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<   No. 1537   2007-04-12   >

Comic #1537

1 {scene: The Infinite Featureless Plane of Death}
1 Spanish Merchant: ¿Dónde estamos?
1 [subtitle]: Where are we?
1 Death of Being Stabbed By A Cutlass: YE'VE BEEN STABBED BY A CUTLASS.
2 Spanish Merchant: Ah, habla inglés. So then, we are killed?
2 [subtitle]: Ah, English. So then, ...
3 Death of Being Stabbed By A Cutlass: SÍ. HABÉIS SIDO LLEVADOS AL PAÍS DE LOS MUERTOS.
3 [subtitle]: YES. YOU'VE BEEN TAKEN TO THE LAND OF THE DEAD.
4 Spanish Merchant: ¿Y ahora habla castellano?
4 [subtitle]: And now speaking Spanish?
4 Death of Being Stabbed By A Cutlass: I JUST LIKE SAYING PAÍS DE LOS MUERTOS.

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After having been burnt on German, French, and, most recently, Italian, I decided to bite the bullet and enlist the aid of a native Spanish speaker for the translation with this one. The reader who volunteered to help me assures me that this translation work is correct and that if any Spanish speakers e-mail me to complain...

... you can direct them to me. It will be 100% my fault, and I am ready to deal with it! :) As I said, my credentials as a native speaker of European Spanish are impeccable. Unless my parents were hiding something from me for a long time.
I also learnt a few interesting things about Spanish. Such as that in Spanish culture, personifications of Death are traditionally considered to be female. Apparently this has caused some trouble with the translation of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series - which feature Death as a (distinctly male) character - into Spanish. (Not that I'd know anything about Pratchett's work, of course.) So in the early books, such as Mort, Death is referred to using feminine gendered adjectives and articles. This had to change with the translation of Reaper Man into Spanish, since that book unequivocally refers to Death as a male. The Spanish translation therefore contains a footnote to the effect of: "Sorry, we know Death used to be female, and now we're describing him as male. We had to pick one for the earlier books, and we picked wrong."

The other thing I learnt is that the word I used to think of as being Spanish for "Spanish" - español - is not the most common word for the language used by Spanish speakers, and certainly not by European Spanish speakers. European, and most of South American, Spanish speakers tend to refer to the language as castellano. There is a complex geographical, political, and cultural background to the different names for the Spanish language, all of which was unknown to me before researching this strip.

So, all things considered, I'm glad I insisted on a European Spanish speaker for help translating the dialogue in this strip, rather than a North or Central American one. Or even worse, Google Languages.

This is the second time we've seen Death of Being Stabbed By A Cutlass. The first time, he was wearing a traditional black hood, but I figured a tricorn hat was more appropriate. So he changed his choice of headgear.

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Last Modified: Thursday, 12 April 2007; 03:11:03 PST.
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