Saturday, February 04, 2012

Even, also

After watching a few Indian movies, I noticed a recurrent pattern in the subtitles: an odd use of the word "even". Here are a couple of examples:
"A new suit won't make me a new man," he says, and she replies, "Even I love the old one, but he's gone."

"For the first time..." he begins and she says, blushing, "Oh Goddess, even for me it's the first time."

"I've just realized: not only do I hate parties, I hate people." "As far as I know," comes the answer, "even people aren't crazy about you."
Fortunately, Hindi is an Indo-European language - and this precise thing happens in the translations I get from my Russian students. The word и (i) in Russian can mean "even" - or it can mean "and" or "too". And in Hindi, भी (bhi) has the same set of meanings.

The problem is that the translator has to realize how important that secondary meaning, the one tucked inside those parentheses, like this
(also: also, too)
is. And that English "even" needs an "as" to approximate that meaning. "Even people aren't crazy about you" doesn't mean "people aren't crazy about you, too"; it means "people aren't crazy about you, either" - and "even for me it's the first time" means "I'm really not as experienced as you might think..."

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At 6:41 PM, February 04, 2012 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

A similar thing happens in French, where même can mean "even" ("même dans un monde parfait", "even in a perfect world") and "same" ("la même chose", "the same thing"). Because the primary meaning is usually given as the latter, many native French speakers will say, in English, "Same in a perfect world...."

And, of course, there's "do" and "make", which are one word in Spanish ("hacer"), French ("faire"), and German ("machen"). Native speakers of those languages have a hard time getting the English usage right: when do we "do" something and when do we "make" it?

At 6:43 PM, February 04, 2012 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

Google Translate tells me that the "do/make" think goes into Russian, as well: "делать" for both.

At 7:57 PM, February 04, 2012 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Barry, likewise with "mesmo" ("mesma") in Portuguese.


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