Valueva Julia Nikolaevna1, Lazarev Vladimir Alexandrovich2
1Southern Federal University, bachelor, 4th year student
2Southern Federal University, doctor of Philology, Professor of the Department of translation and information technology in linguistics

Sometimes people face difficulties connected with the right choice of words when translating allusive and proper names. Also it is not uncommon when allusive and proper names have homonymous.

Keywords: allusion, allusive names, cultural-linguistic approach, homonymous realities, homonyms, nicknames, proper names, translational approach

Category: Linguistics

Article reference:
Nicknames and allusive names as homonymous realities (cultural -linguistic and translational approaches) // Humanities scientific researches. 2015. № 12 [Electronic journal]. URL:

View this article in Russian

Translation activity is a unique phenomenon, it allows people from different cultures to perceive the world uniformly. Translation is not so easy on its own but especially when you deal with allusive or homonymous names. Sometimes, in the course of work, a translator faces difficulties in the translation of nicknames and allusive names. Creativity in the transmission of proper names begins when the translator faces the so-called semantic (meaningful, meaningful, “speaking”, the nominative-characteristic) names and nicknames. Then there is the translation problem associated with the analysis of the nature and functions of meaningful names in the text and method of their transfer in the course of translation. [1]

According to the various linguistic dictionaries, the noun “allusion” has many different meanings, but we will consider the most appropriate one taken from the “Dictionary of linguistic terms”:  allusion (derived from the French) is a type of intertextual inclusions, which produces stylistic and pragmatic effects on the addressee, and refers to specific literary, cultural and historical facts. In turn, “Allusive proper names are “contiuum” onomastic units, which had an intermediate position in opposition to a proper name – a common name”. [2]

The nickname is considered to be a certain type of anthroponym; an additional name given to a man by the others in accordance with his traits of character, some particular events of his life etc. [3]

The interpreter and writer Komovnikova N.E. thinks that mostly allusive proper names (APN) include the names of literary characters, the names of politicians, historical figures, cultural events. Whereas the main goal of the APN is encouraging the reader to form associations based on background knowledge and worldview, and the correlation of these associations to the context in which APN is used. In other words APN make the work more complete, expressive and deep. [4]

The most widely used classification of APN in linguistics is considered to be the classification by M. D. Tuharelli. It allows us to subdivide the APN into the following groups [5]:

1. APN – personal names – proper names of people and historical figures. As an example, professor Tuharelli chose the following abstract from the book “The Eyre affair” written by J.Eforde: “My Uncle Mycroft was giving a lecture at Bradford University on his remarkable mathematical work regarding game theory”.[6]

2. APN-zoonyms –  animal names encountered in the literature. An example used by professor Tuharelli: “Pickwick stared back forlornly, as he, in common with most pets, didn’t fancy the vet much”. [7]

3. APN – Ktematonims – names of literary works, to which the author refers. An example used by professor Tuharelli:: “It was not the first time the Martin Chuzzlewit manuscript had been purloined”. [6]

4. APN – geographic names. An example used by professor Tuharelli: “He was shot by a French sniper in the Battle of Waterloo”. [8]

5. APN – theonomies – mythological and biblical names, the names of the gods. An example used by professor Tuharelli: “My name is Hades, Acheron Hades. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?” [6]

6. APN – cosmonims – the names of the planets and stars. An example used by professor Tuharelli: “The moon is so bright tonight!” [8]

The researcher Anke Schröder believes that the novel “Soul music” written by Terry Pratchett is rich in homonymous allusive and proper names. According to her opinion, the names occurring in the novel, no matter if character’s names, place names or titles, bear a certain amount of allusions, references or puns.  Therefore they are an important feature of the whole novel, but represent great difficulties to the translator, as he has to judge in every single case whether to translate or to adopt a name. [9]

The title by itself is of a certain difficulty to the translator because it conveys polysemy to some extent.  On the one hand, it hints at one of the main story lines of the novel, namely that music took over the part of being the soul of one of the main protagonists and on the other hand is the name of a certain genre of music, namely Soul. [9]

According to the study undertaken by Anke Schröder, Terry Pratchett established certain rules for the name-coinage of his characters, for instance the use of mineral names or other names coined out of the wordfield ‘stone’ for trolls, such as Chrysoprase and Asphalt and the use of family-relationships for the last name of dwarfs, for instance Glod Glodson and Snori Snoriscousin. In order to create allusive or punning names he uses for the most part homophones, homographs and specific denotations. These are of course for the most part rarely translatable because of the lack of similar relationships and wordfields in two different languages. Still it is questionable whether names should be translated at all. [9]

As an example Anke Schröder considers the name of the novel’s central character Imp Y Celyn, which causes several problems to the translator: Imp himself explains that his name is the term for ‘bud of the holly’, a fact from which he develops his nickname Buddy Holly, an allusion to the famous Rock’n'Roll singer of our world. That ‘imp y celyn’ is in fact the Welsh term for ‘bud of the holly’ is not really of interest to the problem of translation, as the Welsh language does not have to be known in order to understand this explanation. The major problem in translating the explanation is to keep the nickname and still make its coinage plausible to the Russian reader. The second problem is to make Cliff’s remark of ‘Imp’ sounding like ‘elf’, both being words for little fantasy creatures, intelligible to the reader as there is no such word as ‘imp’ in the Russian language.

–’Well, all my family are y Celyns’, said Imp, (…).’It means “of the holly”. That’s all that grows in Llamedos, you see, everything else just rots.’[10]

–’I wasn’t goin’ to say’, said Cliff, ‘but Imp sounds a bit like elf to me.’[10]

–’It just means “small shoot”‘, said Imp. ‘You know. Like a bud.’[10]

–’Bud y Celyn?’ said Glod. ‘Buddy? Worse than Cliff in my opinion.’ [10]

– ‘Весь мой род носит фамилию Селин, (…) По-лламедийски это значит «падуб». Только они растут в Лламедосе, все остальное гниет’. [11]

–’Не хочу тебя обижать’, – встрял новоявленный Утёс, – ‘но, по-моему, Дион Селин звучит как-то…по-женски’. [11]

–’Мои родители рассказывали мне, что в детстве я очень любил петь. Особенно по ночам. И всех будил…’ – задумчиво сказал Дион. – ‘Будил… Буди… Бадди?’[11]

– ‘Бадди? ‘ – сказал Золто. – ‘По-моему, это еще хуже, чем Утес.’ [11]

One can see that the translator changed Cliff’s remark from ‘Imp sounds like elf’ to ‘Imp sounds in a feminine way ‘. Another observation can be made on the name ‘Cliff’, which has been directly translated into ‘Утёс’. A choice that appears to be rather odd, as ‘Cliff’ is a common name in the English speaking world, but there is no such name as ‘Утёс’ in the Russian-speaking world, but still seems to be necessary to keep the wordfield ‘stone’ as source for the name coinage:

–  ‘I thought . . . don’t laugh . . . I thought . . . Cliff?’ said Lias. [10]

–                   ‘Cliff?’[10]

–                   ‘Good troll name. Very stony. Very rocky. Nothing wrong with it,’ said Cliff né Lias defensively. [10]

– ‘Думаю… может… только не смейтесь… что-то вроде… Утес? ‘[11]

– ‘Утес?’[11]

– ‘Настоящее тролльское имя. Очень каменное. Скалистое. И звучит, ‘ – попытался оправдать свой выбор Утёс, урожденный Лава. [11]

By examining the band names in the following quote one will find allusions to some ‘real’ more or less famous bands:

– ‘I’m fed up with being Surreptitious Fabric,’ said Jimbo. ‘It’s a silly name.’[10]

–                   ‘Yeah, I liked it best when we were The Whom,’ said Noddy. [10]

–                   ‘But we were only The Whom for half an hour said Crash. (A very grammatical half an hour, however.) [10]

–                   ‘Yesterday. In between bein’ The Blots and Lead Balloon, remember?’[10]

According to the opinion of Anke Schröder these references are established by the use (and sometimes change) of sense relationships such as synonymy, polysemy and (co-) hyponymy. The first name mentioned ‘Surreptitious Fabric’ is an allusion to ‘The Velvet Underground’, which is made up by the polysemy of ‘underground’ which means also ‘secret’ in a figurative way and the archisem of ‘velvet’, namely fabric. [9]

‘The Whom’ is a reference to ‘The Who’, which is made up by inflection of the original. ‘The Blots’ refers to ‘The Inkspots’ by use of simple synonymy. Knowing that ‘Balloon’ and ‘Zeppelin’ are co-hyponyms of the archisem ‘flying vehicle’ and considering ‘lead’ in ‘Lead Balloon’ to be the noun pronounced /led/  the reference to the band ‘Led Zeppelin’ becomes obvious. Having a look at the Russian edition we see that the translator chose to translate the band names directly into Russian instead of adopting the originals:

– ‘А мне уже надоело быть «Андеграундным Хлопком», ‘ – вдруг заявил Джимбо. – ‘Глупое название.’ [11]

– ‘ Какое-то наивное, ‘ – подтвердил Падла и пошарил в кармане. [11]

– ‘Мне больше всего понравилось, когда мы были «Кого?», ‘ – сказал Нодди. [11]

– ‘Но мы были «Кого?» всего полчаса! ‘ – воскликнул Крэш. [11]

– ‘Вчера, сразу после того, как побыли «Кляксами», но до того, как стали «Ледащим Баллоном», забыли? ‘ [11]

It is questionable whether this a reasonable choice or not, as the Russian reader who doesn’t know English will not understand the references at all, no matter if translated or not. ‘The Whom’, however, would make an exception, as there is only an extra letter added. But this reference also gets lost when translated into Russian. The different sense relations between words in different languages make the fulfilment of the task of a literal literary translation without a certain loss of allusions, references and puns, which remain, plausible, intelligible and obvious to the reader impossible. It is now worth discussing in which cases a translator should choose the literal translation and in which cases he should change the text by translating into different, yet adequate images, in order to keep the allusions established by the author or to invent at least similar ones. No matter which way of translation is chosen, the result will be a text which is at least slightly different from the original. It will be only comparable to the original, but never be the same just in a different language. [9]

In conclusion, one can say that literary translation is always also literary interpretation.

  1. Суперанская Л. В. Структура имени собственного. С. 22. // Общая теория имени собственного. М., 1973. С. 30—35.
  2. Морозова Л.А. Взаимодействие антропонимической и нарицательной лексики. Проблемы антропонимики. М.: изд-во МГУ, 1970. – С. 62-69
  3. Подольская Н.В. Словарь русской ономастической терминологии / Отв. ред. А. В. Суперанская. — Изд. 2-е, перераб. и доп. — М.: Наука, 1988. — 192 с.
  4. Камовникова Н.Е. Антропонимы как интертекстуальные аллюзии в поэтическом тексте. — СПб, 2000. – 30c.
  5. Тухарелли М. Д. Аллюзия в системе художественного произведения. Автореферат дисс. канд. филол. наук. Тбилиси, 1984., с. 18.
  6. J. Fforde “The Eyre affair”, 2001., с. 35-63.
  7. J. Fforde “Something rotten”, 2004, с. 20.
  8. J. Fforde “Run, Thursday, Run”, 2002, c.45
  9. Schröder Anke. Sense Relationships and Semantic Problems in Literary Translation. A Study on the basis of Terry Pratchett’s “Soul Music”.
  10. Pratchett, Terry, Soul Music, Corgi Edition, London, 1995
  11.  Пратчетт Терри. Роковая музыка.// Пер. Н.Берденников. Эксмо. 2002

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