miércoles, 4 de enero de 2012

Go to Sleep of a Prostitute Time

Recently in Jose Antonio Millán's great but sporadic blog El Candidato Melancólico, up came the curious subject of the children's book Go The Fuck To Sleep.

I found Millán's analysis a lovely introduction to that most bizarre of linguistic habits, taboo language. I've taken the liberty of translating an extract here. [Spanish speakers can read the original post here.]

Go The Fuck To Sleep is published in Spain as Duérmete Ya, ¡Joder! (Mondadori) although more literally it would be Duérmete de Una Puta Vez.
This kind of swearing shows two interesting features: Firstly these elements are superfluous, at least to the simple meaning of the sentences. (Of course, they add an expressive and pejorative charge). Secondly, they have lost their literal meaning: We can't say Go the Copulation to Sleep, or  Go to Sleep Of A Prostitute Time.

Millán also remarks how the Spanish translation for the Latin American market is Duermete, ¡Carajo! Is carajo less offensive in American Spanish than Iberian Spanish, he wonders. (Carajo is yet another name for the dangling trouser bishop.)

Millán goes on to list a few other translations of the title. Here I've translated his list literally back to English. See if you can identify the languages and reconstruct the original foreign-language titles. Full points wins a chicken curry at my house.

Do this prick of a sleep.

Bollocks, go to sleep.

Damn shit, sleep one.

Sleep and don't shit!

Go to sleep, fuck you.

Cheats will find the answers on Millán's original blog post - link above.

 *!&#*!&#*!& #*!&#*!&#*!&#*!&#*! &#*!&#*!&#*!& #*!&#*!&#*!& #*!&#*!&#* !&#*!&#*! &#*!&#*!&#

Dealing with taboo language in class has a multitude of pitfalls:-

Do we allow it in the first place? Is it an inevitable part of communication? Can we teach it? Should we? If so, how? Is it approachable through dogme? Does it depend on whether each individual teacher uses taboo language in their own speech, or is that imposing our own linguistic identity on others? Will we get into trouble from our DoS or parents? Is its use just too complex inguistically or socially? Etc, etc, etc.

What do you think?

I'm going to copulate off now and prepare some lessons.

4 comentarios:

  1. I did some teaching of taboo language once - only once. Description here

    1. Lovely! You always seem able to get into surreal situations, Steve. It's a knack I suppose.

  2. Hi Alan,
    When I am not in a classroom I swear fairly regularly, although generally only to show strong emotion (anger/amazement etc) - I don't think I swear gratuitously. Inside the classroom I use natural language as far as possible, but this doesn't generally involve swear words unless my students swear.
    In the FCE class which I have just taught for three months I got to know the students really well. After only a couple of weeks, one of their catchphrases (which they brought into class - nothing to do with me!) involved the word 'fuck' - while I'm writing this I can't think what it was any more! The important thing was that it was grammatically wrong, so I corrected them. In their class, my language was completely natural, and I swore at all of the times when I would outside the classroom, with no inhibitions. They seemed to appreciate this, and we ended up discussing the correct use of swear words a few times. We even looked at 'word formation' for fuck :) They were all young, and swearing was part of their language, in their L1s too. If they learnt nothing else from that class, they can all swear in four different languages effectively now! (I did try to encourage them to swear in English instead of their L1s...)
    However, this is not something I would automatically do with new students. You really have to know the class and know what they find appropriate. For me, it's a case of waiting for the students to bring it up instead of forcing it on them.
    Thanks very much for bringing this topic up, and the translation side of it is fascinating too.

  3. I know what you mean about the temptation to use or teach taboo language, Sandy. I'm constantly in two minds about it. At times NOT teaching it seems like Canute trying to hold back the tide.

    Yes, I too love the bizarreness of the constructions of taboo language. It really is a uniquely mad little corner of language. And I bet it reveals a lot about us. Will have to go and read some sociolinguistics now.