask for the translator. I just hope he or she is a shining wit.’ i automatically tranlsated the ‘shining wit’ part into spoonerism form. Quite humorous, only because it came so effortlessly. And i very much enjoyed your ‘uglies’ book and am eagerly anticipating the arrival of ‘The Pretties’ in my local library. Thank you for providing an entertainment in the boring suburbs of Texas.
I’m not really a language geek, but if you like interesting tidbits about languages and linguistics, check out these blogs:
Tenser, Said the Tensor
Swedish translator of PYGMALION . . . was stymied by his task, b/c in Stockholm everyone supposedly speaks with more or less the same accent, regardless of social class?
You’re right, that is a bit hard to believe. It reminds me, though, that Justine was asking some of the same questions about Magic or Madness in translation. How do you do all the Aussie/American misunderstandings when everyone’s speaking French or Chinese? (I wonder if everyone’s idea of what Aussies talk like is based on however Crocodile Dundee was translated into their language. Shiver.)
On unrelated issues, I see that Justine is on a linguistic roll as well.
i start moving words around for every sentence
Yes, Spoonerisms ate my brain while I was writing SY. You start finding them everywhere.
And Ted, I am adding Language Hat to my bloglist. Thanks.
Swedes do well with that kind of wordplay; I hope you get a good translator! I would not be surprised if So Yesterday were a big hit among young Swedes who are both attracted to and mistrustful of the excesses of USA pop culture. Feel free to send any translation-related questions my way, as Swedish is the second language in our bilingual household.
Feel free to send any translation-related questions my way, as Swedish is the second language in our bilingual household.
You are too kind. Some translators ask a bunch of questions (my French one for Evolution’s Darling was amazing at finding stuff I hadn’t really thought through) and others never even send me a “hello” email. We’ll see if I get into the loop on this one.
And by the way, was I right about the spelling of mÃ¶rt? That’s one I haven’t been able to find online. It sounded something like murrt, with a rolled r.
It seems like you’d have the same problem with Spoonerisms in a translation into any language. So Yesterday is just more understandable in English I guess.
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