Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Broom Compass


Simplified Chinese (China) 扫帚指南针
Sàozhou zhǐnán-zhēn
扫帚 sàozhou = 'broom'.
指南针 zhǐnán-zhēn = 'point-south needle' = 'compass'.
Broom compass
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)

Sàozhou zhǐnán-zhēn

掃帚 sàozhou = 'broom'.
指南針 zhǐnán-zhēn = 'point-south needle' = 'compass'.
Broom compass
Japanese 箒用羅針盤
Hōki-yō rashinban
hōki = 'broom'.
-yō (suffix) = 'use (noun)'.
羅針盤 rashin-ban = 'compass'.
Broom-use compass (i.e., compass for broom use)
Vietnamese la bán chổi bay
la bán (羅盤) = 'compass'.
chổ̉i bay = 'broom fly' = 'flying broom'.
Flying-broom compass
(Where a Vietnamese word has been borrowed from Chinese, the original Chinese character is shown in parentheses.)

This was a present Harry received for his birthday.

The relationship between 'broom' and 'compass'

'Broom Compass' is composed of two simple words: 'broom' and 'compass'. There is nothing to tell you how brooms and compasses might be related. Obviously a Boom Compass is not going to be analagous to a Broom Closet (a place for putting brooms in), but there are plenty of other possibilities:

  • A compass made of a broom -- with a broom or brush as the needle or main component.
  • A compass shaped like a broom (hard to imagine!)
  • A compass used for detecting brooms (like a divining rod or geiger counter devoted specifically to finding brooms).
  • A compass that acts like a broom, e.g., 'sweeping' the horizon like a broom until it finds its bearings.

None of these is right, of course: a Broom Compass is a compass used as a navigation device by someone riding a flying broom, presumably attached to the broom. We know this because brooms in Harry Potter are generally used for flying, not for sweeping. Flying a broom requires some navigational help, which is where a Broom Compass comes in handy.

Looking at the translations, we find that the two Chinese versions follow the English, literally 'broom + compass'. Presumably the translators assumed that readers would understand what a 掃帚指南針 / 扫帚指南针 sàozhou zhǐnán-zhēn is likely to be.

The Vietnamese translator uses a similar construction, la bàn chổi bay ('flying broom compass'). Being more specific about the type of broom involved -- a chổi bay or 'flying broom' -- it is easier to guess what a Broom Compass might be used for.

The Japanese translator adds the suffix -yō, which is commonly used to indicate in a very broad sense the use to which something is put. That is, the compass is used with, by, or for brooms. This rules out some of the possible meanings, such as a compass made of or shaped like a broom. If the Broom Compass had the characteristics or shape of a broom, it would be called a 箒型羅針盤 hōki-gata rashinban 'broom-style compass', where -kata means 'style' or 'shape'. In fact, Japanese prefers this kind of suffix ( -yō or -kata) to straightforward but vague constructions like 箒羅針盤 hōki rashinban 'broom compass', which seem bare and incomplete.

The compass

The Chinese invented the compass long ago. It was one of their great contributions to civilisation. The word for 'compass' is thus not a borrowing from English or other Western languages. A compass in Chinese is traditionally considered to be point south, hence the name 指南針 zhǐnán-zhēn 'point-south needle'.

Apart from 指南針 zhǐnán-zhēn, Chinese also has the term 羅盤 luópán (罗盘), which was borrowed into Vietnamese as la bàn and into Japanese as the variant form 羅針盤 rashin-ban.

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