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The issue of translating (and peripherally, transliterating) has weighed on my mind ever since I undertook a certain school project, translating the first chapter of a Classical Chinese novel into contemporary English. This led to two main problems: the issue of transliterating character names; and how faithfully to preserve the rhetorical structure, since it differs so wildly from English literature.

But before we go further, we should address the (annoying) lie of “we don’t have a word for X in our language, and therefore those people are cognitively impoverished”. From my Linguistics 101 lecture notes:

Everything in any language can always be translated into another language. There is no lexeme that is beyond the cognitive capacity of any normal adult. Translations can only differ in their brevity(length), and elegance(structure).

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This is a little bit of a follow up post to my last one, after realising that I failed to account for a few other important factors (e.g. other pronouns, and forms of the verb “win” e.g. “I won” vs. “I win”).

Accordingly, here’s the revised set of data, pulled from COCA:

x\y # “x win” # “x victory”
“my y” 9 20
“thy y” 0 4
“his y” 98 412
“her y” 28 93
“its y” 14 80
“your y” 7 50
“our y” 3 68
“their y” 32 186
TOTAL 191 913

and lest you doubt these numbers, I already removed the entries where “win” or “victory” were modifying another noun (e.g. “win streak”, “win rate”, “victory lap”, “victory gardens”), ensuring that the only results are the ones that we want (ie, the noun phrases “my win” and “my victory”).

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Although I won’t admit it in Japanese circles, I do in fact read a ridiculous amount of scanlations. (that is, technically-illegal-but-not-yet-licensed-for-distribution-in-the-west, fan translations of Japanese comics.) And as both a linguistics enthusiast and a properly trained English major, the quality of the translations sometimes correlates too well with the price of viewing it online. But certain translated phrases appear to be conventionalized, despite their perceived illegitimacy as natural language. As the keen student of teutonic tongues may have inferred from the title of this post, this conventionalized translation is in fact “my win”. Read the rest of this entry »


COCA - Corpus of Contemporary American English
L1/L2/... - Primary/Secondary Language
NNS - Non-Native Speaker
NS - Native Speaker