Lost in Translation

Ghazal, my Dear,
We recently discussed the issue of translating poetry from one language to another. You told me ones that in Persian language there are no gender specific prepositions, as there are HE and SHE in English or IT for all un-animated items. In German, in contrast, also un-animated objects usually are assigned a male or female gender, which has its roots in very ancient understanding of the world and the role of all devine creations. So if a poem is translated from German to English, the natural gender of un-animated objects is lost, cause they all turn neutral in English (LOST IN TRANSLATION).
But, this is what my british colleague told me about the common practice of assigning a gender to unanimated objects in poetry. Whether you choose male or female depends not simply on the context, but on the “character” that this item carries. So I guess if the poem is about a gently blowing summer wind, this will be a SHE, but if it is about a horrible thunderstorm, this must be a HE.
A nice, colourful, delicate and well-smelling flower will most likely be assigned a female gender. But if the poem is about a carnovourous plant, ugly looking and nastly smelling, it would be more appropriate to assigned it a male gender.
Unless, of course, an american trash musical such as “Little Shop of Horrors” introduces a man-eating nasty plant and calls it “Audrey II” (where – I guess – this conflict between expectation and reality is crucial for the humor).
There are some fixed cases of assigned gender: The Sea is always male, whereas ships are always female. In contrast to German, where the Sea is female (but the Ocean is male (?), and ships are neutral.
So british poetry, like the british character in general, takes a very pragmatic position, in contrast to German, where you have to follow the rules of grammar, does not matter whether you write a sonett or a car damage report.

best regards, TAKE CARE , Michael

1 Responses to Lost in Translation

  1. admin says:


    by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

    ND thou art dead, as young and fair
    As aught of mortal birth;
    And form so soft, and charms so rare,
    Too soon return’d to Earth!
    Though Earth receiv’d them in her bed,
    And o’er the spot the crowd may tread
    In carelessness or mirth,
    There is an eye which could not brook
    A moment on that grave to look.
    Yet did I love thee to the last
    As fervently as thou,
    Who didst not change through all the past,
    And canst not alter now.
    The love where Death has set his seal,
    Nor age can chill, nor rival steal,
    Nor falsehood disavow:
    And, what were worse, thou canst not see
    Or wrong, or change, or fault in me.

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