Friday, July 17, 2009

Kinder Corruption

Translation is a funny thing. The intent of words often gets muddled in the mixing of meaning and language, but that's what makes it so fun. As an author, I've been lucky enough to have books translated into Danish, Hungarian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, and of course, the German. (I love that German is so haughty that it refers to itself as "the").  

My Pirate School books are my first german titles (though Zombie Blondes will soon follow). I've been looking forward to german titles since it's the one foreign language I can read and somewhat understand. I saw the first two books a few months ago and love the way they turned out. But getting copies of your own translated titles is not an easy thing. So, when I was over in Switzerland, I wanted to pick up an extra set of all 3 titles currently out. I figured one quick stop could accomplish this, but apparently the books are popular there and it became a trek from one shop to the next in order to complete the task.

My favorite stop had to be the store pictured above. This book store is located in the basement of Zurich's big toy store. The dragon tail in the photo is a slide that kids can take into the store. If I had seen it from above, I certainly would've given it a try...but alas, it was crowded with toddlers. It was a rare moment of quiet that I was able to snap the picture. The store had several copies, all of which I needed for my set (and the extra set I was buying for my parents). 

Later that night, I was flipping through the newest book and noticed something strange. I noticed my little characters were very fond of a particular word that caught my eye. 


Now, granted my german is a little rusty, but I was pretty sure what that word do most of you who don't speak the language. I'm sure you can guess that it's not a very nice word and one I'm sure would never be found in an American book for the same age group.  I went through the U.S. book wondering what word they translated so harshly. As it turns out, it was several words, ranging from rotten to plain ARRR! In fact, my foul-mouthed lil' shipmates threw the word around so freely, it even made it into a chapter title. 

Well, no wonder the books are popular! What kid doesn't want to read a book with dirty words? I certainly did when I was young. A few verdammts here, a couple of potzdonners there...great fun! Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset. I'm actually very pleased. I started swearing like a pirate myself at the age of seven (beating my characters by a year and half). Words are just words, I've always felt that way. And I've been oft ridiculed for the language in my teen novels, so why not just go all the way? 

However, I couldn't help envisioning a playground full of swearing, swashbuckling blond children. It made me laugh...until I envisioned the angry mob of parents who probably hate me. I'm sure many of them would like to get their hands on   this foul-mouthed American surfer who is corrupting their youth. 

Oh yeah, that's another beautiful thing...for some reason my german publisher, Random House, is under the wild impression that I'm a surfer who likes to pretend my board is the plank of a pirate ship. For the record, I've never surfed in my life. I suppose all long-haired blonde American males are surfers as far as they're concerned. Just a mix-up in cultural translation. 

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