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Translating geographical or other names


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Currently I'm trying to translate some descriptions about Glorantha into German (which is my native language). One of the thinks, I like with Glorantha, are the 'speaking' names, i.e. names, which tell you something about the place or the person immediately.

As I'm running my fresh HeroQuest campaign in German, I would like to translate this kind of names to German too, for transferring this 'speaking name' effect.

For this I have to understand the meaning of the name, so that I can find a appropriate translation. In most cases these meanings are quite obvious:

  • Boldhome = the home of the bold and daring
  • Furthest = the furthest (place) that the Lunar Empire would ever go (from the description in HeroQuest Glorantha)
  • The Spike = Mostal loved tools, and so called the place the Spike because it was the thing which nailed together all of reality and held it in place.
  • Starbrow = a star on the forehead (supported by several pictures)

Sometime it's not so obvious, but still manageable:

  • Wideread = someone, who has read a lot

And sometimes no translation is needed at all, e.g. Pavis, Kero Fin, Kallyr, Orlanth, Fazzur

But lately I'm running into names, where I'm not able to make that decision, because I do not know, if there was an intention for that name. Current examples:

  • Dunstop. Just a name? Or a combination of kind of a colour (Dun) and stop or top?
  • The Paps. Just a name? Or a name describing breasts or even nipples? We're talking about the Deep Womb, so the name may be have such a kind of an intentional meaning?
  • Pimper's Block. Pimper is just a name? Or is there some meaningful relation to pimp?

You get the idea ...

I would like to use this thread to ask this kind of question every time I'm running into such issues.

So let's start with Dunstop, The Paps and Pimper's Block ...

Edited by Oracle
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29 minutes ago, Oracle said:

So let's start with Dunstop and The Paps ...

The Paps, as you assume, is derived from the breasts of the goddess, and is the site of the Deep Womb of Eiritha. Dunstop is more problematical; there are references to it being founded by a chieftain named Dun, as his 'stop', trading place, on Kordros Island, so it might be better treated as a proper name.

Edited by M Helsdon
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Personally I don't think that translating the place names should be translated. Living near a border region, I always wondered why P

Sorry to the anglophones, but I'll give German translations I have seen in use before.

Boldhome: Kühnheim

Furthest: Weitest

The Spike: hasn't received an official translation yet. "Der Nagel" (the nail), "der Dorn" (the thorn) or "die Nadel" (the needle) might be appropriate if you think of the office tool spike to keep leaflets in place - that's what the Spike did to the various phases of Creation, stacked one atop the other (until Storm broke the sequence). "Der Bolzen" (the bolt) would be the screw keeping the World Machine together, but doesn't take the shape of the mountain into account.

Starbrow: Sternenstirn

Wideread: I seem to recall "der Vielbelesene"

Dunstop could be the adjective dun (German: matt, dunkel, graubraun) plus stop (German Halt as in river port or station). The city sits on Kordros Island on one of the two branches of the upper Oslir River, so I wouldn't associate it with a hilltop (as in Dun's Top). The dun bit could also be to dun (someone) - German "mahnen" - to admonish, exhort, urge, remind (someone).

Paps: der Euter (the udder), maby der Busen (the bosom/tits) if you prefer a less cowish Eiritha.

Pimper was the family name of one of Greg's playtesters/friends who got immortalized in the oasis names in Prax, IIRC. There are few oases on the Nomad Gods map that did not have this background. (Come to think of it, Dunstop may have had a similar origin, although I don't recall reading any similar name in the playtesting credits.)

Edited by Joerg
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8 minutes ago, M Helsdon said:

The Paps, as you assume, is derived from the breasts of the goddess, and is the site of the Deep Womb of Eiritha.

Given the placement of the Paps on the Eiritha Hills, they may be an entrance to the Deep Womb, but the womb would be situated further east. And the normal birth exit would be situated further north on the hills. The Paps is where Eiritha's nourishing fertility flows out, creating the Sacred Place with year-round fertile ground.

Unlike the namesake hill tops in Ireland (which are breast shaped), I think that here we have the beast mother anatomy. Maybe not the exaggerated udder of a Holstein cow, but if the hills bear any similarity to a herd beast outline, there would be several tits extending westward from a rounded hill in the angle between the hind leg hills and the belly hills. rather than a single cairn on top of each of a pair of rounded hills (as visited somewhere in Sartar in Jeff's improvised HQ Glorantha game at Chimeriades 2014). (But then the intrepid party of adolescent shepherds visitied those in search for the spirit women of the hilltops...)

8 minutes ago, M Helsdon said:

Dunstop is more problematical; there are references to it being founded by a chieftain named Dun, as his 'stop', trading place, on Kordros Island, so it might be better treated as a proper name.

That claim is from Dragon Pass - Land of Thunder, which was a collection of fan-submitted descriptions for places on the Dragon Pass map - not all of which have made it unchanged into the Guide (where applicable). The function as a trading place comes with its location.

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I have also had doubts when translating names for my Gloranthan campaign (in Spanish).

In my case, I translated Pimper's Block as "Pedestal del Esclavo" (Slave Pedestal/Platform), because it made more sense to me, as it is basically the oasis where slaves are sold and bought.

How do you understand the nickname "Beatpot" by the way. Does it mean "beaten pot"?

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I'm not sure that it is a good idea to translate. As not all sources will be translated (in German, Spanish or French), then you will have difficulties using all sources.

 

It took me a while to find Applelane, when I was using 'Sentir de la Pomme' for many year. (and it was the easy one. I don't even remember how they translated 'Furthest').

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8 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Actually we regularly do translate people's names. You know Karl der Gross as Charlemagne, for example. 

Good point. But that's a historical thing, as is the practice of translation of place names. I don't think we do that any more, do we? Although sometimes transliteration from other alphabets mean that there are alternative versions of the same name, i.e. different transliterations.

I don't think we translate names in the modern age, do we?

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13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Last I checked, Köln, München, and Sachsen are normally translated into English as Cologne, Munich, and Saxony.

I don't think I put my point over very well. What I meant is that these place names were translated a lot time ago, and we've just carried on using those translations. As new places in the world come into prominence, for whatever reason, I don't believe that we translate them any more, unless again it's a transliteration issue with resulting ambiguity. Of course it's not just the English that do it, in France they refer to Londres, etc.

 

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Steve: "I've never understood why anyone would translate place names in the real world - we don't translate people's names, do we? And that applies to fantasy worlds for me too."

I would agree with names in the game's languages, like a sartarite version of Apple Lane (how do the locals say ?). But when a name has been "translated" into English, it could be in any other Real Word language as well. And as Oracle said, these names have meanings which act more strongly when heard in your mother tongue. But it is after all only a matter of taste.

Edited by Zit
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23 hours ago, Manu said:

I'm not sure that it is a good idea to translate. As not all sources will be translated (in German, Spanish or French), then you will have difficulties using all sources.

 

It took me a while to find Applelane, when I was using 'Sentir de la Pomme' for many year. (and it was the easy one. I don't even remember how they translated 'Furthest').

Indeed translating the names has some consequences. The obvious example are the maps provided with all these great Glorantha related publications. On these maps all names are printed in  their English versions. Of course you can try to modify these maps too, but this is quite a challenge (I've tried already for one or two maps) and needs much more effort than just find a translation for a name ...

So I understand, that you can see translating the names as a questionable approach at least.

But I'm mainly interested to create a good story through a game session and this involves creating the right flair and atmosphere. And using translated names adds a lot to that.

Another point is, that there already exist German versions of several Glorantha based publications (e.g. Apple Lane, Glorantha - Introduction to the HeroWars), which use the same approach (i.e. translating 'speaking' names into a German version of that name), so I'm just following an existing tradition :).

And if my players really want to dive into existing Glorantha material not yet translated ;), I will provide them happily with a glossary giving them the original names.

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I remember the French version of Nomad Gods, which was very good, but the French names for counters could be quite confusing. I see towns and names as being language-independent, personally. If something is called Muse Roost does that mean that it's function if the roost of a muse? Probably not, so why translate it? Dragon's Eye or the Crater maybe, but not Nochet.

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There is another issue here: transliteration of sounds that come out wrongly if taken directly.

Nochet is a typical case: the German transliteration is "Notschet", as the ch sound is pronounced as in "loch" in German.

Taking this to an extreme, we might get the ruling storm god "Orlänf" in the world of "Gloränfä"...

Some sounds like the "th" don't have equivalents in civilized languages, either, or are spelled "c" (followed by an "i" or "e") as in Spanish. Getting the "wh" and "r" right is another issue, as are sharp "s" sounds.

Edited by Joerg
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What I learned through this thread is, that having a veerryyy long history with Glorantha and all the available long out-of-print publications does help to understand certain names a lot. (I've never considered Nochet to be a name, which could be translated :) - and even now I will handle it that way.)

But although being aware of the difficulties of translation here is my next question anyway:

Bagnot = do not bag this town, i.,e. do not ransack this town?

(remember: I try to understand the meaning of certain names. I'm not looking for translations ...)

Edited by Oracle
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Unfortunately, I am fairly sure that some place names have no clever story behind them. Some names got created out of thin air just to help fill the map.

Some have a back story, like Nochet, as stated above. Somebody asked Greg if the big coastal city had a name and Greg did reply "Not yet", which the listener heard a little differently, and thus wrote down "Nochet". For every Corflu (named after "white-out", aka "tippex", aka "correction fluid", some names don't have a big story, like "Barbarian Town".

The "what's the story behind the name" question, mainly just applies to the two page William Church map published in the RuneQuest 2 rulebook. Because I need a break from the RQ Classic Kickstarter, here's a rundown of some place names I know the story behind:

Cam's Well: Named after Greg's first wife, Cam.
Day's Rest: named after Gene Day, artist
Dunstop: named after Bill Dunn, playtester
Hender's Ruins: named after Steve Henderson, RQ1 author.
Pimper's Block: named after Jeff Pimper, All the World's Monsters author, and play tester.
Bigglestone: named after Clint Bigglestone, RQ1 author/playtester.
Tada's High Tumulus: named after Tadashi Ehara, early Chaosium employee.
Swenstown: names after Steve Swenston
Rich Post: named after Richard Barnhart, play tester
Hendrikei: named after Hendrik Pfeiffer
Wilm's Church: named after William Church, artist
Duck Point: compromise for Duckburg request
Jonstown: named after John Sapienza, play tester, character sheet designer
Tourney Altar: named after one of the Turney brothers, authors.

 

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