The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 23

It's Hard to Be Punny:
Puns and Wordplay
Puns and wordplay are two
of the most common forms
of humor. Puns are jokes that
make use of words that sound
alike or nearly alike but have
different meanings. Wordplay
is verbal wit based on the
meanings and ambiguities
of words. And, of course, the
way words sound and are
written vary from language
to language-hence the
challenge for the translator.
Consider the joke told
to me by my seven-year-

translate it, I would come up

of reciting certain jokes,

as: " Yesterday I was walking

with a completely different

introducing them with the

by your house and you threw

joke while trying to preserve

expression " aro, aro, " which

a full block of cheese at me.

something of the original-

comes from the language

That wasn't very mature was

perhaps the ghost asking a

of Mapuche, an Indigenous

it? Gouda thing I wasn't hurt. "

question but with an answer

group inhabiting southern

As translators, we have

that would be funny in

Chile and Argentina. This

the difficult task of deciding

Spanish. An example could be

expression means " with your

how to handle a challenge

" ¿Por qué el fantasma cruzó la

permission " and connects

like the example above.

calle? Para llegar al otro lado. "

one joke to the next one-a

Depending on where the

( " Why did the ghost cross the

sort of bridge between a series

joke is used (e.g., in a

of jokes. These jokes tend

nonfiction book versus a

to use the same structure:

movie subtitle), one option

" Yesterday I passed by

would be to use footnotes

your house and you threw

or insert an explanation

something at me. " Usually

of the joke. However,

what's being thrown is then

we must be aware that

reflected upon by some witty

although providing such

comment. For example, " You

an explanation could be

threw a juice at me. Tang! "

interesting to the reader,

street? To make it to the other
side. " ) This solution would
provoke the same emotional
reaction from the reader-
hopefully a chuckle.

old son. " What room does

Cradle Culture

the ghost not have in his

Jokes can be an expression

house? The 'living room!' "

of the social and cultural

Funny, I thought. And as

environment in which they

This is a play on words

we're essentially sacrificing

any translator obsessed with

are created. As such, each

between the juice brand Tang

the humor in the joke. It

language, I couldn't help but

culture can have its own

(very popular in Argentina

would also usually be the

wonder how I would translate

special sense of humor that

in the 1990s) and the sound

case that we wouldn't

that joke into Spanish.

might be tied to its history,

the juice carton would make

be able to provide an

Translating it literally would

traditions, values, and beliefs.

if it hit a person's head. I can

adequate explanation. So,

Oftentimes, this means that

imagine that someone from

as translators, we must

only people from that culture

a different culture would

find a way to adapt what's

would understand a joke or

find this joke confusing or

funny from one culture

find it funny.

unamusing. One way to adapt

to something that would

it into English would be to

resonate and be funny in

use a different wordplay, such

the target culture.

make no sense, as the word
" living room " in Spanish
doesn't have the double
meaning of " room of the
house " and " alive " as it
does in English. If I had to
www.ata-chronicle.online

For example, in Argentina
we have a specific way

American Translators Association

23


http://www.ata-chronicle.online

The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021

Contents
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 1
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 2
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - Contents
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 4
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 5
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 6
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 7
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 8
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 9
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 10
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 11
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 12
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 13
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 14
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 15
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 16
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 17
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 18
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 19
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 20
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 21
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 22
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 23
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 24
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 25
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 26
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 27
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 28
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 29
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 30
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 31
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 32
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 33
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 34
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 35
The ATA Chronicle - March/April 2021 - 36
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/chronicle/20210304
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/chronicle/20210102
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com