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Wordplay in the Stormlight Archieve

Lesser spren


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I'm not terribly fond of puns in fantasy unless the author expects us to believe that the characters are either speaking English or that the language that they are speaking has exactly the same puns.

Brandon Sanderson

It's neither one. Generally, the authors you're reading are pretending their books are in translation--and are generally providing an appropriate English pun to convey the tone of the scene. It happens in the real world, too. My books are all in English originally. When my translator for the Taiwanese editions, for example, runs across a pun, she often constructs a pun that works in the context in her language. The actual words are different, but the idea of "This character is making a wordplay quip" remains.


Thanks for the reply. One of my favourite things about this subreddit is the interaction with authors.How do you extend this to foreign languages within the world, then? For example, Tolkien's various languages, or the Old Tongue in Wheel of Time. Do we assume that the imaginary translator decided not to translate those phrases? If so, why?Made-up example:

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Tom muttered under his breath.

As, perhaps, opposed to:

"This is a truly stupendous event," Tom muttered under his breath, in Poppinish.

Brandon Sanderson

The idea is that the imaginary translator (who is basically the author) is trying to preserve the proper tone. Any time one of those phrases is written, the author COULD have just written the translated version. Why didn't they? There are a ton of reasons, but the most likely is to preserve the feeling the characters have in interacting with something they don't understand. This extends to which words we choose to translate even from the world. In Stormlight, I use the word 'havah' for a Vorin dress. Yet I call a coat simply a coat. There's a balance between not overloading the reader and providing setting immersion, and also a distinction between an article of clothing that is meaningful culturally and one that is less so. Being able to make these kinds of decisions is like adding a pinch of exotic spice to your broth, making it a unique and savory experience, and is part of what I love about fantasy over other genres.

General Reddit 2015 (Sept. 8, 2015)


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