an opinion about honorific


  • Member

    @paul-nebeling You replied to the wrong person, but sure :P


  • Translators

    @jaquobus said in an opinion about honorific:

    but nobody ever complains that more than 20 different words get translated as “I”.

    And yet this is the one I've been dreading for a month... :confounded:

    999 times out of 1000, pronoun choice isn't load-bearing. But when it is... it is the worst.


  • Premium Member

    I is odd, in that it sometimes has importance - like the 'manga' common boku for females thing, which is supposed to represent tomboy, or ore, or such.

    I think the best I saw is for Rurouni Kenshin. When he starts going from "This one" to "I", you better not be the one who pissed him off.


  • Translators

    @dtta said in an opinion about honorific:

    I think the best I saw is for Rurouni Kenshin. When he starts going from "This one" to "I", you better not be the one who pissed him off.

    This is basically what I think of as "load-bearing." When not having it there takes you from "missing a little personality shorthand" to "missing a story beat." This sort of thing is rare, though. Usually the flattening of any first-person pronoun to "I" doesn't do much damage, and the comparative benefits to natural-sounding dialogue are immeasurable. Generally speaking, you're not risking much by not worrying about it.

    Honorifics being load-bearing is also fairly rare, but it is more frequent than with pronouns. It is, in fact, frequent enough that most translators have learned that if you're going into a series sight unseen, it's more practical to just leave honorifics in, so you don't run the risk of having to scramble to cope with a deathly meaningful honorific drop twenty issues/chapters/episodes later. (Looking at you, Marmalade Boy.) And while leaving honorifics in is a little clunky, they slot neatly into English syntax without much issue. You don't lose a lot by including them.

    So in general, the risk-reward metric tilts against "do something special to render the I pronouns" and in favor of "leave honorifics in" -- unless you have a specific reason not to (genre, audience, knowledge that it won't ever matter, etc).

    Obviously there's more nuance and personal preference to it than this, but think it accounts for why people tend to feel more often that dropping honorifics is "wrong" but pay little mind to the pronouns issue (even though, in Japanese, the function they play is similar).


  • Premium Member

    Yup. I personally lean towards not caring as long as you choose one. Leave them out if you're (generic you) good enough to convey meaning through dialogue or leave them in. The tendency to try to find an English equivalent for a lot of them tends to feel clunky to me. :)



  • I agree. When manga/ln drop honorifics, or westernizes jokes and nicknames etc, I feel like it cuts into the experience of reading it to begin with. By doing so, it dilutes the culture and how the manga was meant to be read and sometimes can even have an effect on the actual story. I rather read "sensei" or "san" and "class 1" apposed to Mr, ms, and period because it's closer to the original culture and the way I enjoy the experience of reading a manga. We should read it how it was meant to be read. Not changing it to make it our own or "easy to relate to". If I wanted to read something I could understand without putting in the appreciation and dedication into understanding, I'd read an American comic book. But I'm not here for batman or spiderman.

    I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It is a normal English novel with honorifics in it, because it contained Japanese people and they wanted to convey how Japanese people interact.
    No translation notes. No explanations. The reader is simply expected to accept that it is how Japanese speak.
    It is always silly that a normal novel can do this, while people run around and think Japanese novels could get problems if they don't remove it.

    I have a limited budget on what I can spend. I want Japanese honorifics and I won’t support something that doesn’t use them. Recently, Yen Press surprised me by not using honorifics in the RE:Zero manga. I didn’t know that until I’d already ordered the first two volumes. I won’t be buying any more. Not only that, but now Yen Press has gone from my “trusted” publisher to “suspect” publisher. I know that their LN translations = trash, but it wasn't a case in manga.

    I'm checking EVERY new series which I'm going to read for TL quality. I would buy original Japanese releases but shipping cost is just way too high.

    “Is it off-putting to new readers who aren’t fluent in Japanese or familiar with Japanese culture?”
    Although anecdotal, I believe the answer to this for most folks is “no.” A friend of mine is a huge Harry Potter fan, and somehow heard of Negima. So she asked me if it was like Harry Potter. I lent her my first few volumes and she was hooked. She not only had no trouble reading “backwards,” but she had no trouble with the use of honorifics. And though she wasn’t into any other manga nor anime, she always referred to Negi as “Negi-chan” whenever the then newest volume of Negima would come out and we’d discuss it.
    I’ve done similar things for other coworkers or folks I know, where I lend them a manga and get them hooked. Since all of the manga I buy contain Japanese honorifics, none have had a problem with the honorifics nor the reading backwards. This also includes all of my nieces and nephews who love it when I have new manga shipped to them. Some have even started learning Japanese because they want to be able to watch anime in Japanese without subtitles.
    Finally, I find it somewhat racist that some folks want to Westernize manga to the point of purging Japanese honorifics (and more). If the source manga uses a Western honorifics, by George that will show up in the adaptation and the anti-honorific crowd think that’s cool.



  • @myskaros I completely agree with this guy, -nya, -nyan and other character-specific speaking style (3rd person etc). It drives me nuts when "Moe will stay by your side, nyan" is "translated" to "I will stay by your side". This is completely D U M B.
    Same goes with usage of simplified Hepburn, like Ryo instead Ryou, Yoko instead Youko, Ryuzoji instead Ryuuzouji. Or trying to adopt names to western ones when original names are clearly written in kanji, like Lilina instead Ririna.


  • Premium Member

    @akogasuki said in an opinion about honorific:

    I read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It is a normal English novel with honorifics in it, because it contained Japanese people and they wanted to convey how Japanese people interact.
    No translation notes. No explanations. The reader is simply expected to accept that it is how Japanese speak.
    It is always silly that a normal novel can do this, while people run around and think Japanese novels could get problems if they don't remove it.

    Doesn't that go both ways though? Many of the J-Novel Club series are isekai (in another world) or tensei (reincarnation) titles with a Western fantasy setting so by this example the context would dictate not using honorifics in something like The Faraway Paladin or Bluesteel Blasphemer.

    I would buy original Japanese releases but shipping cost is just way too high.

    I'm assuming you're okay with digital books since you're here so these links might be useful to you:

    https://bookwalker.jp/
    https://www.amazon.co.jp/Kindle-キンドル-電子書籍/b?ie=UTF8&node=2250738051

    Bookwalker and Amazon JP both have a large selection of digital light novels and manga in Japanese and you can often find good deals there. Certainly a lot cheaper than getting a physical novel shipped to another country. :slight_smile:

    Finally, I find it somewhat racist that some folks want to Westernize manga to the point of purging Japanese honorifics (and more). If the source manga uses a Western honorifics, by George that will show up in the adaptation and the anti-honorific crowd think that’s cool.

    I think you're misunderstanding those who aren't a fan of seeing Japanese honorifics in translations. I don't think anyone is arguing that all honorifics regardless of language should be removed from a story or that Japanese honorifics should be "purged". What we are suggesting is that when we purchase a translation, we prefer to see the original text (in this case Japanese) fully translated into a understandable language (in this case English). This includes the original text's honorifics.

    In my opinion, there is no such thing as an 100% accurate novel translation. In translating a work, no matter what some compromises will need to be made to interpret not only the literal text but the feel/subtext of a work so that someone from a different culture speaking a different language can understand and enjoy it. I dislike factual changes in a story (ex. "Tanaka ate the rice ball" being localised to "John ate the burger") since the original meaning and intent is being lost. However, I am fine with changing honorifics or idioms to an English equivalent if it can better convey the feel the original is going for in English (I would much rather see "fools" than "o-baka-chan-tachi" in a translated work!).

    I hope this makes sense. :slight_smile:

    @akogasuki said in an opinion about honorific:

    @myskaros I completely agree with this guy, -nya, -nyan and other character-specific speaking style (3rd person etc). It drives me nuts when "Moe will stay by your side, nyan" is "translated" to "I will stay by your side". This is completely D U M B.

    I agree that that's a poor translation, but there is a middle ground where the speaking style is reflected in English. I think Infinite Dendrogram is a good example of this kind of speech quirk being dealt with well (it's beary punny).

    Or trying to adopt names to western ones when original names are clearly written in kanji, like Lilina instead Ririna.

    A name written entirely in kanji can actually be intended to be a Western-sounding name (Umineko no Naku Koro ni is a good example) so it's not always as cut-and-dry as it seems.


  • Premium Member

    I'm debating getting some novel novels from Bookwalker in Japanese, and trying Google Translate (screen capture) to read em.

    May as well try to learn some Japanese too while I'm at it, hopefully. Now to try and remember which volume of Sakurako-san to pick up to continue the story. xC


  • Premium Member

    @terrence said in an opinion about honorific:

    I'm debating getting some novel novels from Bookwalker in Japanese, and trying Google Translate (screen capture) to read em.

    May as well try to learn some Japanese too while I'm at it, hopefully. Now to try and remember which volume of Sakurako-san to pick up to continue the story. xC

    If you really want to go down that route, I would get a sample of the book you want to read from Amazon JP and see how you go before actually buying anything. Personally I find Google Translate good for getting a little bit of guidance when I work through translating a sentence myself (with my pitiful Japanese!) but bad as a straight translation tool and I imagine an entirely Google Translated book would be a mess...


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