Sunday, October 10, 2021

Suggested translation, passage from Par Amour

 Note that this translation will only stay on the blog for a couple of weeks.

If you are a visitor to this blog and you want to see the original passage we were translating from, you will find it here  http://www.jcmullen.fr/0921themebooklet.pdf 

Well, Jerry[1] can just do the washing up later, since it seems like he's round the corner,[2] Mother cut in.


Now that topped everything.[3] Mother[4] must have been the cleanest[5] person I have ever known. She had to mop the floor two or three times[6] a day, and wash her hands a[7] hundred times.[8] Indeed, whenever the school inspector, the town councillor[9] or the mayor visited our school, Mr[10] Vevey would always utter the exact same sentence, stopping right in the middle of the school canteen: “Please note that the floor[11] is so clean one might eat off it”, and everyone nodded as it was the first time they had heard[12] this.


The inspector and the councillor came very often, I mean before the call-up, supposedly[13] to check on the pupils’ learning or to give out new exercise books. But the real reason, as everyone knew, was that Dad[14] was such a good cookthat they took any excuse to come eat  at the school canteen


Josph had stayed on the pavement near his bike which had a trailer attached. He too looked tired, but he smiled when he saw me and that was tremendously heartwarming,[15] because Joseph was not like Jean who took himself for a grown-up[16] and would scold me[17] at every chance he got, in particular since Dad had gone away and Mother was too busy to play the gendarme. Joseph would make[18] jokes from morning till night and when I covered[19] my mouth so as not to burst out laughing, since mother and daddy had taught me that a girl should always be discreet, he would grab my elbow and tickle me on purpose until I could not stand it any longer, and he would giggle: “Have a laugh, cousin, it won’t cost you any more”.


Mother locked the doors and windows carefully. Jean and Joseph climbed on their bicycles which could hardly be seen beneath their loads, and Marlene snuggled down in the trailer with the blue-eyed baby doll that Auntie Muguette and Uncle Louis[20] had given[21] her when she was seven. Then mother advised the boys not to pedal too fast so as not to get too far ahead, and we set off.[22]



Par amour

Valérie Tong Cuong



[1] In the category « informal words for Germans during the world wars », we have « hun », « Fritz » « Jerry », « the Krauts » and « the boche ». I think that the first is definitely too aggressive here. Note that Fritz and Jerry are used as collective nouns. « When Fritz invaded Poland… ». Note that the plural of Hun is Hun, in this sense.

[2] A structure with « said to » is much too formal.

[3] Or « took the cake » or « took the biscuit ».

[4] « Maman » in French is very much less informal that « Mum » or « Mummy » in English, the latter of which is generally only used by young children. In France, an official  document might speak of « futures mamans » (see here https://www.egalite-femmes-hommes.gouv.fr/cp-conge-maternite-pour-toutes-lengagement-du-president-de-la-republique-pour-les-futures-mamans-est-tenu-se-rejouit-marlene-schiappa-29-05-2019/ ) whereas in English this would probably be « expectant mothers ». Note that « Mother » is capitalized here but « my mother » would not be. I have preferred « Mother », because I think « Mum » is a little too informal.

[5] Not « the neatest ». Neat people tidy things away, clean people wash things.

[6] Or « twice or three times ». « Thrice » is now obsolete.

[7] « A hundred » is better here than « one hundred », because « one hundred » suggests exactly that number – not 101 or 99, whereas « a hundred » is vaguer.

[8] Do not separate sentences in English with only a comma.

[9] Note that a counsellor (US : counselor) gives advice or talk-therapy ; a councillor is elected to participate in local government.

[10] The only time we spell out « mister » is in the very informal usage « hey Mister can you lend me a tenner » (« hé, mec, t’as pas dix balles ? »

[11] « The floor » is indoors, « theground » is outdoors.

[12] One might say « were hearing » but not « heard ».

[13] This is better than « allegedly » which has too official a connotation.

[14] Note capital. Also note that, strangely perhaps, « Dad » is not as informal as « Mum ».

[15] A couple of people tried « warmed the cockles of my heart ». This sounds very Victorian, and is generally used ironically these days, imho.

[16] A « grown-up » is a children’s word for an adult, so fits in here, since the narrator is young at the time.

[17] Scold is best here but it is a good time to revise other verbs for speaking to people in an emotionally charged manner : to nag, to badger, to chide, to chastise, 

[18] I recommend here the « would » of habit. A structure with -ing is a serious mistake. Every agreg student should read this wonderful book : https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00732793/document

[19] Note that the « would » for habitual action is not possible after « when ».

[20] Note the capitals for « Uncle » and « Auntie ». There is no capital when it is not a proper noun (« I have three uncles », for example).

[21] Not « gifted » which belongs to a particulat register – legal English I think.

[22] « We hit the road » is much too rock n roll. Today’s song : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Tiz6INF7I

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