Secrets and 'Oozies'
When I was doing postdoctoral work in religion at Hebrew university in Jerusalem about ten years ago, I encountered an unexpected title while searching through journal articles on Moses, Aaron, and Miriam:
"The Rod of Aaron in the Garden of Miriam"I didn't check to make sure, but I rather doubt that the article was about what it sounded like it was about.
I was reminded of this a couple of days ago as I was checking some book titles that my wife had translated from Korean. These were supposedly of 'self-help' books for girls in their early teens, but the first one raised my eyebrows a bit:
Secrets of Girls with Many FriendsI remember girls with many 'friends' from my own teenage years. They were popular, but there was no secret about it . . . not in the locker rooms, anyway. I brushed aside that memory and checked the next title:
Secrets Diary of Curious GirlsThis was beginning to arouse my own curiosity. The climax came with this title:
Heart-Beating Secrets of Girls in PubertyAt this point, I looked up from my computer and asked my wife:
"Sun-Ae, what are these books really about?"She looked surprised, so I read them aloud, affecting an exaggeratedly prurient tone, and she began to laugh. Apparently, these titles sound perfectly innocuous in Korean, and she hadn't even noticed their sexual connotations in English.
"Well," I explained, "they sound like pornography."
We left Secrets of Girls with Many Friends unchanged since a salacious reading had perhaps been the product of my own dirty mind, but the other two got rewritten. The title Secrets Diary of Curious Girls became Girls' Secrets for Better Health and Appearance, and the title
Heart-Beating Secrets of Girls in Puberty became What Girls Should Know about their Bodies and their Feelings during Puberty. That latter title change sounds rather pedestrian, I realize, but it better fits the book's content.
For some reason, though perhaps this is a non sequitor, I'm reminded of a news report that I read about twenty years ago. Some would-be robber wearing a big coat had entered a bank, approached the teller, and handed her a note, apparently with the intent of warning her that he was carrying an Uzi submachine gun. The note read:
"Give me the money. I've got an oozy under my coat."The teller glanced at the floor, saw that nothing appeared to be leaking, inferred that this was an issue of the man's spelling rather than his spilling, and handed over the money.
But that could have been a very sticky situation, so let's take care always to use the right word, whether translating titles of books or robbing money from banks.