Translating: The Problem of Humour!

I’ve done my fair share of translating in my time: Old English and Middle English into Modern, courtesy of ‘Beowulf’ et alia; Latin, Welsh, French, Spanish and Greek into English; Shakespeare into a form acceptable to a teenage audience…


…but, without a shadow of a doubt, the most difficult translation I have ever faced – and, indeed, continue to face – is an adequate ‘translation’ of my sense of humour into a format recognisable to those who see it as defensive, completely unfunny or so weird that they automatically switch off when Channel Alienora’s Humour comes on!

It is most interesting to watch the reactions in the raw; to view the goggle-eyed horror and, ‘She didn’t really say that, did she?’ looks when confronted with the untranslated, and often politically incorrect, Stream of Ali-ness!

I do not know why my humour is so difficult to access, translate, grab ahold of! It may be the fact that it is, in many ways, pretty masculine in its reach, its vulgarity and its range of cheerful expletives. It may be that, as a woman, some people feel I should aim for a gentler, less bawdy and brutal language.

I think the truth is that many people simply don’t get it! They cannot translate it into any known comedic language – and so it becomes almost like a threat!

Of course, those on my wave length do not need a book full of English alternatives (aka acceptable mainstream comedy) to belly laugh and writhe with uninhibited joy: It comes as naturally as does my humour in the first place.

But, for those others, I have a very simple message: The need to translate obliterates the fun, the humour, the spontaneity; it gives a clumsy weight to that which was light and soaring. As the saying goes, something gets lost in translation.

Trying to explain why, or how, something is funny is a complete waste of time and effort: It kills the joke stone dead!

It saddens me when humourless others try and psychoanalyse me on the basis of my humour, suggesting that I am in denial, have a personality disorder or am just plain insensitive and defending deep-seated angst.

Rubbish! My angst, as you may have noticed, gets expressed every bit as freely, openly and honestly as does my humour. My moods shift. I laugh at my own foibles, frailties and faux pas every bit as much as at those perpetrated by others!

The argument that I have a very British sense of humour has been used – but it is misleading, I feel. Many fellow Brits fail to get what I am about in the sphere of humour – and, conversely, one of the people who gets me and my humour the best originates from another land.

I think true humour, the ability to share laughter at life’s vicissitudes and daft moments, is universal – and, at its purest, does not depend upon linguistic translations or commonality of land, culture and race.

No amount of linguistic facility can replace that which is lost to the soul when a sense of humour is absent. No clever analysis, or in-depth poring over volumes of Great Literature, can plug the gap left in those born without the proverbial inner jester’s bladder!


6 thoughts on “Translating: The Problem of Humour!

  1. Bravo. An informative post. Did you happen to watch the CNN special on humor; “Females in Comedy”. This section might help you undertand why no one else gets your material. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Greenway (Town Crier and Honorary Bard of Glastonbury) .......also weekday wizard.

    I have encountered your unique and precious sense of humour now, both face-to-face and also via your most entertaining blogs. (I get a buzz of excitement whenever a new blog appears and literally everything stops for me to read each one! Used to get the same feeling at least 60 years ago when my comic dropped on the mat along with my parents’ Isle of Wight County Press.

    Concerning the matter of ‘translation’: DON’T YOU DARE CHANGE A DAMNED WORD! That is all. xx

    Liked by 2 people

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