Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Do Men Want to Be Gynecologists? Why Do Translators Transliterate?

One of my daughters asked the other at the dinner table last night, "Why do men want to be gynecologists?" They giggled, a little (being in mixed company and all). Neither has had to have the experience of being examined by a male gynecologist.

And I wondered how it is that men want to transliterate the Greek word as gyne. One of my Greek professors, a man, a miso-gynist and gyno-phobe perhaps, used to make fun of the very few women in class by using the vocative case on them, to call on them: "Hey, Goooy Nay - What do you say?!" The word is ambiguous, if not vague, and means many things such as "wife" and "woman" and "wombman." To transliterate is to make technical, to reduce a word to sounds, to keep the meanings from being so slippery. A gynecologist is clinical, a scientist, a practitioner of medicine, a person bound by an oath to respect the patient, the subject. He will not, ever, do anything inappropriate if he will also not do much sympathetic if he himself is not a gune. And he is not.

Joel Hoffman, this morning coincidentally, posts on transliteration of transliteration in translation. Makes me think of how Japanese when writing will use kanji (i.e., Chinese-derived characters) for most things (like novels and newspapers) while using hiragana (i.e., one syllabary) to spell out Japanese words, but they use katakana (i.e., a separate syllabary) to transliterate foreign words to keep them separate from pure Japanese words, to mark the sounds of other languages as other. "For example [in an example from wikipedia], America is written アメリカ Amerika (America also has its own kanji (ateji) Amerika (亜米利加) or for short, Beikoku (米国), which literally means 'Rice Country')." Some day, when I have some time, perhaps, I'll post on the implications of the transliterated titles of the books of the Bible. I might do that here at this blog. Maybe, if it gets into LXX stuff and bible sexism more, then I'll just post that over at my other blog. The long and short of the issue of transliteration, I think, is that it's generally a translator's short cut that gives him (or her) a way to sound "original" (or as if he, or she, were speaking the original language). It comes off rather snobbish, and reduces meanings substantially. But we'll have to take time, later, maybe, to talk more about that.


G said...

And then there is Phoebe the deacon(ness) hah, lol

J. K. Gayle said...

Fun and funny comment, Jay! :)