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December 25, 2014 5:58 AM   Subscribe

How does Death speak in Discworld translations into non-alphabetical scripts?

Obviously the idea of using all small caps doesn't work for translations into languages with writing systems that don't use capital letters. I'm particularly interested to find out about how it's handled in Japanese, but I can't be bothered to order a copy of Reaper Man or something from Amazon.co.jp just to find out.
posted by DoctorFedora to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you look inside at google books?http://books.google.com/books/about/刈り入れ.html?id=6bl7QgAACAAJ
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:34 AM on December 25, 2014

I don't know, but I'd guess he speaks in katakana in Japanese.
posted by corvine at 12:25 PM on December 25, 2014

Response by poster: Afraid it looks like there's no e-book to glance inside on Google. I have this feeling he probably talks in katakana without quotation marks, but that seems somehow… inadequate? I'm sure it's entirely a matter of how a translator would handle it (you could give him a nicely ancient and grave-sounding way of speaking by using now-uncommon kanji for common words, like 此処 for ここ maybe).

What about other scripts? Has any Discworld novel been translated into, say, Arabic?
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:05 PM on December 25, 2014

IIRC, in Japanese, Death's dialogue is just set in a sans serif typeface (coincidentally but pleasingly, in Japanese such typefaces are generically described as "Gothic"). I don't think there's any special fanciness other than that, but I promise to check next time I'm at the library if they have one of the Death books there.
posted by No-sword at 4:24 PM on December 25, 2014

Response by poster: Yeah, that was actually the other thought I'd had in mind, was going with a different font (since, yeah, Mincho is the norm for typesetting ordinarily). My own "if it were up to me" version would be basically: different font, kanji (including uncommon old-time stuff like 此処) but with all katakana for okurigana, and formal-but-not-polite (so デハ無イ instead of デハ有リマセン or something like that), without quotation marks.

And suddenly it occurs to me that I have reinvented the way Kuruoshiki Oni's win quotes are written in Street Fighter IV.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:07 PM on December 25, 2014

Here you go. This is an early scene in the Japanese translation of Mort. You can see that Death says Arigatō in regular old hiragana like anyone else.

Mort, Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters were all translated by Kuga Yoshito 久賀宣人 and published in Japanese in 1997. The only Discworld book available in Japanese before that was The Colour of Magic, published in 1991 as Discworld Sōdōki ディスクワールド騒動記 in a translation by Yasuda Hitoshi 安田均. It'd be interesting to see if this solution originates with Yasuda or what.
posted by No-sword at 4:52 AM on December 27, 2014

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