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Saturday, May 07, 2011

learning the idiom: Interracial Living Common English Street Language

To translate any text into a living language one needs to be a native speaker of that living language. Any project undertaken to produce a translation by a non-native speaker of the target language is doomed from the start. This is why I am undertaking this Sophocles' Electra project with a native speaker as a co-worker.

I received a call last night from my language consultant, just after midnight, during which a significant percentage of the verbal content was comprised of a verb, participle, adjective, all formed on the same root.  Paul Simon (Simon & Garfunkel) wrote a song about this word:

A Poem On The Underground Wall — Paul Simon

The last train is nearly due,
The underground is closing soon,
And in the dark deserted station,
Restless in anticipation,
A man waits in the shadows.

His restless eyes leap and scratch,
At all that they can touch or catch,
And hidden deep within his pocket,
Safe within its silent socket,
He holds a colored crayon.

Now from the tunnel's stony womb,
The carriage rides to meet the groom,
And opens wide and welcome doors,
But he hesitates, then withdraws
Deeper in the shadows.

And the train is gone suddenly
On wheels clicking silently
Like a gently tapping litany,
And he holds his crayon rosary
Tighter in his hand.

Now from his pocket quick he flashes,
The crayon on the wall he slashes,
Deep upon the advertising,
A single worded poem comprised
Of four letters.

And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night

Copyright:  Paul Simon

This presents a translation difficulty, since the word in question plays an indispensable role in the "heart language" of urban interracial street culture. Any translation aimed at this language group would be considered inauthentic without this word. 


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