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Babel Stories – The Countdown to WITmas II

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

Only two more weeks until Christmas! Welcome back to these Babel Stories, dearest reader, we are sure you’re dying to know what happened to our translation elves during their brainstorm gathering. So without further ado, let’s dive right into our tale.

The third elf was a shaggy, dusty traveller from Šventaragis' Valley (you may have already heard of this Lithuanian wonderland) who kept a trusty travel log. Her journal was full of maps and sketches, where she would chronicle every adventure, draw every landscape, and portray every encounter, to capture every minute detail of her experience for others to live vicariously through her travels.

Several months earlier, as she was crossing the Baltic swamps in the icy-cold winter of her motherland, her muddy steps brought her to quite an unconventional village. Shelter of mystical creatures, the fens were swarming with goblins, hobbits and humans. The latter differed from the elves only in language; they spoke quite the same, but with a very strong accent and an awful lot of slang. This bizarre speech wasn’t that unfamiliar to our accustomed traveller who could make it out if she bowed and squinted. But for the average Babelist, she would have to find a way to transform Lithuanian slang into an intelligible vernacular discourse to complete her journal in a language that wasn’t hers and provide it with a pinch of vulgarity. The other elves recommended the crudest works they could muster. Armed with swear words, dialects and other inventive insults, our traveller got what she needed to write an authentic ending to her stirring tales.

Then came the turn of a desperate title-less poet; he finished translating a whole collection of poetry written in ancient runes and was very satisfied with the result – as a matter of fact, he considered it to be the masterpiece of a lifetime. But he couldn’t come up with a satisfying enough title, which involved an ingenious play on words that was simply impossible to render. Had it been hidden within a poem, maybe he would have reluctantly opted for a simpler alternative, but in plain sight in the title? How could he bear such sloppiness in what could be the most important part of his work? Fortunately, the skilful traveller came up with a proposition so imaginative it had the elves gasping loudly enough to blow the poet off his stool.

Help was provided to the three other elves – a betrayed ghost-writer thirsty for self-esteem, a craving Gallic apprentice and a very boisterous conqueror. As the sun set, shedding its peach-coloured light on the tower’s walls, the opacity of the multilingual Babel seemed to dwindle, for its people were brought closer through the efforts of our relentless translators.

As for you, dearest reader, how would you like to share your thoughts on our heroes’ hurdles? Perhaps a similar experience?

In the meantime, see you next week for our last advent story!

By Elise Haja, WIT Project Manager


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