Linguistic

This category is possibly the one which raises the most issues in terms of the translator’s engagement with the source text and its rendition in the translation. Under the linguistic typology, I include all instances of humor achieved through a reliance on language itself, although this by no means excludes multimodal sign-play. Its subcategories are: language varieties, including regional dialects and national varieties, and language deviations, or use of incorrect grammar, syntax, and spelling.2 In terms of overall strategies for linguistic humor, therefore, I suggest two general alternatives: adaptation, when there is an English equivalent for the source text’s device and compensation, when there is not. In the case of language varieties and deviations, both solutions can be achieved through either grammatical or syntactic representation.

Political (In)Correctness

Under the category of political (in)correctness, I include all instances of sex jokes, bad taste, and politically incorrect and scatological humor. This category, in fact, may present the translator with even more complications than the previous one. The difference lies in the fact that while linguistic issues are tied to the conventions of language and can eventually be compensated for or, in extreme cases, omitted, politically incorrect humor is highly cultural.

Rat-Man is the only series which employs this type of humor. To omit it in order to adhere to English standards may remove one of its defining features, resulting in its translation being, in my opinion, pointless.

In fact, the series itself, at times, refers to this issue. In a Lord of the Rats scene, Granbrakko3 is commenting on the world changing: he must now be called “afroamericanomante” (a play on words, lit. “african-american mancer”) because “negromante” (“necromancer,” which in Italian contains the word “negro,” the equivalent of the derogatory English term “nigger”) is no longer acceptable. The humor is due to the exaggeration of having to consider all words even vaguely related to the non-acceptable ones as also non-acceptable. A translator should consider this typology of humor to be non-offensive, as a closer reading of the text reveals that the butt or target of the joke is almost exclusively a main character, who defining traits including being a maladapted and incompetent member of society. In this sense, the sexual humor too is, in fact, a critique of him and the ideals he embodies. So, with this in mind, I would suggest the following as a translation of the “necromancer” scene:

Panel 1 The world is changing, [Sedobren Gocce]... people now call me “[Granbrakko] the African-American Magician!”

Panel 2 “African-American Magician?” “We can’t say ‘Black Magician’ anymore.”

The adaptation strategy used here, using the same type of political hyper-correctness, actually seems to add to the original, due to the character being the one to say it, and to the even more exaggerated prohibition of using the word “black.” Speaking in more general terms, adaptation appears to be the best overall solution, thanks to the difference in “acceptability” between the two languages.

 
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