Monday, June 02, 2014

Translating "übersetzen"

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As an aside, I must confess that I do, in fact, have some experience with translation . . . from German into English!

The German word for "translate" is "übersetzen," which even to English speakers who've never studied German looks like "over-set" -- the German word itself echoing "translate" as "transfer," i.e., "carry across."

I am able, undoubtedly, to carry a book (or any relatively light object) across an indeterminate distance and "set" it "over" there. I can therefore translate German into English (though, oddly enough, not English into German, despite the books being no heavier).

My wife, however, reminds me that "übersetzen" as "translation" is a verb with an inseparable prefix, thereby remaining 'übersetzen' rather than "setzen" some object "über"!

The connection between the abstract and concrete meanings, is therefore, potentially overdrawn . . .



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