Chapter 3: The Knight Bus

Simplified Chinese (Mandarin: China)
Qíshì gōnggòng-qìchē
骑士 qíshì = 'knight'.
公共汽车 gōnggòng-qìchē = 'public car' = 'bus'.
The knight bus
Traditional Chinese (Mandarin: Taiwan)
Qíshì gōngchē
騎士 qíshì = 'knight'.
公車 gōngchē = 'public car' = 'bus'
The Knight Bus
Yoru no kishi basu / Naito basu
yoru = 'night'.
no = connecting particle
騎士 kishi = 'knight'.
バス basu = 'bus'.
ナイト naito = 'nite' (could be 'night' or 'knight').
The Knight of the Night Bus / The Nite Bus
구조 버스
Gujo beoseu
구조 (救助) gujo = 'rescue, help'.
버스 beoseu = bus.
The Rescue Bus
Vietnamese (Chinese characters show etymology)
Chuyến xe đò Hiệp sĩ chuyến = 'journey'.
xe đò = 'bus'.
hiệp sĩ (俠士) = 'knight'.
The Journey by Knight Bus
Mongolian (new)
Хүлэг баатрын автобус
khüleg baatriin avtobus
хүлэг баатар khüleg baatar 'mount hero' (хүлэг khüleg = 'mount, horse') (-ийн -iin Genitive form).
автобус avtobus = 'autobus'.
The Knight Bus

When Harry finds himself stranded a few streets away from Privet Drive, he unconsciously summons the Knight Bus, 'emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard'.

Let us start with the words 'knight' and 'bus'.

How is 'knight' translated?

'Knight' is a historical term associated with the European Middle Ages. The knight was a mounted warrior, a member of the lower nobility, who served his lord as a vassal. Knights became associated with the code of chivalry, involving respect for the church, protection of the poor and the weak, loyalty to feudal or military superiors, and preservation of personal honour.

How is 'bus' translated?

A bus is a road vehicle designed to carry many passengers. The term is derived from 'omnibus', historically a pun from the 1820s in France. A businessman near Nantes called Stanislas Baudry set up a transport service from the city centre to his spa in 1823. A hat shop en route owned by a Mr Omnés displayed a large sign inscribed "Omnes Omnibus" (Omnés + omnibus, Latin for 'for all'). The nickname 'omnibus' stuck to the bus service. Baudrey set up a bus service in Paris in 1828 and a similar service was introduced to London the following year. By 1833 the British had already shortened the name to 'bus'. Originally buses were either horse-drawn or (later) powered by steam. Buses powered by the internal combustion engine appeared at the end of the 19th century and came to be known as 'autobuses'. The term 'bus', along with its derivatives, was adopted all over Europe and soon spread to the rest of the world. (See Wikipedia.)

How is the pun 'Knight Bus' translated?

The name of the Knight Bus contains an interesting pun. When spoken, it sounds like 'night bus' —— a bus that runs at night. But the spelling is 'knight bus' —— suggesting a knight in shining armour coming to the rescue of stranded wizards. How is this virtually untranslatable pun handled by the translators?

One approach is to ignore the pun and just translate the name as 'knight bus'. This is what the Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian translators have done.

Another is to completely ignore the word 'knight' which is the approach adopted by the Korean translator, who uses the term 구조 버스 gujo beoseu 'rescue bus'.

The Japanese translator comes up with a slightly forced but ingenious solution. Japanese writing has a peculiar device known as furigana or rubi. This involves placing small phonetic lettering (katakana or hiragana) above the text to indicate how it should be pronounced. This is useful for showing the pronunciation of difficult characters. It's also commonly found in children's books to help young readers. In fact, furigana is used throughout the Japanese translation of Harry Potter.

But furigana has another, more interesting use. Rather than giving the normally expected pronunciation, furigana can be used to give ordinary words a completely unexpected pronunciation. Sometimes this might involve giving a special twist to ordinary words. Often it involves giving the English equivalent of a Japanese word.

This particular use of furigana is quite common in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'. It's used in no less than six chapter titles to give the English pronunciation of words like 'firebolt' and 'dementor'. (See Chapter 5, Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 15, Chapter 20)

In this case, the translator uses furigana (or rubi) to explain the knight/night pun. The furigana is ナイト naito ('nite'), which could be either 'night' or 'knight'. The furigana ナイト naito spans the entire phrase 夜の騎士 yoru no kishi, 'knight of the night', making it clear that both are meant. This pun works in Japanese because virtually all Japanese know that ナイト naito means 'night', and quite a few also know that it means 'knight' (both are listed in Japanese dictionaries as loanwords from English).

The translator should be congratulated for coming up with such an ingenious way to render this difficult pun! (For a slightly more detailed explanation, please see Word Play: 'The Knight Bus').

(Korean appears thanks to "Hiro".)

(Detailed notes on the chapter can be found at Harry Potter Lexicon)

Chapter 2
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