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Translation of Tintin character names?

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Amilah
Member
#1 · Posted: 11 Jan 2009 22:21
While I find the English Asterix names translations excellent ("Idefix" to "Dogmatix" is just brilliant, for instance), I can't get used to some Tintin choices.
In particular, I can't swallow professor Calculus (in French Professeur Tournesol, literally Sunflower). In my opinion, Calculus just sound cheaply explicit and too straightforward ("uh, does he do calculations or sumthin, lulz"), while the Sunflower name is precisely the opposite: not related to technology, out of place, bucolic, poetic, and evocating absent-mindedness to some extend.
In fact, "to be in the clouds" (or "in the moon" as the French would put it) is not very different from watching the sun all times. There's some distance and irony that gets lost in translation here.

Thomson and Thompson are great, because they convey the banality of Dupond/Dupont, and the fact they're different, unrelated names.
The Bird brothers make sense, even though the original are (very) slightly more cryptic ("les freres Loiseau" would mean "the Thebird brothers", so maybe a name like "Abird" would have been a bit more efficient, plot-wise).
Snowy I have some light issues with, again because it's too direct (I think some Tibetan monks call Milou something snow-purity-related, but if Tintin already does, it doesn't add much). But, for instance, calling an Egyptologist (originally Philemon Siclone) "Sarcophagus" just drives me nuts.

This trend ruins a bit of the subtelty of Tintin, I think.
But of course, there's a question of habit. What's your opinion, on Tintin character's names ? Do some translations infuriate you, do you judge some as enhancements over the originals ? Is there a character name you have an opinion about ?
greatsnakes
Member
#2 · Posted: 12 Jan 2009 02:37
When I was a kid I always knew that Tintin had French origins, but enjoyed the books and the 90's TV show in English. In that regard, I have always been pretty okay with the name alternatives: they have always seemed natural.

If I had a choice however (ie, if my French was better!) I would definitely prefer to read the books in their original language with original names.
Watching the TV episodes or the movies makes this process much easier - just turn on the English subtitles! That said, I also really like how Captain Haddock is pronounced in the French accent!

I think the translation in general is wonderful, but if I could, I would definitely have stuck with Milou over Snowy. Same with leaving Calculus as Tournesol. (I did not know that Tournesol meant 'Sunflower'! Is there a reason that name was picked?)
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#3 · Posted: 12 Jan 2009 12:14 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
Amilah:
I can't swallow professor Calculus (in french Professeur Tournesol, litterally Sunflower). In my opinion, Calculus just sound cheaply explicit and too straightforward ("uh, does he do calculations or sumthin, lulz"), while the Sunflower name is precisely the opposite : not related to technology, out of place, bucolic, poetic, and evocating absent-mindedness to some extend.

Actually, Tournesol also means "litmus paper", as well as sunflower, so there is some scientific significance to his name. And I must say I rather like the name Cuthbert Calculus. At least we still have the alliteration even if it is C.C., rather than T.T. He might have been called Archibald Blunderbuss, had the English language translators kept the names that Casterman came up with in the original English translation (note the early use of Archibald there!)

In German he's called Beinlein, which means 'little bee'. That's nice, but if Calculus were to be renamed I hope it would be one that had the double meaning of something delicate, yet scientific too.
marsbar
Moderator
#4 · Posted: 12 Jan 2009 12:57
Harrock n roll:
In German he's called Beinlein

Er, actually it's "Bienlein" - remember the "Little Leg Affair"? ;-)
Harrock n roll
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 12 Jan 2009 13:01
marsbar:
Er, actually it's "Bienlein" - remember the "Little Leg Affair"? ;-)

Ah yes, how could I forget that! :-)

Tonight's German homework is to write it out 100 times.
Bienlein, Bienlein, Bienlein, Bienlein...
aysouza
Member
#6 · Posted: 15 Jan 2009 20:55
In portuguese Calculus is called "Professor Girassol" that translates as "Professor Sunflower".
nicbunch1
Member
#7 · Posted: 17 Jan 2009 11:10
Very interesting discussion about professor Tournesol's English name. A collector of old Tintin's, I only have one in English (Rackham) and in there he is indeed Archibald Blunderbuss. Does anyone know how long he stayed with that name and in which other stories he is still called Blunderbuss?
jock123
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 17 Jan 2009 14:04 · Edited by: jock123
Amilah:
freres Loiseau" would mean "the Thebird brothers", so maybe a name like "Abird" would have been a bit more efficient

But highly laboured and contrived for a name (which is what you seem to be protesting against); traditionally, and consistently, cognate names in French and English which take a definite article in French don't do so in English (so "M. le Forestière" in French is "Mr. Forester" in English). Thus "Bird" is perfectly acceptable, un-contrived, and what would be the standard manner in which to do this in the real world...

nicbunch1:
Does anyone know how long he stayed with that name and in which other stories he is still called Blunderbuss?

Just for the two Casterman editions (Red Rackham and Unicorn), of which you have one (a real rarity, by the way). The only other early translation was a serialized Ottokar in The Eagle, in which the redoubtable Calculus does not participate.
cigars of the beeper
Member
#9 · Posted: 17 Jan 2009 15:10
So he used to have the same first name as Haddock?
nicbunch1
Member
#10 · Posted: 17 Jan 2009 16:33
Many thanks for the information. I can understand why Blunderbuss didn't survive although there is something in the name that goes with the Tournesol character. One thing about the language in this translation (I haven't seen the later ones) is that the young public for whom it was destined was definitely Middle Class and well educated. So we have the The Unicorn which was believed to have 'foundered' (simply 'La Licorne, qui coula,' in French) and we have the Sirius 'weighing' anchor ('nous levons l'ancre' in French) and so on.

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