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Daniel Buck
lost & found in translation
Fri Apr 6, 2018 6:07am

biblical translations have fueled disputes for hundreds of years, and will for hundreds more. Of course, in that case we trying to understand the word of God (supposedly.) Here we're trying something less significant, the word of Remigio Sánchez.

Russian novel translation wars

Recently, we OWRistas discussed the meaning of stupid, not in a foreign tongue but in English. What did I mean? Fortunately I am still alive and could explain what I meant. Sánchez was speaking in Spanish and is long gone, so we're on our own.

Anne Meadows did the Expediente translation, assisted by an assembly of Bolivians, Argentines, and others. The task was complicated by the usual factors: some of the documents were handwritten and had to be deciphered. For example, one word, what did Concha inquire about the night before he departed? We initially thought the word was vagón, wagon/cart, and only later determined it was was vaqueano, guide.

In rendering the Expediente into modern English, Anne considered regionalisms (southern Bolivianisms), occupational jargon (e.g., mining slang), legal terms, and anachronisms ( turn-of-the-last century Spanish).

For "medios ñatos" our chief Bolivian colleague at the time rendered it "somewhat turned-up noses," and said that it described Cassidy and Sundance. People can argue about that one, e.g., what does medio mean? Does ñato mean the nose itself or describe the nose? If the latter, how does it describe the nose? What does turned-up mean. Etc.

(If you want the gospel truth about a gun, ask a gun expert; if you want a discussion, ask two gun experts, if you want an argument ask three.)

As for feo, as in "ambos eran ruvios varvones [sic], medios ñatos, él chico un poco feo y él grande bien parecido," a fairly standard rendering for "un poco feo" would be somewhat ugly/tad ugly/sort of ugly. Take your pick. The context, comparing one with the other, one a tad ugly and the other "bien parecido," good looking, is helpful. He is comparing appearances. My Velazquez (1964) gives feo as "1. ugly, deformed, hideous, haggard, grim; homely. 2. causing horror or aversion." Other dictionaries add nasty (nasty person, nasty weather), awful, insulting, dirty, unbecoming, and so on.

It did cross my mind the other day that Cassidy was dead, which does not improve one's appearance, and had been wounded multiple times and dispatched himself with a shot in the temple. But then Sundance was also wounded multiple times and dead, shot in the forehead, which must have dented his visage, yet Sánchez described him as "bien parecido."

Anyway, Sánchez had seen the pair alive, when they arrived in San Vicente the 6th, so his description was based on more than one encounter. Also the entire quote indicates he is describing their physical appearances, not their personalities or behavior.

Also, I think it's fair to say that all things being equal Cassidy as compared to Sundance was less good-looking, somewhat ugly.

So, I'll go with an Occam's Razor approach, in this case the most common meaning of the phrase "un poco feo," somewhat ugly, was in reference to Cassidy's appearance alive. Dan

  • Re: Try leaving out the white guys.Vince Garcia, Thu Apr 5 7:33pm
    Excellent comments. We have the same problem in trying to translate some fine points in Biblical texts. This has led me to wonder if you can comment on the point Christ brought up about the word... more
    • lost & found in translation — Daniel Buck, Fri Apr 6 6:07am
      • Re: lost & found in translationVince Garcia, Fri Apr 6 7:18pm
        Again, good reasoning. And I definitely understand the issue w/regional dialects. (There were like 30 regional dialects of Aramaic so when someone asks a question like, "How would that translate from ... more
        • Re: lost & found in translationDaniel Buck, Sat Apr 7 5:24am
          Vince, there are three later photos, two from Argentina, ca. 1904, and one from Bolivia, ca. 1908, but the resolution is not great. In the Bolivia photo SK looks like he has thickened around the... more
          • Re: lost & found in translationVince Garcia, Sat Apr 7 9:08am
            After I wrote that, I recalled the camp photo which we have talked about before, and which I have remarked--since we're talking about who DOESN'T look like Butch and SD--doesn't look look like them.... more
            • Re: lost & found in translationDaniel Buck, Sat Apr 7 10:01am
              Vince, The camp photo? Do you mean the 1908 photo from Bolivia? Yes, the resolution is not great, and it's not a close up, but the pair are dressed in Montana Peak hats, light shirts, vests, etc., as ... more
              • Re: lost & found in translationVince Garcia, Sat Apr 7 10:08am
                Yes but my main point is that if I just brought the photo to you and said "This is a photo of Butch and SD" I dont think you would agree just based on a visual examination of the two. i.e., it don't... more
                • Re: lost & found in translationDaniel Buck, Sat Apr 7 10:18am
                  Vince, Visually one cannot make out the two men's faces, so just looking at the faces doesn't tell us anything one way or the other, that is, that it is them or that it is not them. The provenance... more
          • BallparkChrisV, Sat Apr 7 6:29am
            The description of the corpses is no where near "in the ballpark" Its not them. Lets regroup and find out what really happened.
      • Re: lost & found in translationChrisV, Fri Apr 6 6:23am
        Dan, I dont normally rate guys, but I think that both Sundance and Butch were both in the category of handsome guys. To judge one a little uglier, to me doesn't make sense if it were the outlaws. You ... more
        • Re: lost & found in translationDaniel Buck, Fri Apr 6 6:41am
          Chris, it's more important what Remigio Sánchez thought. That said, I don't think it's unreasonable, based on the few photographs we have, to describe Sundance as "bien parecido" and Cassidy as "un... more
          • Re: lost & found in translationChrisV, Fri Apr 6 6:58am
            Dan, Actually, its more important to look at the description of the two corpses. If you zoom in on the fw5 photo, you can see his Butch's scar. It must have been quite noticeable. You would think if... more
            • Re: lost & found in translationDaniel Buck, Fri Apr 6 12:38pm
              Chris, The mention of a scar on Cassidy's face is from his Wyoming prison record, 1894: "has a small red scar under the left eye." It might have been the result of the pistol-whipping sheriff Bob... more
              • Re: lost & found in translationChrisV, Fri Apr 6 1:18pm
                The unique scar was there in the FW5 1900 photo and in the 1901 RR photo. Would have been there if Butch was the right corpse. He wasnt. It was an ugly, short , upturned nose, guero. And a stupid one ... more
    • VincePat, Fri Apr 6 6:06am
      Christ wasn't white and blond either or hanked a pug nose.
      • Re: VinceVince Garcia, Fri Apr 6 8:01pm
        You were there and saw what He looked like? Other than supposing He looked something like the guy on the Shroud of Turin, I have mo idea what Jesus looked like or what color His hair or complexion... more
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