Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


goodbye first friend
November 19, 2008 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Is this sanskrit translation correct?

This शुभरात्रिअग्रसखी is the translation my friend gave me for "Goodbye first friend" ... shes a linguistics student with no real knowledge of the language itself, is this correct?

Thanks
posted by Neonshock to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Probably?

1) त्रिअ should probably be त्रियग्रसखी - the vowels join with an elision, and the short अ is implied. But I'm not sure whether one should really elide these words after all. Better might be to put the short pause |, giving you शुभरात्रि|अग्रसखी.
2) I'm pretty sure शुभरात्रि is goodnight, rather than goodbye.It wouldn't be unreasonable to use namaste instead of shubharatri, depending.
3) sakhii-सखी is a female friend, if that matters. sakhi (short i) would be male.
4) agrasakhii sounds good, though, and probably means first friend. A similar sentiment that I'm more sure of might be "priya-sakhī — constant companion".

My sanskrit's gone to pot, though, so take that with a grain of namak.
Good to use it, though. Given the sentiment, my best wishes to you.
posted by metaculpa at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2008


shes a linguistics student with no real knowledge of the language itself

Then I can pretty much guarantee the translation is wrong, no offense to her. Sanskrit is far from an easy language, and you want someone who is very familiar with it. There may or may not be someone like that here; I would suggest contacting the nearest university with a Sanskrit course and asking the professor.
posted by languagehat at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2008


* 4) Sorry, this is easier to read/paste - agrasakhi = अग्रसखी. priyasakhi = प्रियसखी.

Then I can pretty much guarantee the translation is wrong, no offense to her.
It's a bit like german, I think - if you guess at two words and stick them together, you'll definitely make another perfectly reasonable word, that will mean something within 10 yards of what you meant. But yeah, if you want to get sentiment right as well as vague comprehensibility, seek an expert. ie., not me!
posted by metaculpa at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2008


It's a bit like german, I think - if you guess at two words and stick them together, you'll definitely make another perfectly reasonable word, that will mean something within 10 yards of what you meant.

I know you're mostly being funny, but that's not even vaguely true; I hate to be a wet blanket, but I feel I have to point out the obvious in case anyone comes across this thread and takes it seriously. Also, it's not about "sentiment," it's about having a correct sentence in the language. If a Russian made up the phrase "mushroom rain" in English, translating the Russian phrase, to describe rain falling while the sun shines, it wouldn't have a wrong sentiment, it would just be wrong.
posted by languagehat at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2008


Come to think of it, neonshock, adi is a more common prefix for first/original than agra. Agra tends to mean foremost/best. So you now have three options, which vary mostly in sentiment:

agrasakhi = अग्रसखी - foremost/best friend.
priyasakhi = प्रियसखी - dear friend.
adisakhi = अदिसखी - original friend.

Hope those help.

lh, it is certainly true of sanskrit, excepting obvious idiom/slang such as "gone to pot" or "mushroom rain". You have to attend to word order as in any language, but most compound words and phrases in Sanskrit are roughly the sum of their parts, which is a good thing - otherwise the language would be insanely, as opposed to just very, difficult. Compound words in sanskrit are the equivalent of multi-word concepts in english - I'm sure we all understand the terrible perils of making them, but, it's no more dangerous to construct a word in sanskrit than it is to construct its equivalent in english.

What's particularly interesting, though, is that in sanskrit, even the dictionaries and concordances are filled with conjoint words, as here. (cf. an english concordance, which considers the words more discretely.) This would seem to argue your point that compound words have non-obvious definitions that destroy amateur translation, but I think that's actually quite rare, both in the concordance and in the dictionaries I used to use. Instead, I think their prevalence in the sanskrit concordances it says something more about the difficulty of deciding what, precisely, is a word in sanskrit, particularly for modern readers. This is, after all, a language that can have single-word paragraphs - word division is often the hardest part, and duplicate entrit's hard to know how to parse that, particularly since essentially no-one is fluent.

There is a shiny flaw in my argument, though, because in the concordance above one word (sakhi, friend) is explicitly defined as meaning something completely different (gopi, cowherd girl). This is a different story, however, because it's not a problem of two words together meaning something unlikely, but is instead just a reference - Krishna's famous friends were in fact gopis. Since they're minor spiritual figures in themselves, I guess sakhi arose as an auxilliary term to avoid naming them directly. But understanding this word conflation requires, and is mostly only true in, the context of the Purana texts that are talking about Krishna in the first place. I do love how the vocabulary changes as you browsed the language through different eons, but it makes it impossible to learn without help.

But I think your angst might be directed at the problem of translation by amateurs, in general, which I both empathize with and object to. But there's no need to be so vociferous. She gets it. She knows that her friend "has no real knowledge of the language itself", so she's asking the damn internet for help, and the internet is doing its best. Of course her friend's translation is probably wrong, and my reading of it is probably wrong - but who's counting? It'll make sense to her and it will make sense to whoever her audience is, if there even is one, and that's good enough for now.

Anyway, if this is going to continue it should probably do so by mmail. All the best to you, my behatted friend


posted by metaculpa at 8:30 PM on November 19, 2008


whoops - "... and duplicate entries are necessary to help parse that, particularly since essentially no-one is fluent."
posted by metaculpa at 8:32 PM on November 19, 2008


Of course her friend's translation is probably wrong, and my reading of it is probably wrong - but who's counting?

Well, I guess we have a basic difference of opinion as to what AskMe is for. I figure it's for correct answers, not everybody having fun around the campfire. We'll have to agree to disagree.

It'll make sense to her and it will make sense to whoever her audience is, if there even is one, and that's good enough for now.

Make sense to her? Who, the poster? She presumably doesn't know Sanskrit. Whoever her audience is? If they know Sanskrit, it may or may not make sense to them, depending on how far off it is. Good enough for now? I don't really know what that means, but in general, see above re: what AskMe is for.

But there's no need to be so vociferous.

I don't like wrong answers, and I want to discourage them.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on November 20, 2008


I don't like wrong answers, and I want to discourage them.
Look, lh, your first answer was a good point, and well taken. And certainly I respect your command of language, and expertise in translation. Clearly, this is something you do, and do well. But neonshock can judge her own criteria for the correctness of this simple phrase, and I've done my best to explain my logic to her so that she can make her own decision. If my answer is wrong, then correct it. Otherwise, please stop shitting in the thread - I've read your comments for a long time, and this doesn't seem like you.

Neonshock, drop me a mefimail if I can help any more, ok?
posted by metaculpa at 11:13 AM on November 20, 2008


Thanks for the help guys (and glad to have started some discussion - those are cool!). Just to be specific, the important thing is First friend, goodnight or goodbye was what i was hoping to preceed it but either of those im down with. So Goodnight/goodbye first friend should be something like...

शुभरात्रि अदिसखी?

Thanks metaculpa for being especially fantastic!
posted by Neonshock at 12:48 PM on November 20, 2008


शुभरात्रि अदिसखी - Goodnight, first friend. Pronounced shubharatri adisakhi.

Looks good to me, neonshock. I don't have all that much more experience than your friend, mind, but I think that says what you're looking for.

Oh, one more thing. If you want to be poetic about it, "Goodnight, o first friend" is the traditional poetic salutation - शुभरात्रि अदिसखी हे. It sounds a little ridiculous in english, but was quite common in Sanskrit's heyday. But if you're going to do this, you should probably reverse the words: हे अदिसखी शुभरात्रि. I particularly like this version with the comma: हे अदिसखी|शुभरात्रि - he adisakhi, shubharatri - o first friend, goodnight - but probably only because it looks complicated.

Caveat: I confess I'm a little unsure of word order in this kind of phrase (without the हे) , but Sanskrit is quite flexible, particularly when it's being sentimental.

Good luck! You've made me miss Sanskrit, so that's a win.
posted by metaculpa at 3:10 PM on November 20, 2008


« Older Where would you donate, or wha...   |  What do other cultures call th... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.