The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 22

TRANSLATING
HUMOR IS A SERIOUS
What makes us laugh
varies tremendously
from person to
person, language to
language, and culture
to culture.

By Marina Ilari

22

The ATA Chronicle | March/April 2021

BUSINESS
W

e all like to laugh regardless of what language we
speak. But what makes us laugh varies tremendously
from person to person, language to language,
and culture to culture. Humor is dependent upon the use of
various aspects of language to achieve its purpose (e.g., puns,
regionalisms, wordplay, and cultural references). These devices
can make the literal translation of humor a joke in itself, not to
mention a seemingly impossible challenge for the translator!
Often, a phrase that's humorous in one language doesn't work
when it's translated into another, which means it will need to
be transcreated entirely. Let's explore some of these devices in
more detail to see why translating humor is a serious business.
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The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021

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