Chapter 3: The Letters from No One
|Simplified Chinese (Mandarin: China)|
māotóuyīng = 'owl'.
传 chuán = 'transmit' or 'pass on'.
书 shū = 'book' or 'letter'.
|Traditional Chinese (Mandarin: Taiwan)|
Cóng tiān ér jiàng de xìnhán
cóng = 'from'.
天 tiān = 'heaven/sky'.
而 ér a literary grammatical particle roughly meaning 'and'
降 jiàng = 'descend'.
的 de = connecting particle
信函 xìnhán = formal word for 'letter'.
|Letter(s) Coming Down from the Sky = Unexpected Letter(s)|
Shiranai hito kara no tegami
| 知らない shiranai = 'not know' (shiru = 'to know').
人から hito kara = 'person' + 'from' = 'from a person'.
の no = connecting particle
手紙 tegami = 'letter'.
|Letter(s) from an Unknown Person|
|이상하다 (異常) isang-han = 'strange, odd, abnormal, unusual'.
편지 pyeonji (便紙 / 片紙) = 'letter' (들 -deul Plural).
|The Strange Letters|
|Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)|
|Những lá thư không xuất xứ||những = plural marker for thư('letter').
lá = counter for letters, etc.
thư (書) = 'letter'.
không = 'not/no'.
xuất xứ (出處) = 'source'.
|Letters With no Source|
|эзэн ezen = 'owner'.
эзэнгүй ezengüi = 'ownerless'.
захиа zakhia = 'letter'.
|нууцлаг nuutslag = 'secret, mysterious'.
захидал zakhidal = 'letter' (Plural form захидлууд zakhidluud.)
'Letters from No One', believe it or not, can be difficult to translate into foreign languages. In English, if you say 'I got letters from no one' it usually means 'I got no letters'. But in this chapter, 'letters from no one' is a witty way of saying that the letters came from somewhere unknown. Translators have come up with ingenious ways of saying this.
How is 'from no one' translated?
- The Japanese version refers to letters from an 'unknown person' (知らない人 shiranai hito).
- The Vietnamese version refers to letters with no source (không xuất xứ). (Note: The page headers in the Vietnamese version give the slightly different title of Những bức thư không xuất xứ, where bức is an
alternative to lá as a counter/classifier for letters.)
- The old Mongolian translation uses эзэнгүй ezengüi meaning 'ownerless', that is, the letters belong to no one.
- The Chinese (Taiwan) version adopts a more literate approach, using the set expression 從天而降 cóng tiān ér jiàng, 'come down
from the sky', which refers to something that occurs suddenly, unexpectedly, or with no apparent cause.
(The 而 ér in 從天而降 cóng tiān ér jiàng means something like 'and' but here acts as a kind of filler to create a four-character expression.)
- Two translators use expressions meaning 'strange' or 'mysterious'. The Korean translation uses 이상 (異常) isang meaning 'strange, odd, weird, abnormal; unusual, uncommon'.
The new Mongolian translation uses нууцлаг nuutslag 'mysterious'.
- The Mainland Chinese version adopts the totally innovative approach of calling them 猫头鹰传书 māotóuyīng chuánshū ('owl messages'). This is modelled on the concept of 'carrier pigeons', known (among things) as 传书鸽 chuánshū-gē 'transmit letter pigeon'.
How is 'letters' translated?
The word 'letter' in English is related to the word 'letter', that is, 'a letter of the alphabet'. In several languages (including, of course, Chinese itself) words for 'letter' are etymologically related to Chinese. Japanese and Mongolian use native expressions.
- The modern Chinese word for 'letter' is 信 xìn. The Chinese (Taiwan) translation uses the more formal term 信函 xìnhán. As a verb, 信 xìn means 'to believe'. Used in combination with other morphemes, 信 xìn has an even broader range of meanings, from 'belief' to 'signal' to 'information'.
- Vietnamese uses thư, from 書 (Ch. shū) meaning 'something written' or 'to write'. In Chinese this is now more narrowly used to mean 'book'.
- Korean uses 편지 pyeonji, in Chinese characters 便紙 (also 片紙). The word appears to be based on Japanese usage, where 便 bin has the meaning 'mail, courier service, letter'. 지 ji (紙) means 'paper'.
(In Chinese 便紙 biànzhǐ could be interpreted as 'toilet paper' based on other meanings of 便 biàn relating to 'convenience' and 'excretory functions'. However, Korean now makes minimal use of Chinese characters in writing and most Chinese will be oblivious to this interpretation.)
- Japanese uses the word 手紙 tegami, literally 'hand-paper', which is based on the native morphemes 手 te 'hand' and 紙 kami 'paper'. This character combination also has unfortunate associations in Chinese, where 手紙 'hand paper' is pronounced shǒuzhǐ and straightforwardly means 'toilet paper'. This leads Chinese to joke that the Japanese word for 'letter' means 'toilet paper'.
- Mongolian, like Japanese, uses native terms for 'letter'. Both захиа zakhia and захидал zakhidal are related to the verb захих zakhikh 'entrust (someone to carry)'.
Some translators pluralise 'letter', as in English; others do not.
- Vietnamese, Korean, and the new Mongolian translation add plural markers. Unlike English, such markers are optional, not obligatory.
- The Chinese (Taiwan), Japanese, and older Mongolian translations do not add markers. For Chinese and Japanese this is the norm.
(Korean appears thanks to "Hiro".)
(Detailed notes on the chapter can be found at Harry Potter Lexicon)
|⇚ Chapter 2|