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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts

Department of English
and American Studies
English Language and Literature

Veronika Steidlov

Humour in Czech Translations of Three Men


in a Boat
Masters Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: Ing. Mgr. Ji Rambousek

2010

I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,


using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.

..
Authors signature

Acknowledgement
I would like to thank my supervisor Ing. Mgr. Ji Rambousek for his encouragement and
guidance.

Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 1
1

General Information ............................................................................................... 3


1.1

Jerome Klapka Jeromes Biography .................................................................. 3

1.2

The Novel Three Men in a Boat ......................................................................... 4

1.3

The Czech Translators........................................................................................ 7

1.4

Humour and Its Devices ..................................................................................... 8

Irony........................................................................................................................ 11
2.1

Irony in Three Men in a Boat ........................................................................... 11

2.2

Translation of Irony.......................................................................................... 17

Metaphor ................................................................................................................ 27
3.1

Metaphor in Three Men in a Boat .................................................................... 27

3.2

Translation of Metaphor ................................................................................... 31

Register ................................................................................................................... 41
4.1

Register in Three Men in a Boat ...................................................................... 41

4.2

Translation of Register ..................................................................................... 46

Pragmatics, Wordplay, Ambiguity ...................................................................... 55


5.1

Pragmatics, Wordplay and Ambiguity in Three Men in a Boat ....................... 55

5.2

Translation of Pragmatics-based Devices, Wordplay and Ambiguity ............. 60

Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 71

Bibliography .................................................................................................................. 75
Rsum ........................................................................................................................... 78
Resum ........................................................................................................................... 79

Introduction
The present thesis is devoted to the study of humour devices in Jerome Klapka Jeromes
humorous novel Three Men in a Boat, first published in 1889, and their Czech
renderings by Vladimr Henzl, J. Z. Novk and Milan ek. The popularity of the
novel in the Czech literary world is substantiated by the high number of translations and
republications. In 1902 it was translated by Theodor and Emil Hchas for the first time.
Four other translations followed: by Ladislav Vojtig (Vojtk) in 1922 (republished in
1929, 1948 and 1949), Vladimr Henzl in 1957 (republished in 1966), J. Z. Novk in
1972 (republished in 1975 and 1998) and Milan ek in 2002. The reasons for my
choosing the last three translations were the better access to them as well as the fact that
the Czech expressions and linguistic features of the more recent translations are
certainly closer to and more readable for the present-day readership than those from the
beginning of the twentieth century.
The work is divided into five chapters, the first one providing a brief biography
of Jerome Klapka Jerome, information on the reception of the novel in the English and
Czech literary milieus and some details on the Czech translators. One of its subchapters
also presents the word humour and what it means, describes the traits of humour of the
Victorian era, and lists humour devices following Alison Rosss (1998) division.
Chapter two attempts to define the principal humour device in Three Men in a Boat
irony. It focuses on types of irony and the techniques used to establish it, illustrating the
study with examples from the novel. Chapter three discusses metaphorical language
(including metaphors, similes and personification) and its contribution to the humorous
tone of the novel. It also deals with idioms which Peter Newmark (1988) classifies as
stock metaphors. In chapter four the study concentrates on register as a humour device,
1

especially on the inappropriate usage of formal register and juxtaposition of different


registers. Finally, chapter five concerns the pragmatics-based device of breaking the
cooperative principle, which leads to misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and the
phenomenon of ambiguity and a closely related device of wordplay. The four chapters
on humour expedients also include the study and comparison of the Czech renderings as
well as discussions on how difficult the task of translating humour is, what the main
problems of translating the individual devices are and what translation procedures can
be employed. In conclusion the findings pertaining to the translation habits of the
individual translators are summarised and compared.
Even though Jerome Klapka Jeromes novel Three Men in a Boat was and still is
popular in many countries, very little has been written about his style and humour, let
alone the translations of his works. The only academic study of his humour I came
across was Markta Zemanovs diploma thesis The Literary Study of Humour in the
Novel Three Men in a Boat (2000) which, however, studies solely Jeromes humour
devices but not their translations. Yet it served as a stepping stone to my thesis and as
a basis for my study of humour devices translation.

1 General Information
1.1

Jerome Klapka Jeromes Biography

Jerome Klapka Jerome, best known as the author of a comic masterpiece Three Men in
a Boat, was born in Walsall, Staffordshire, on 2 May 1859 into a highly-religious
family. His father, Jerome Clapp Jerome, worked as a non-conformist preacher and was
interested in the local coal and iron industries. One of his coal-mining ventures proved
to be a disaster and brought the family to financial ruin. He was forced to move the
family to Stourbridge and subsequently to Poplar in the East End of London where
Jerome spent his childhood in relative poverty.
At the age of fourteen Jerome left school to join various professions a clerk on
the London and North Western Railway, an actor touring the country with a stage
company, a journalist, a schoolmaster and a solicitors clerk. In his spare time he was
writing short stories, essays and satires which would be rejected for a long time. Then,
Jerome had the idea of writing about his experiences as an actor which resulted in his
work On the Stage and Off, a volume of humorous sketches published in 1885. This
was followed by a collection of humorous essays The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow
(1886).
In 1888 Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris (called
Ettie) and acquired a daughter Elsie by this marriage. His own daughter Rowena
was born in 1898. After the newly-weds honeymoon, spent on the Thames, Jerome
began writing Three Men in a Boat. The book was published in 1889 and made him
famous and rich and enabled him to make the acquaintance of great writers including H.
G. Wells, Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. From then on numerous literary works
came to being, among them the novels The Diary of a Pilgrimage (1891), Three Men on
3

the Bummel (1900, the sequel to the Boat), Paul Kelver (1902), a popular morality play
The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1908), and many more. He also excelled as the
editor (of a monthly magazine The Idler and a weekly To-Day) and as the prolific
columnist.
Jerome travelled a lot to Russia, America and especially Germany where he gave
various lectures. He was fond of Germany, which prompted him to move his family to
Dresden in 1900 where they stayed for two years. When the First World War broke out,
he enlisted in the French army as a front line ambulance driver. He returned home
disillusioned and a broken man. Towards the end of his life he finished his memoirs My
Life and Times (1926) which, though short on domestic details and lacking
chronological order, is one of Jeromes most entertaining books.
On the way back from a motoring tour in Devon with his wife Ettie, Jerome
suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died two weeks later (14 June 1927) in
Northampton General Hospital. He and Ettie, who outlived him by eleven years, were
buried in the Ewelme churchyard, Oxfordshire, close to their beloved River Thames
(Nicholas 7 10).

1.2 The Novel Three Men in a Boat


Jeromes novel Three Men in a Boat could be characterised as a comic pastoral
celebrating simple life devoid of luxury, false friends and high society vices. Apart from
comic events and situations the three characters experience, it contains lyrical
descriptions of nature and philosophical reflections comparing the trip up and down the
Thames to the voyage up and down the river of Life. In some parts of the novel social

criticism comes to the fore, frowning upon greed and excessive accumulation of
possession (Stbrn 564).
Jerome Klapka Jerome claimed that all the events recorded in his novel Three
Men in a Boat really happened, they were only a little embellished. Even the characters
appearing in the novel were based on real people Jeromes friends with whom he
made a considerable number of rows up and down the Thames and a cycling trip across
Europe. George Wingrave (George in the novel) worked as a bank clerk and he shared a
room with Jerome for some time. Carl Hentschel (Harris) was born in Poland and came
to England with his parents at the age of five. He set up his own photography business
and co-founded The Playgoers Club, on which occasion he met Jerome.
Jeromes excellent essays The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) had been
serialised in the monthly magazine Home Chimes, edited by F. W. Robinson. And it
was Robinson himself who accepted Jeromes next project called The Story of the
Thames. At first the book was not intended to be funny; it should have described the
rivers scenery and historical events that had taken place near the Thames, and it should
have been interspersed with occasional humorous passages. However, it came quite the
other way round it became a humorous novel with occasional passages dealing with
the rivers scenery and history. Robinson readily removed some of those serious
passages and insisted that Jerome made up a better title. Three Men in a Boat seemed to
be the most appropriate one.
The book was published in 1889 by J. W. Arrowsmith and it quickly made
Jeromes name, the copies being big sellers. It was extremely successful not only in
Britain, but also in the USA, Germany and Russia, and translated into many languages,
including Japanese, Hebrew, Irish and Portuguese. The novel has been filmed three

times (1920, 1933, 1956), adapted into a musical by Hubert Gregg, made into a stage
play, read aloud on radio and even performed in a one-man show.
The style of the novel Three Men in a Boat was completely new and fresh.
Unlike other Victorian writers such as Conan Doyle, R. L. Stevenson and Rudyard
Kipling whose stories captured fantastical adventures and fearless heroes, Jeromes
novel portrayed three ordinary pipe-smoking men having fun on an ordinary boating
trip. He used everyday language and mocked the matters of everyday life. Of course,
fervent critics (especially from The Saturday Review and Puch) soon took Jerome to
task. He was criticised for the new kind of humour and accused of vulgarity, using
colloquial clerks English. The extraordinary commercial success, however, suggested
that the general readership was not influenced by this sharp criticism and that people
wanted to take a rest from literary grandiloquence and solemnity and to spend their
spare time with a book that made them laugh (Nicholas 57 61).
Despite the general interest in Jeromes works, his writings are not very highly
thought of in the official English literary history. The Czech readership, however,
received the novel enthusiastically, which was probably due to the similarity between
Jeromes humour and the humour of the famous Czech writers such as Jaroslav Haek,
Karel apek and Karel Polek (Stbrn 564). The popularity of the novel in the Czech
literary milieu is also indicated by the fact that it has been translated five times and
repeatedly republished.

1.3

The Czech Translators

Vladimr Henzl (1910 1978; pen-names Jan Kolovrat, Vladimr ern)


Vladimr Henzl graduated in law and worked as a clerk at the Czechoslovak
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and during the Second World War at consulates in England
and the United States. He was the author of juvenile adventure literature (Ztoka pirt;
Piznejte se, kapitne) and translated from English (especially works by James
Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson), Italian and Serbo-Croatian (Obec
pekladatel).

Ji Zdenk Novk (1912 2001)


Even though J. Z. Novk graduated from the Faculty of Law in Prague, he
devoted his professional life to cultural activities. He worked as an editor in Melantrich
publishing company, then as a script editor in Barrandov film studios and since 1951 he
had been engaged in writing, scriptwriting and translating. Novk focused mainly on
drama translation from English (Oscar Wilde) and French (Molire) but he also
translated several detective stories (W. Inge, A. Christie, P. G. Wodehouse) and many
works of other genres (Obec pekladatel).

Milan ek (1974)
Milan ek graduated in English and Spanish philology at the Palack
University in Olomouc and since 2000 has been working as a freelance translator. He
specialises in translation of English fiction (Jerome Klapka Jerome, P. G. Wodehouse)
and in fantasy and horror literature (George MacDonald, H. P. Lovecraft, China
Miville, Ian R. MacLeod etc.). He also translated two volumes of poetry by Charles
Bukowski and several childrens books, among them Kate DiCamillos The Tale of
7

Despereaux (Pbh o Zouflkovi) which Albatros publishing company awarded as the


best translation in 2008 (Email to the author).

1.4

Humour and Its Devices

As this thesis focuses on the study of translation of humour, I would like to provide a
brief explanation of the term humour and to mention some of its expedients.
The meaning of the word humour was originally far from what it means today.
The term derived from Latin humor, meaning moisture or body fluid, and in the
Middle Ages and during the Renaissance period it was used to denote the four humours
of the body blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile (proposed by Hippocrates)
which determined a persons mental disposition, character and temperament. The theory
of humours survives up to this day in such expressions as ill-humoured, goodhumoured, yellow with jealousy, etc. In the sixteenth century the theory of humours
is employed in drama for the first time when Ben Jonson names the characters in his
comedy Every Man in His Humour (1598) in terms of their prevailing bodily fluids
(Cuddon 313 4). It is not until the seventeenth century that humour is used to refer to
the comic and ridiculous. In the eighteen century the word gradually got in all the
European languages, differentiating the positive, kind and comforting comicality from
caricature and satire (Vlan 141).
The humour of the Victorian era, in which Jerome Klapka Jerome created his
literary works, can be described as domesticated, which means that it settles down to
chuckling over the mores of an approved social order or the harmless oddities of stock
figures and types: policemen, clergymen, urchins, schoolchildren, tramps, drunks,
professors, artists, eccentrics (McArthur 488). This is exactly what Jerome does in his

Three Men in a Boat. He comments on social issues, such as poverty, superabundance


of wealth, criminality; kindly mocks various types of characters, among them villagers,
fishermen, railway employees, boasters, oversensitive ladies; and last but not least
makes fun of the three main characters themselves. The humour of this kind can be also
found in the nineteenth-century magazine Punch, a representative of the affluent
middle class smirking indulgently at its own foibles, at its own establishment and its
servants, at the oddities of the poor, and at the strange ways of foreigners (McArthur
488).
What is important for the creation and reception of humour in general is the
social context humour outdates very quickly and is often dependent on specific
cultures and attitudes. Humour is also a matter of personal taste as it is likely that two
people will perceive a joke very differently (Ross 2 4). While the study of creation
and perception of humour in social terms would be very complex and would differ from
society to society, the study of language features that contribute to humour is far less
demanding as the features are almost the same across languages and are relatively easy
to detect. Humour can be elicited by structural ambiguity on phonological
(homophones), morphological (compound words), lexical (polysemy) and syntactical
(ambiguous sentence structures) level; or by incongruity in language. Incongruity theory
focuses on the element of surprise. It states that humour is created out of a conflict
between what is expected and what actually occurs in the joke (Ross 7). Incongruity
can appear in the fields of semantics (metaphors, contradictions, verbal irony),
pragmatics (breaking of cooperative principle, misunderstanding), discourse (breaking
the expectations) and register (using inappropriate register) (Ross 7 51). In Three Men
in a Boat the most significant of these devices of humour are those of irony, metaphors

and similes, register, and lexical and syntactical ambiguity. And these particular devices
and their translations into Czech are studied in the present thesis.

10

2 Irony
2.1 Irony in Three Men in a Boat
Irony plays a vital, if not leading, role in Jeromes Three Men in a Boat and represents
an element that contributes most to the overall humorous tone of the novel. Jerome
employs irony mainly to observe and criticise human weaknesses, such as laziness,
lying or drinking, to express his or his companions attitudes (e.g. to work or food) and
to complain about the natural cussedness of things in general (Jerome 100).
This linguistic device is very difficult to define and even more difficult to
recognise and evaluate. Martin Montgomery presents irony as the non-literal use of
language in which we say one thing but mean another and which is also often
thought of as a type of tone, a particular way of speaking or writing (138). Marta
Mateo, on the other hand, thinks that this definition (adopted by most critics) is not
sufficient and does not cover the complex techniques that are used to create irony. At
the same time she admits that there is no universal set of linguistic features that could
help identify irony and proposes that irony depends on context since it springs from the
relationships of a word, expression or action with the whole text or situation (172).
Irony is a matter of interpretation and can be easily misunderstood as it works at
two levels: a lower level the situation as it is deceptively presented by the ironist and
an upper level the situation as it appears to the observer or the ironist. There must be
the element of opposition (contradiction, incongruity) between the two levels and they
both must be presented as true. Another element that contributes to irony is the element
of innocence which refers to the victims unawareness of the upper level or the
ironists pretending not to be aware of it. Irony is not employed to deceive the
reader/hearer but to be recognized. The reader/hearer is supposed to realise that a
11

proposition has a different real meaning from what is being proposed (Mateo 172).
The ability to spot irony depends mostly on the awareness of how the language is used,
on values shared by the ironist and the victim and on general world knowledge.
Montgomery (138 9) classifies irony into two main types: verbal (corresponds
with Mateos intentional irony) and situational (Mateos unintentional irony). Verbal
irony is being communicated and occurs when a combination of words and its literal
meaning seem to be somehow odd or wrong. In order to understand the irony one has to
with the help of context and the world knowledge find another (real) meaning.
Situational irony exists already in the situation. It is created by an author, but the
characters involved are not aware of it.
Jerome Klapka Jerome uses both verbal and situational irony in his novel.
Several examples of verbal irony appear already in the subheadings that introduce each
chapter. As Markta Zemanov correctly points out in her diploma thesis, the irony can
be traced back only after reading the whole chapters (22). Thus we can find out that
bathing in rough sea, in windy weather is referred to as Delights of early morning
bathing (Jerome 23). An accident in which J., after decrying his decision to have a bath
in the cold water, unwillingly falls in the river is described as Heroism and
determination on the part of J. (Jerome 100), and the three friends conversation
concerning various diseases presented as The cheery chat goes round (Jerome 181). In
all these examples the element of opposition or contradiction is clearly apparent the
author renders unpleasant feelings as delights, cowardice as heroism and chatting about
diseases as a pleasant chat.
Verbal irony can be also found in large numbers in the narration itself. In the
following example, in which Jerome talks about his fellow students rather odd health,
one can see how the author works with contradiction (underlined):

12

He would take bronchitis in the dog-days, and have hay-fever at Christmas.


After a six-weeks period of drought, he would be stricken down with rheumatic
fever; and he would go out in a November fog and come home with a sunstroke.
(Jerome 53)

It is not common to catch bronchitis in summer time or hay-fever in winter time and it is
highly improbable that one can suffer rheumatic fever when the weather is dry and
sunstroke when it is foggy.
Here is another extract in which verbal irony can be traced. The character of J.
describes his encounter with the owner of the material he made his raft from without
permission:

His anxiety to meet you, however, is proof against all your coolness, and the
energetic manner in which he dodges up and down the pond so as to be on the
spot to greet you when you land is really quite flattering. (Jerome 152)

Here the underlined words are used inappropriately and are in opposition to the real
situation that is most likely in progress the owner is very angry (his anxiety to meet
you) which means that he probably wont greet the thief and the encounter wont be
flattering in any way.
Montgomery mentions two main techniques that are used to create irony:
overemphasis and internal inconsistency (140). When an author employs overemphatic
language, he uses words that have the effect of overemphasizing what is being said,
and so drawing attention to it. What makes them excessive is that their presence needs
to be explained; we can account for their presence as a clue to the reader that what they
are saying is not plausible (hence it needs excessive emphasis) (140). I selected two
13

examples from the novel in which overemphatic language (underlined) is apparently


used to express the narrators ironic attitude:

It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work; it fascinates me. I can
sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me; the idea of getting rid of it
nearly breaks my heart.
You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a
passion with me; my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of
room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.
And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me
now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isnt a finger-mark
on it. I take a great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it.
No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do. (Jerome 148
9)

It was my misfortune once to go for a water picnic with two ladies of this kind.
We did have a lively time! (Jerome 62)

When a statement does not make sense or the style of a narration is not
consistent (e. g. unexpected changes in register), it is a case of internal inconsistency
which is the second type of mechanism for creating irony (Montgomery 140). Jerome
frequently switches suddenly from one register to another or from commonplace to
poetic, refined language as in this example:

And the red sunset threw a mystic light upon the waters, and tinged with fire the
towering woods, and made a golden glory of the piled-up clouds. It was an hour
of deep enchantment, of ecstatic hope and longing. The little sail stood out
against the purple sky, the gloaming lay around us, wrapping the world in
rainbow shadows; and, behind us, crept the night. We seemed like knights of

14

some old legend, sailing across some mystic lake into the unknown realm of
twilight, unto the great land of the sunset.
We did not go into the realm of twilight; we went slap into that punt, where
those three old men were fishing. (Jerome 121 2)

In the first part of the extract, Jerome employs poetic repertoire and language including
several poetic devices vivid imagery (e. g. mystic light, deep enchantment,
ecstatic hope, rainbow shadows), a simile (like knights of some old legend) and
personification (the gloaming . . . wrapping the world, crept the night). In the
following paragraph, the author all of a sudden switches to ordinary language
(underlined), describing the collision with the boat. Thus, he produces a comic and
ironic effect related to the characters absentmindedness.
Muecke (in Mateo 173) distinguishes three types of irony that are characteristic
of novels: impersonal irony, in which the ironist as a person is in the background and
the irony lies solely in his words; self-disparaging irony, in which the ironist presents
his qualities, such as ignorance or naivety; and ingnu irony, in which the ironist uses a
character (an ingnu) for his irony.
There are several techniques for creating impersonal irony. In Jeromes novel
the most frequent is that of innuendo, i.e. an indirect remark about something or
somebody:

There is an iron scolds bridle in Walton Church. They used these things in
ancient days for curbing womens tongues. They have given up the attempt now.
I suppose iron was getting scarce, and nothing else would be strong enough.
(Jerome 78)

He said it, The Pride of the Thames, had been in use, just as it now stood (or
rather as it now hung together), for the last forty years . . . (Jerome 183)
15

The first example alludes to some womens cantankerousness and garrulousness, the
second one to the miserable state of a boat called The Pride of the Thames.
Other techniques include overstatement (dealt with above as overemphasis) and
understatement as in this extract:

And at that precise moment the man did it, and the boat rushed up the bank with
a noise like the ripping up of forty thousand linen sheets. Two men, a hamper,
and three oars immediately left the boat on the larboard side, and reclined on the
bank, and one and a half moments afterwards, two other men disembarked from
the starboard, and sat down among boat-hooks and sails and carpet-bags and
bottles. The last man went on twenty yards further, and then got out on his head.
(Jerome 85)

The author here describes an accident when a boat hits the river bank and the passengers
fall out of the boat in different directions. He makes use of words (underlined) that do
not match the situation and thus disparages it.
Pretended innocence or ignorance also ranks among the impersonal irony
techniques that occur frequently in Jeromes novel. The following example again
concerns J.s encounter with the proprietor of the material which J. made his raft from.
The irony here is based on the double meaning of the expression to teach somebody to
do something. The character pretends not to recognise the threat and interprets it
falsely as a mere offer made by the proprietor to teach him something new:

He says hell teach you to take his boards and make a raft of them; but, seeing
that you know how to do this pretty well already, the offer, though doubtless
kindly meant, seems a superfluous one on his part, and you are reluctant to put
him to any trouble by accepting it. (Jerome 152)
16

The above example could also be regarded as self-disparaging irony as the


author of the irony himself presents his seeming innocence. Another instance of this
type of irony appears in chapter eight and refers to J.s ignorance of German language:

I dont understand German myself. I learned it at school, but forgot every word
of it two years after I had left, and have felt much better ever since. (Jerome 75)

The last type of irony ingnu irony occurs quite frequently in the novel as
well. The author often makes the characters of Harris and George the targets of his
irony as in the instance below, in which Georges job is made fun of:

Harris and I would go down in the morning, and take the boat up to Chertsey,
and George, who would not be able to get away from the City till the afternoon
(George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day; except Saturdays,
when they wake him up and put him outside at two), would meet us there.
(Jerome 17)

Until now I have been focusing on verbal irony. Jeromes work abounds with
situational irony as well, in fact, I dare say it makes it one of the masterpieces of
humoristic literature. However, as situational irony is not much workable from the point
of view of translation, I wont deal with it in detail.

2.2

Translation of Irony

Translation of humour is often compared to translation of poetry as the formal aspects


are an integral part of both types of texts. The link is also established on the basis of the
17

difficulty of both tasks (Mateo 174). The difficulty of translating humour depends on
what means it is based on. If humour lies in linguistic aspects such as puns, it is highly
probable that it will be difficult to translate or even untranslatable. On the other hand,
humour based on irony or on reversal of situation or tone will be easier to deal with
(Mateo 174).
As stated above, the identification of irony depends mostly on context and
background knowledge. However, when an author works with satire and allusion to
create irony, the socio-cultural aspect becomes relevant as well. Thus, the translation of
irony is heavily influenced by the proximity of cultures the more distant the culture is,
the more difficult the understanding of humour and irony will be (Mateo 174). In my
opinion, the Czech and English cultures and their perception of irony are close enough
to allow the translator to render all the cases of irony in Jeromes Three Men in a Boat
without any substantial changes. Moreover, Jerome uses similar mechanisms for
creating irony (contradiction, overstatement, pretended innocence etc.) as those that are
generally employed in world literature, as well as similar topics to be ironic about
(laziness, weather, work, Murphys laws and so on), therefore the understanding and
translation of irony in this case are not very complicated.
The following example of irony is based mainly on overemphasis, contradiction
(lies vs. veracity) and on the surprise at the logic of the statement claiming that what
makes a good fisherman is not mere lying, but well-thought-out and meticulous saying
of untruths:

Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good
fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing; but this is a
mistake. Mere bald fabrication is useless; the veriest tyro can manage that. It is
in the circumstantial detail, the embellishing touches of probability, the general
18

air of scrupulous almost of pedantic veracity, that the experienced angler


is seen. (Jerome 168)

The translations are as follows:

Henzl

Novk

ek

Jsou lid, kte maj dojem,

Nkte lid maj dojem, e

Nkte lid ij v

e lovk, aby byl dobrm

k tomu, aby byl z nkoho

pesvden, e ve, eho

rybem, potebuje jen

dobr ryb, pln sta

m dobr ryb zapoteb,

schopnost snadno a bez

schopnost plynn a bez

je schopnost plynn lht a

uzardn lht. To je vak

uzardn lht; ale to je

zachovvat si pitom

omyl. Obyejn hol

omyl. Hol vmysl sm o

kamennou tv; to je ale

nesmysl nen k niemu. To

sob nen k niemu; na ten

omyl. Pouhopouh pust

dovede kad zatenk.

se vzme i zatenk. Ale

vmysly k niemu nejsou;

Zkuen ryb se pozn

e ho propracuje do

zvldne je i ten

podle zevrubnch

nejmench podrobnost, e

nejnevinnj zatenk.

podrobnost a zkrlujcch

ho vyperkuje prvky

Zkuenost rybe je patrn

tah provedench ttcem

pravdpodobnosti, e mu

v podrunch detailech, v

pravdpodobnosti. Krom

dod zdn zkostliv a

lench, jimi pikraluje

toho mus psobit dojmem

pedantsk vrohodnosti,

pravdpodobn vyznn, v

zkostliv tm

teprve podle toho se pozn

pelivosti - ba skoro a

pedantick

ryb zkuen. (203)

zkostlivosti -, s n lp na

pravdomluvnosti. (187)

hodnovrnosti. (176)

To create overemphasis, Jerome uses phrases including descriptive adjectives, such as


circumstantial

detail,

the

embellishing

touches

of

probability

and

scrupulous/pedantic veracity which are easily translatable into Czech (underlined) and
for which there are plenty of different solutions. The translatability is moreover made
easier by generally shared attitude to lying as something unacceptable.

19

Another aspect that plays a role in translating humour is that of transporting


sense and form which are both very important when dealing with humour. Keeping
the sense is more or less easy but preserving the form can cause problems as irony and
humour may simply spring from an alliteration in the usual syntactic order of a
sentence, from the choice of an unusual collocation or, indeed, from the very use of a
certain word (Mateo 174). These formal features are very difficult to transfer to the
target text assuming that the translator wants to preserve the original sense as well.
As the irony in Three Men in a Boat is created mainly by the devices of
contradiction, opposition, overemphasis and pretended innocence/ignorance, there are
not many cases of irony in which form plays a crucial role. However, some examples
can be found. In the following extract, which describes the characters being chased by
the smell of paraffin oil, the chief device to create irony is the repetition of the
expression oily wind and the coordinating conjunction and:

Sometimes a westerly oily wind blew, and at other times an easterly oily wind,
and sometimes it blew a northerly oily wind, and maybe a southerly oily wind
. . . (Jerome 31)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Nkdy vanul zpadn

Nkdy foukal zpadn

Obas dul zpadn

parafinov vtr, jindy zas

petrolejov vtr, jindy

petrolejov vtr, jindy to

vchodn parafinov vtr,

vchodn petrolejov vtr,

byl vchodn petrolejov

chvlemi foukal severn

nkdy severn petrolejov

vtr, nkdy vl zase

parafinov vtr nebo taky

vtr a snad i jin

petrolejov vtr ze severu,

jin parafinov vtr. (36)

petrolejov vtr . . . (38)

mon jsme poctili i


petrolejov vtr od jihu.
(36)

20

Henzl and Novk opt to preserve the repetition of the -ly oily wind pattern as -n
parafinov vtr and -n petrolejov vtr, respectively. ek, on the other hand, uses
this pattern only twice and then continues with petrolejov vtr ze severu and
petrolejov vtr od jihu, which sounds natural and smooth in Czech but is inconsistent
with the originals pattern which is probably supposed to create irony and emphasise the
fact that the oily smell is everywhere. All the three translators avoid the repetition of the
conjunction and. In English this repetition contributes to the ironic tone of the
utterance, in Czech, on the contrary, it would sound clumsy and thus destroy the ironic
element there.
Another instance of irony, in which transporting the form is essential, concerns
Georges playing the banjo accompanied by Montmorencys howling. Georges
question is ironically answered by Harriss question of the same form, only the verbs to
howl and to play are swapped:

Whats he want to howl like that for when Im playing? George would
exclaim indignantly, while taking aim at him with a boot.
What do you want to play like that for when he is howling? Harris would
retort, catching the boot. (Jerome 140 1)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Co potebuje takhle vt,

Co ho to posedlo, e

Pro se, kdy hraji, dv

kdy j hraju? zvolal Ji

takhle vyje, kdy j

do takovho vyt? ptal se

uraen a hodil po

hraju? kiel rozhoen

George rozhoen,

Montmorencym botu.

George a hzel po nm

zatmco si psa bral na

botou.

muku zutou botou.

Co to tebe posedlo, e

A pro chce vlastn hrt,

Co ty potebuje takhle

21

hrt, kdy on vyje?

takhle hraje, kdy on

kdy tak vyje? opil

odpovdl Ji1 a botu chytil. vyje? odpovdal Harris a

Harris a botu zachytil.

(157)

(150)

tu botu vdycky zachytil.


(172)

Both Henzl and Novk follow the original pattern and preserve the form of the two
questions. Thus, they succeed in retaining the irony of the remark suggesting that
Georges playing is not pleasant to listen to and that Harris prefers the dogs howling.
ek, on the other hand, does not realise the importance of keeping the form in this
example. He does not swap the verbs vt and hrt and does not give the discussed
questions the same form in his translation, which causes the effect of irony to be
impaired.
In the last example of irony, whose form presents an inseparable part of it and
thus should be translated into the target language, Jerome overemphasises such a
common thing as being full up by using very refined and lofty language:

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality
and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with
care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within
your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a
loving husband, and a tender father a noble, pious man. (Jerome 94 5)

The poetic and philosophical tone of this extract is established by the use of descriptive
adjectives (sorriest, loving, noble etc.), adverbs (vigilantly) and words concerning
morality such as righteousness and virtue. These features are supplemented with a
metaphor (slaves of our stomach) and personification (virtue and contentment will
come and reign). In my opinion, the three translators are successful in transporting the
1

This is a mistake it should be Harris.

22

form into the target language as they use appropriate adjectives, preserve the metaphor
and personification and their language contains about the same loftiness as the original:

Henzl

Novk

ek

Jsme opravdu

Jsme prost ti nejuboej

Jsme opravdov a

nejuboejmi otroky svho

otroci svch aludk.

prachbdn otroci vlastnho

aludku. Nesnate se,

Nepachtte se po tom,

bicha. Ptel, nespejte se

ptel, bt mravn a

abyste byli mravn a

po mravnosti a

poctiv. Dbejte bedliv o

poctiv, ptel moji; jenom spravedlnosti, sledujte

svj aludek a krmte ho

se bedliv starejte o sv

bedliv sv bicha a krmte

opatrn a moude. Pak

aludky a krmte je opatrn

je peliv a uvliv. Pak

ctnost a blaenost zavldne

a uvliv. Pak ctnost a

se dostav i ctnost a

ve vaich srdcch, ani by

spokojenost samy vstoup

spokojenost, je zavldnou

bylo teba ji namhav

do vaich srdc a budou

ve vaem srdci, ani o n

hledat, a stanete se dobrmi

jimi vldnout a vy

budete njak usilovat.

obany, milujcmi

nemuste vynakldat dn

Stanete se dobrm oba-

manely, nnmi otci a

sil, abyste jich doshli;

nem, milujcm manelem a

ulechtilmi, zbonmi

pak budete dobrmi

citlivm otcem - dstojnm

lidmi. (108)

obany a milujcmi man-

a zbonm muem. (102)

ely a nn chpajcmi
otci prost ulechtilmi,
zbonmi lidmi. (117)

As Zemanov observes in her thesis, Jerome employs another device to create


irony he uses italics to stress words and their contribution to irony (24). The use of
italics occurs, for example, in the sentence concerning Harriss singing a comic song:

You have never heard Harris sing a comic song, or you would understand the
service I had rendered to mankind. It is one of Harriss fixed ideas that he can
sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harriss

23

friends who have heard him try, is that he cant, and never will be able to, and
that he ought not to be allowed to try. (Jerome 70)

Even though it is a common practice in Czech to stress a word by means of word order,
Henzl, Novk and ek use italics as well:

Henzl

Novk

ek

Nikdy jste Harrise neslyeli

Vy jste nikdy neslyeli

Jet jste neslyeli, jak

zpvat ertovnou pse,

Harrise zpvat kuplet, take

Harris zpv komickou

proto nemete ocenit

nemete pochopit, jak

pse, jinak byste

slubu, kterou jsem

velikou slubu jsem tm

pochopili, jakou slubu

prokzal lidstvu. Jednou z

prokzal lidstvu. Jednou z

jsem lidstvu tmto svm

Jiho2 utkvlch mylenek

Harrisovch utkvlch

skutkem prokzal. Harris

je, e um zazpvat

mylenek toti je, e um

ije s utkvlou pedstavou,

ertovnou pse. Naproti

zpvat kuplety, ti Harrisovi

e um zpvat komick

tomu utkvlou mylenkou

ptel, kte u zaili

psn. Harrisovi ptel na

Harrisovch ptel, kte ho

Harrisovy pokusy v tom

druh stran ij s utkvlou

slyeli, jak se pokou

smru, maj naopak

pedstavou, e je zpvat

takovou pse zazpvat, je,

utkvlou mylenku, e to

neum, nebude umt a ani

e to neum, umt nikdy

Harris neum, e to nikdy

by mu nemlo bt

nebude a e by se mu

umt nebude a e by se mu

umonno, aby se o nco

nemlo dovolit, aby se o to

nikdy nemlo dovolit, aby

takovho pokouel. (78)

pokouel. (81)

to zkouel. (87 8)

The translators place the verb um at the beginning of the phrase, although it would
gain more stress in the final position. However, their solutions of keeping the italics are
probably based on their assumptions that words in italics stand out from the text and
monopolise the readers attention more than non-italicised words in the final position. In
this type of text the solutions are justifiable and can be considered successful.

This is a mistake it should be Harris.

24

In conclusion of this chapter on irony, I would like to comment on the general


way the three Czech translators render irony in Three Men in the Boat. I will attempt to
demonstrate it on one example, the comments are, however, based on the overall study
of irony in the novel. The extract is related to J.s judging Harriss taste in clothing:

It is a great pity, because he will never be a success as it is, while there are one
or two colours in which he might not really look so bad, with his hat on. (Jerome
61)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Je to velk koda, protoe

A je to pro nj velik

Je to obrovsk koda, a

takhle se nikdy nebude

koda, protoe takhle

tebae by se naly jedna i

lbit, a pi tom je tu jedna

jakiv neudl dru do

dv barvy, v nich by

nebo dv barvy, v kterch

svta, akoli by se naly

vskutku nevypadal zle -

by opravdu nevypadal tak

dv ti barvy, v kterch by

paklie by ml na hlav

zle, kdyby si nechal na

mon nevypadal tak

klobouk -, za tohoto stavu

hlav klobouk. (71)

stran, kdyby si ovem

nikdy spchu nedoshne.

narazil klobouk. (76)

(68)

Vladimr Henzl seems to stick to the original and does not play with the language very
much. The ironic tone is preserved but it is not so marked as that of Novks and
eks translations. J. Z. Novk, on the other hand, tends to enhance Jeromes irony by
using more expressive and colloquial words and phrases, such as neudl dru do svta
or narazil si klobouk in the above example. Milan ek also tries to enhance the
irony by colloquial expressions, although not as much as Novk does, or by somewhat
archaic sounding words, such as the conjunction paklie in the above table. Even
though each of the translators uses different language and has different approach to

25

translating irony, their translations are successful in transporting sense as well as


preserving the effect they should have on the readers.

26

3 Metaphor
3.1

Metaphor in Three Men in a Boat

Metaphorical language is an integral part of any literary text and is one of the most
admired features in literature. Metaphor represents one of the figures of speech and it
occurs when a word or phrase in a passage is clearly out of place in the topic being
dealt with but nevertheless makes sense because of some similarity between it and what
is being talked about (Montgomery 129). To be able to interpret metaphor, the reader
has to recognise the similarity between the two concepts and carry it over to the new
context. Metaphor can reinforce the readers imagination and conceptions of the world,
as well as influence his or her attitude to the topic that is discussed (Montgomery 134).
In other words, metaphor is a process of referring figuratively and emotively to an
object in terms of another (Menacere 568), and serves to stimulate an image, to
provoke an interesting comparison or to provide original ways of perceiving the world
(Alvarez 480).
When studying (or translating) metaphors it is useful to be able to analyse them.
In 1936, I. A. Richards proposed and named three aspects of metaphor (96 and 117):

Tenor the original idea; what is really being said or thought of,
Vehicle the borrowed idea; what the original idea is compared to,
Ground the common characteristics.

Thus, in Jeromes metaphor Sunlight is the life-blood of Nature (Jerome 184),


sunlight is the tenor, life-blood the vehicle, and the shared element (or ground) probably
life or energy.
27

Peter Newmark understands metaphors as devices used to describe an entity,


event or quality more comprehensively and concisely and in a more complex way than
is possible by using literal language (Approaches 84) and divides them into five types
(84 94):

Dead metaphors are fossilized metaphors (e. g. arm of the chair); many of
them have been imported from other languages (e. g. think from Old
English);
Clich metaphors usually consist of stereotyped collocations (leave no stone
unturned);
Stock metaphors are standard or common metaphors; they may be one word
metaphors (a ray of hope) or extended metaphors, i.e. idioms (cast a
shadow over)
Recent metaphors often include neologisms such as head-hunters;
Original (creative) metaphors are invented by an author and are often dramatic
and shocking in effect (e.g. the sun flung spangles, dancing coins).

As this division is quite complex and analysing the metaphors in Three men in a Boat in
this way would require a thorough (sometimes even etymological) study, I will confine
my focus to the most frequent types of metaphor in the novel the stock metaphors,
especially idioms, and original metaphors. These types of metaphor are also worth of
studying from the translation point of view it is interesting to observe what Czech
equivalents of the English idioms are used and how the translators maintain the
creativity of the original metaphors.

28

One of the subtypes of metaphor that is widely employed in Jeromes book is


that of simile. Like metaphor, simile also draws attention to the similarity between two
things or phenomena but whereas in metaphor the comparison is implied, in simile the
comparison is explicitly expressed with the help of words such as like or as
(Montgomery 129). Jerome makes use of similes in his humorous or ironic remarks
about somebody or something, as in

The man they had got now was a jolly, light-hearted, thick-headed sort of chap
with about as much sensitiveness in him as there might be in a Newfoundland
puppy (Jerome 63);

as well as in his poetic parts of the novel:

It was a glorious morning, late spring or early summer, as you care to take it,
when the dainty sheen of grass and leaf is blushing to a deeper green; and the
year seems like a fair young maid, trembling with strange, wakening pulses on
the brink of womanhood. (Jerome 49)

Personification (anthropomorphic metaphor), another category of metaphor, is


abundant in Three Men in a Boat as well. Personification appears when human traits
(qualities, feelings etc.) are attributed to non-living things, animals, phenomena, and so
on. Jerome again applies personification both in the humorous situations and in the
poetic descriptions. In the former he personifies food, toothbrushes, tow-lines, boats,
tea-kettles, towns and the like, to make fun of the things and especially of people who
are affected by the things mean behaviour:

29

That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are
waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. . . . You get near the
kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out . . . (Jerome 93)

In the latter Jerome uses personification as a poetic device to make the poetic
descriptions more vivid and imagination-provoking:

. . . with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the greygreen beech-trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows
oer the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to
the lilies, . . . (Jerome 184)

Even though metaphor is a feature predominantly present in and typical of


poetry, it occurs very frequently in any literary text and can contribute to its humorous
tone. It is the non-literal meaning or the comparison included in metaphor that, when
used inappropriately or awkwardly, creates incongruity and thus humorous effect (Ross
35):

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. (Jerome 94)

In this example, the comparison of humans to slaves who have to constantly serve their
stomachs produces a comic effect, as the statement is obviously exaggerated and
contains poor justification for peoples indulgence in eating.

30

3.2

Translation of Metaphor

The problem of translation of metaphor has not been sufficiently researched yet and
individual translators and literary critics hold different attitudes to approaching it. Some
think that metaphor should be rendered literally, some claim that this would result in a
meaningless expression in the target text (Menacere 568). Culturally based metaphors,
i.e. metaphors in which the two images compared are perceived differently by the
source and target cultures, will be naturally more difficult to translate than those in
which the images have the same cognitive content in both cultures. This fact is also
related to the use of symbols. Some symbols have universal applications and are
perceived equally in the cultures and thus are easily translatable. On the other hand,
symbols that convey different meanings in different cultures require complete
transformation of metaphor otherwise the translation would be senseless (Menacere 569
70).
Since English and Czech cultures are, in terms of understanding symbols and
perceiving images, relatively close, the translation of metaphors in Jeromes Three Men
in a Boat did not involve any substantial changes. For example, as the concept of
sword is understood as a symbol of power (or power gained by violence) both in
English and Czech, the Czech translators do not have to transform the metaphor in any
way:

. . . for the sword is judge and jury, plaintiff and executioner, in these
tempestuous times . . . (Jerome 107)

Henzl
. . . nebo v tchto

Novk
. . . nebo v tchto

31

ek
V tchto boulivch asech

boulivch asech me je

boulivch dobch me je

je toti me jak soudcem,

soudcem, alobcem i

soudcem, porotou,

tak porotou, alobcem i

popravm . . . (121)

alobcem i katem . . . (132)

vykonavatelem . . . (115)

Peter Newmark proposes five possible procedures of metaphor translation (48


9):

1. Translating a metaphor using the same or a similar image;


2. Translating it with a different image that has the same sense;
3. Converting the metaphor into a simile;
4. Translation of metaphor by simile plus sense;
5. Conversion of metaphor into sense.

As has been already mentioned, English and Czech cultures are not so remote to
cause problems in translating metaphors or to force translators to recreate them.
Therefore, the first method was used by the translators of the Jeromes novel in the
majority of cases. The use of this mode is possible if the image has comparable
frequency and validity in the target language (Alvarez 484), as in this example:

Had it been a Richard there! the cup of liberty might have been dashed from
Englands lips, and the taste of freedom held back for a hundred years. (Jerome
110)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Kdyby to byl bval nkter

Bt na jeho mst takov

Kdyby tu tak sedl

Richard! e volnosti by

Richard! Pak pohr

Richard! Anglii by se jet

byla bvala odtrena od rt

svobody mohl bt jet

mohl od rt vyrazit kalich

Anglie a jet sto let by

odtren od rt Anglie,

svobody; mohla by si na

32

byla Anglie ekala, ne by

take by jet stovky let ne- svobodu nechat zajt chu

poznala, jak chutn

poznala, jak chutn

svoboda. (124)

volnost. (135)

jet njakch sto let. (117)

Even though the translators choose different solutions for the word cup, they still
preserve the sense of the metaphor and the cups relation to the lips of personified
England. Since the metaphor of the cup of . . . is widely used in Czech as well (pohr
hokosti, e zapomnn), the translations are perfectly understandable for Czech
readers.
When analysing metaphors in the novel, I have come across only two
applications of Newmarks second mode of metaphor translation, i.e. replacing the
source language image by different image with the same sense, both by Milan ek:

It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather; in wet, the task becomes
herculean. (Jerome 19)

Postavit stan je obtn, i kdy nepr; za det se tento kol stv hodnm
Sisyfa. (ek 24)

While Henzl and Novk retain the image of Hercules in their translations (herkulovsk
loha, herkulovsk prce, respectively), ek chooses to describe the task as that of
Sysiphus. The images are almost the same, referring to the tremendous effort required to
accomplish the task, ek only makes the task unending and futile. The second case is
as follows:

Dear old Quarry Woods! . . . how scented to this hour you seem with memories
of sunny summer days! (Jerome 123)

33

Jak ns utuj stromy, . . . jak ns a do tto chvle prostupuj vzpomnkami na


slunen letn dny! (ek 132)

Henzl and Novk again preserve the original image of pleasant smell (vonte
vzpomnkami) whereas ek opts for the Czech verb prostoupit which corresponds
with Jeromes idea as well (i.e. plenty of memories associated with the woods) but
deprives it of the poetic olfactory sensation.
Only one case of translating the metaphor by a simile was found. It is applied by
J. Z. Novk and it works equally to the original:

. . . and they both sighed, and sat down, with the air of early Christian martyrs
trying to make themselves comfortable up against the stake. (Jerome 62)

. . . nae si ob povzdychly a usedly, tvce se jako muednice z prvnch dob


kesanstv, kter se sna zaujmout u klu pozici co nejpohodlnj. (Novk 77)

The modes of transferring the metaphor by simile plus sense (Newmark


mentions this example: he is a lion developed into he is as brave as a lion) and of
converting the metaphor into sense were not registered in the novel.
Until now I have been dealing with the translation of original metaphors or
metaphors that are invented by an author and that are not hackneyed and stereotyped. In
the following paragraphs I will focus on the translation of idioms expressions that
Newmark counts into stock metaphors.
Idioms are expressions or phrases that have fixed meanings. They can
sometimes present translation problems because they contain more than one word but
form a single unit of meaning (Menacere 570). Thus, if the words are interpreted
individually, then the whole cluster of those words does not make sense. Another
34

obstacle in translation of idioms can arise when an idiom is culturally specific and when
translated literally, the target readership does not understand. According to Menacere, a
reasonable approach to translating idioms is to understand the idiom, interpret its
meaning (emotive and aesthetic) and transfer the meaning in the target language (571).
The three Czech translators render the idioms in two ways, both equally successful.
First, they use Czech idiomatic equivalents where there are any or when the context
makes it possible, as in these examples:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

. . . to sell your life

. . . prodte svj

. . . prodte svj

. . . svj ivot za

dearly . . . (21)

ivot draho . . . (24)

ivot draho . . . (26)

dnch okolnost
tak lacino nedte
. . . (26)

You might look

Mohli jste na nho

Hodinu jste ho

Mohli jste ho cel

daggers at him for

celou hodinu vrhat

mohli probodvat

hodiny propichovat

an hour . . . (63)

vraedn pohledy

oima . . . (78)

pohledem . . . (70)

. . . (73)
. . . you couldnt

. . . za nic na svt

get a Referee for

tam neseenete

love or money . . .

ilustrovan asopisy

(12)

. . . (16)

. . . I didnt care a

. . . e mi houby

. . . na tom e mi

hang . . . (38)

zle . . . (43)

pendrek zle . . .
(47)

I never can make

Z tch u jsem teda

S tmi si taky nevm

head or tail of

pln jelen. (56)

rady. (51)

those. (45)
She was nuts on

Panensk krlovna

Ta byla po

public-houses . . .

Anglie byla do

hospodch cel div

(50)

krem cel pry.

. . . (62)

35

(58)
. . . they are all the

. . . letos se po nich

rage this season . . .

mou na ece

(79)

vichni utlouct. (87)

Secondly, if there is no idiomatic equivalent in Czech or when the idiom does not fit the
context, they translate them with unidiomatic expressions with the same sense as that of
the original idioms:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

. . . you couldnt get . . . lovk tam

. . . ani za penze,

a Referee for love

nenajde sportovnho

ani za dobr slovo

or money . . . (12)

sudho ani z lsky,

tam lovk

ani za penze

neseene Milovnka

...

(14)

ek

sportu . . . (15)

. . . I didnt care a

. . . e je mi doista

hang . . . (38)

jedno . . . (43 4)

I never can make

V tch se vbec

head or tail of

nevyznm. (51)

those. (45)
She was nuts on

Anglick panensk

public-houses . . .

krlovna byla

(50)

hostinci pmo
posedl. (56)

. . . they are all the

. . . jsou te stran

To je tuhle seznu

rage this season . . .

v md . . . (91)

stran v md. (99)

(79)
. . . and he would

. . . proto pro jistotu . . . a tak se pr

. . . a d pednost

rather be on the

nebude . . . (155)

jistot . . . (148)

safe side . . . (139)

radi pidr toho,


co je vyzkoueno
. . . (170)
36

Peter Newmark claims that similes are the poor cousins of metaphors as they
have none of the power and the incisiveness of metaphors (Paragraphs 19). However,
Jeromes Three Men in a Boat abounds with them, their main function being to describe
and illustrate the events and incidents in both the humorous and poetic parts of the
novel. They normally do not cause any problems in translating and are predominantly
translated literally, as the translator does not have any reason to change or recreate them
(Newmark, Paragraphs 19). This is the case in most instances of similes in Jeromes
novel. Here are some examples:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

. . . yet harmless,

. . . nekodn jako

. . . nekodn jako

. . . zrove

mind you, as the

nenarozen

nenarozen batole.

nekodn jako

babe unborn. (53)

nemluvn. (61)

(66)

novorozen. (60)

It is like the sunset

Je jako zpad slunce Jako zpad slunce a

Je jako zpad

and the stars . . .

a hvzdy . . . (63)

slunce a hvzdy . . .

hvzdy . . . (69)

(55)
. . . and had begun

(62)
. . . a zaal je

. . . a jal se je

. . . a zaal je

to unravel it as if he rozvjet jako by

rozvjet, jako kdyby

odmotvat, jako by

were taking the

snmal plenky z

odmotval plenky s

lo o zavinovaku

swaddling clothes

novorozente. (93)

novorozente . . .

novorozence . . .

(101)

(89)

off a new-born
infant . . . (81)
. . . with a noise

. . . s takovm

. . . s takovm

. . . za hlomozu,

like the ripping up

rmusem, jako kdy

randlem, jako

jako by se pralo

of forty thousand

se trh tyicet tisc

kdyby se narz

tyicet tisc

linen sheets. (85)

lnnch prostradel.

roztrhlo tyicet

pltnch

(97)

tisc pltnch

prostradel. (92)

prostradel. (105)
. . . all human life

. . . cel ivot le

. . . le ped nmi
37

. . . jak se ped nmi

lies like a book

ped nmi jako

cel lidsk ivot

lidsk ivot otvr

before us

kniha. (112)

jako kniha . . . (121

jako kniha . . . (106)

. . . (98)

2)

In the above examples, the Czech translators preserve, more or less, the same
images as presented in the original. However, there are some cases in which the
translators opt to use different, even though equally applicable, images:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

. . . standing there

Stoj tu jako

Stoj tady jako kus

. . . stoj jak

like a stuffed

vycpan mmie . . .

polena . . . (114 5)

vycpan pank . . .

mummy . . . (92

(106)

(100)

3)
I had an idea it

Pedstavoval jsem

Tenkrt jsem si

Myslel jsem si, e

came natural to a

si, e to pijde

pedstavoval, e na

jim lovk pijde na

body, like rounders

samo, jako kdy si

to kad pijde hned kloub stejn

and touch. (159)

lovk hraje s

napoprv sm jako

mem. (176)

pi he na babu nebo stlen z praku.

pirozen jako teba

na katule. (193)

(168)
. . . msto abychom

. . . instead of being

. . . msto aby se s

. . . u to s nmi

pitched and thrown

nmi tepalo a

nehz a nehrk jako sebou nechali hzet

about like peas in a

hzelo jako s

s hrky v chrasttku jako hadr na holi

bladder . . . (161)

hrachem v mchu

. . . (196)

. . . (170)

. . . (178)

I have also come across a simile which had to be adapted since it, translated literally,
would sound unnatural in Czech:

Jerome
. . . holding on to

Henzl
. . . dre se okraj

Novk
. . . s rukama

38

ek
Rukama se zarputile

the sides of the boat

lunu jako klt.

keovit

like grim death . . .

(78)

svrajcma luby lodi

(68)

drel bok . . . (75)

. . . (85)

The expression dret se jako hrozn/krut/nemilosrdn smrt as an equivalent to hold


on tight would not make sense to Czech readers; that is why the translators have to
come up with other solutions. Henzl uses the idiomatic expression dret se jako klt
which is a very successful translation. On the other hand, Novk and ek recreate the
simile into adverbs (keovit and zarputile, respectively). These are good solutions
as well but they lack the comic effect of the original simile.
Personification the last category of metaphor mentioned in the theoretical part
of this chapter does not represent any translation problem and is usually preserved in
translations. As the three translators of Jeromes novel do not change or adapt the
personifications in Three Men in a Boat in any way, I will only offer one example of
their renderings by way of illustration:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

Possibly the result

Snad je tento

e to tak dopadlo, to

Mon k tomuto

may have been

vsledek nutno

lze patrn pist

vsledku pispla

brought about by

pist pirozen

pouze pirozen

pirozen

the natural

nepovolnosti vech

zlomyslnosti vech

zarputilost vc

obstinacy of all

vc na tomto svt.

vc na tomto svt.

vezdejch. Loka

things in this

Mon, e loka

Ta lo

snad dola k

world. The boat

podlehla dojmu,

pravdpodobn, pod

zvru, e jsme se

may possibly have

kter v n vzbudilo

dojmem zcela

vydali spchat

come to the

povrchn

povrchnho sudku o

rann sebevradu, a

conclusion,

pozorovn na

naem chovn, dola

rozhodla se, e ns

judging from a

innosti, a usoudila,

k nhledu, e jsme si

zklame. To je

cursory view of

e jsme si vyjeli

vyjeli spchat hned

jedin domnnka, o

39

our behaviour, that

spchat sebevradu,

po rnu sebevradu, a

n se s vmi mohu

we had come out

a proto si umnila,

v dsledku toho si

podlit. (169)

for a mornings

e ns zklame. To

umnila, e nm ji

suicide, and had

je jedin vysvtlen,

pekaz. Nic jinho

thereupon

kter mohu

m nenapad. (195)

determined to

nabdnout. (178)

disappoint us. That


is the only
suggestion I can
offer. (160 1)

Since the metaphors in Three Men in a Boat are not culture-specific and the
images and symbols contained in them are well-understandable for Czech readers, they
do not cause difficulties in translating and do not require any special renderings on the
part of the Czech translators. As for Newmarks proposed modes of translating
metaphors, the way of translating metaphors using the same or a similar image is most
frequently employed. If a metaphor is modified in some way, it is the translators own
initiative (i.e. it was not due to cultural reasons) and the sense and effect of the original
metaphor are preserved. As far as the translation of idioms is concerned, the translators
either substitute them with Czech idiomatic equivalents or, if this is not possible, they
replace them with unidiomatic expressions with the same sense. Both these approaches
prove to be successful. Similes and personifications are probably the easiest categories
of metaphor to translate. The overwhelming majority of similes is rendered literally and
all the cases of personifications are retained. In my opinion, the translators manage to
keep the balance between the source and target metaphorical language with no
excessive losses or gains in the target text.

40

4 Register
4.1

Register in Three Men in a Boat

The term register is used to describe the fact that the kind of language we use is
affected by the context in which we use it, to such an extent that certain kinds of
language usage become conventionally associated with particular situations
(Montgomery 55). Thus, we would use different register when speaking to friends
(informal, familiar language) and to superiors or strangers (formal, polite language).
Among the main social determinants that influence our choice of register are: age, sex,
class, occupation, religion, country of origin, generation, schooling etc. Moreover, our
choice of register is conditioned by the mode (written vs. spoken) and the occasion in
which it is used (Newmark, Approaches 121).
Montgomery (56) defines three different aspects of any situation or context
which will affect the register: the mode of communication this relates to whether the
language is written or spoken; the tone, which is connected to the social relationships
between the participants in the situation (formal vs. informal, personal vs. impersonal
relationships); and the field, i.e. the purpose the language is used for (e.g. to convey
information, to express feelings, to intimidate, etc.) and the activities or professions it is
characteristic of (e.g. the register of legal profession, advertising, football commentary,
journalism and so on).
Since each of us switches naturally and smoothly from one register to another
and since we know which register is appropriate in a certain situation, we are all
sensitive to deviation in register (Montgomery 56). Many authors of humorous literature
rely on this sensitivity and employ registers inappropriately to create humour and
humorous situations. The same does J. K. Jerome in his Three Men in a Boat. He makes
41

use of very formal register to exaggerate certain situations or problems and thus makes
them more comic:

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality
and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with
care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within
your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a
loving husband, and a tender father a noble, pious man. (Jerome 94 5)

This formal, almost philosophical in tone, statement follows J.s account of how proper
dinner made the three characters content and blissful after a long day. The grand tone of
this recommendation is apparently incongruous with the ordinary situation of eating
and thus makes it sound comic.
Jerome also uses formal language to establish irony. When the character of
George asks a lock-keeper for some drinking water, the keeper maliciously offers him
to take as much as he wants, pointing to the river and saying that he has drunk the river
water for the last fifteen years without any harm. George, in response to the keepers
impoliteness, uses formal and very polite language to make an ironic insult:

George told him that his appearance, after the course, did not seem a sufficiently
good advertisement for the brand; and that he would prefer it out of a pump.
(Jerome 132)

Informal register appears frequently in the novel as well and it serves to


reinforce the comic elements in the situations and to mock the characters. Jerome uses
colloquial language that can be found both in the narrative and the direct speech, as in
the following examples:

42

This was hardly what I intended. What I had meant, of course, was, that I should
boss the job, and that Harris and George should potter about under my directions
. . . (Jerome 37)

Well, I dont know, gents, replied the noble fellow, but I suppose some
trains got to go to Kingston; and Ill do it. Gimme the half-crown. (Jerome 49)

The colloquial language of villagers is also employed (only in direct speech) to


make the distinction between the three main characters, who come from the middle
class, and the Arrys and Arriets a term coined by the middle-classes to describe the
lower-classes (Nicholas 60). In some cases it shows the villagers simplicity and helps
to make the mockery of them more profound, as it is with the character of slow-witted
churchyard keeper:

Im a-coming, sur, Im a-coming. Im a little lame. I aint as spry as I used to


be. This way, sur.
Go away, you miserable old man, I said.
Ive come as soon as I could, sur, he replied. My missis never see you till just
this minute. You follow me, sur. (Jerome 65)

As I already mentioned, using certain register inappropriately (the above


example concerning stomach) is one of the devices for achieving humorous effect.
Another register-based method for creating humour involves juxtaposition or mixing of
different registers:

The quaint back streets of Kingston, where they came down to the waters edge,
looked quite picturesque in the flashing sun-light, the glinting river with its
43

drifting barges, the wooded towpath, the trim-kept villas on the other side,
Harris, in a red and orange blazer, grunting away at the sculls, the distant
glimpses of the grey old palace of the Tudors, all made a sunny picture, so bright
but calm, so full of life, and yet so peaceful that, early in the day though it was, I
felt myself being dreamily lulled off into a musing fit. (Jerome 49)

The above quoted surroundings description written in highly poetic register is suddenly
interrupted in the middle by a commonplace remark on Harriss intensive sculling
(underlined), which somehow surprises the reader, spoils the poetic, serious tone of the
extract and forces the reader to realise a new humorous dimension of the utterance.
Alison Ross mentions a further device for register-based humour bathos.
Bathos is a sudden switch in style, from one which has grand overtones to one which is
commonplace (45). There are about four cases of bathos in Three Men in a Boat; here
is one example by way of illustration:

. . . and, lulled by the lapping water and the rustling trees, we fall asleep beneath
the great, still stars, and dream that the world is young again young and sweet
as she used to be ere the centuries of fret and care had furrowed her fair face, ere
her childrens sins and follies had made old her loving heart sweet as she was
in those bygone days when, a new made mother, she nursed us, her children,
upon her own deep breast ere the wiles of painted civilisation had lured us
away from her fond arms, and the poisoned sneers of artificiality had made us
ashamed of the simple life we led with her, and the simple, stately home where
mankind was born so many thousands of years ago.
Harris said:
How about when it rained?
You can never rouse Harris. There is no poetry about Harris no wild yearning
for the unattainable. Harris never weeps, he knows not why. If Harriss eyes
fill with tears, you can bet it is because Harris has been eating raw onions, or has
put too much Worcester over his chop. (Jerome 18)
44

In this example, Jerome suddenly switches from poetic, lofty style to commonplace
language describing Harriss practicality. The difference is even amplified by the
sentence length the poetic part is formed by one, very long sentence; while the
following text is composed of relatively short sentences (underlined). The vocabulary
and particularly the combination of words play an important role as well. In the first
part, poetic devices such as vivid imagery (rustling trees, painted civilisation,
poisoned sneers of artificiality etc.) and personification (the world is personified
young, her face, her loving heart) are used; the subsequent part is formed of words of
everyday language and does not involve any unusual combinations of words.
Ross also speaks about the method of building up balanced phrases from which
the final one drops in register or style to form a sort of anti-climax (44). The method is
used by Jerome when urging the readers not to burden their lives with unnecessary
things:

Throw the lumber over, man! Let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth
the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or
two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink;
for thirst is a dangerous thing. (Jerome 27)

In this example, Jerome begins in a noble way to name things and people one would not
do without in their lives. Towards the end, however, he proceeds to things (underlined)
that are not expected in such a clichs-based utterance (i.e. pipes, drink in this
case, the word drink is ambiguous as it can refer both to alcoholic and nonalcoholic
beverage).

45

4.2

Translation of Register

Unfortunately, there is not much specialised literature that would offer any useful and
detailed approaches to the translation of register. I will therefore draw only on
Newmarks opinion of how to render register in translation and Levs attitude to
dialect translation. Peter Newmark (Approaches 121) thinks that the main interest to a
translator when dealing with register is the lexical field (including characteristic word
deformations and syntactic markers), which s/he should recognise in the source text
and transfer to the target text. In chapter seventeen, J. and George are sitting in a pub,
meeting different village people who tell them the story of how they caught the big trout
that is displayed there in a glass case. It is obvious that the villagers make the stories up
and when another man enters the pub, George decides to put his truthfulness to the test,
using inappropriate, highly formal language:

I beg your pardon, I hope you will forgive the liberty that we perfect strangers
in the neighbourhood are taking, but my friend here and myself would be so
much obliged if you would tell us how you caught that trout up there. (Jerome
172)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Promite, doufm, e nm Promite, prosm. Snad se

Prosm za prominut,

lidem zde pln cizm

na ns nebudete zlobit, e

doufm, e nm coby

prominete nai smlost, ale

si troufme vs oslovit,

naprosto neznmm lidem

mj ptel i j bychom vm

akoliv jsme tady v tch

odpustte tuto neomalenost,

byli velmi vdni,

koninch pln ciz, ale

ale mj ptel i j sm

kdybyste nm laskav

tuhle mj ptel i j bychom bychom vm byli velmi

vylil, jak jste chytil

vm byli velice vdni,

zavzni, kdybyste nm

tohohle pstruha. (191)

kdybyste nm povdl, jak

ekl, jak jste dokzal chytit

jste ulovil tmhletoho

tady toho pstruha. (181)

46

pstruha. (208)

Jerome uses features of politeness, among them words of politeness (I beg your
pardon), conditional mood and highly formal and noble words such as forgive the
liberty we are taking and obliged. In my opinion, the Czech translators succeed in
transferring the excessively high level of formality into Czech. They all recognise the
lexical field (words of politeness, formal words and the conditional) and use the Czech
equivalents (underlined) to create the same comic effect as in the original.
In his Umn pekladu, Ji Lev comments on translation of regional dialect. He
claims that it is impossible to characterise a speaker as, lets say, a Bavarian by Czech
linguistic devices. A translator can only manage to distinguish between the language of
a villager and the national language. To indicate rural language, it is advisable to use
linguistic features that are regionally unmarked, i.e. features that are not perceived as
specific for a certain dialect and thus are related to a more general perception of rural
areas (126). This suggestion for treating dialect in translation could be also applied to
the translation of rural language in Three Men in a Boat. The translation of colloquial
language and especially of language of villagers involves greater variety on the part of
the novels translators. For example, in the following extract J. meets a party of Arrys
and Arriets (i.e. young village people) and asks them where the Wallingford lock is.
They answer in this way:

Wallingford lock! they answered. Lor love you, sir, thats been done away
with for over a year. There aint no Wallingford lock now, sir. Youre close to
Cleeve now. Blow me tight if ere aint a gentleman been looking for
Wallingford lock, Bill! (Jerome 90)

47

Non-standard, colloquial form of English is evidently used in this example. Short forms
such as aint, ere, and exclamations like Lor love you and blow me tight
indicate that the characters do not use standard language. Despite this fact, Vladimr
Henzl uses standard Czech in his translation:

Wallingfordsk zdymadlo! odpovdli. Pro pna krle, pane, to u je pes rok


zrueno. Wallingfordsk zdymadlo u nen, pane. Jste u blzko Cleeve. Bille,
podr m, on hled wallingfordsk zdymadlo! (102)

Henzl opts for rather formal language which one would not expect from young village
people and thus spoils Jeromes intention to vivify the narration by the rural language
and to differentiate the villagers from the middle-class characters of J., George and
Harris. The only colloquialisms he preserves are the exclamations pro pna krle and
podr m.
Novk, on the other hand, employs colloquial Czech (obecn etina) of which it
is typical to replace final - in adjectives by and vowel y by ej (wallingfordsk
zdejmadlo), and to add v in front of words beginning with o (vostatn, von). His
renderings are regionally unmarked which corresponds to Levs recommendation.
Moreover, he enhances the rural tone of the utterance by colloquial exclamations pnbu
s vma and to m teda podr:

Wallingfordsk zdejmadlo? odpovdli. Pnbu s vma, pane, to u je peci


pes rok zbouran. To u je peci pry, wallingfordsk zdejmadlo. A tady jste
vostatn a skoro u Cleeve. To m teda podr, Bille, von ten pn hled
wallingfordsk zdejmadlo! (111)

48

Finally, Milan ek seems to be inconsistent in his rendering of register. In the


beginning he chooses standard Czech (wallingfordsk zdymadlo, dn zdymadlo),
at the end he switches to colloquial wallingfordsk zdymadlo. The overall tone of his
translation is definitely less colloquial than that of Novk; it is rather closer to Henzls
rendering:

Wallingfordsk zdymadlo! odpovdli mi. Tak to Bh s vmi, pane, to u vc


ne rok nestoj. Te u dn wallingfordsk zdymadlo nen. Blte se ke
Cleeve. Bille, to m teda podr, tenhle pn opravdu hled wallingfordsk
zdymadlo! (97)

The ways in which the three translators render the colloquial register follow the
same pattern throughout the novel. Henzl uses standard Czech, sometimes even more
formal than it is necessary, and thus does not preserve the colloquial tone of some of the
novels parts. Novk employs as much colloquial expressions as possible, and ek
seems to stick to the golden mean as he tries to express a certain level of colloquiality
but does not make use of so many colloquialisms as Novk does. This can be observed
in the already mentioned example in which non-standard English is used by the
churchyard keeper:

Im a-coming, sur, Im a-coming. Im a little lame. I aint as spry as I used to


be. This way, sur.
Go away, you miserable old man, I said.
Ive come as soon as I could, sur, he replied. My missis never see you till just
this minute. You follow me, sur. (Jerome 65)

49

Here are the translators solutions:

Henzl

Novk

ek

U jdu, pane, u jdu. Jsem U du, vanosti, u du. J

U se blm, vanosto, u

trochu chrom. U nejsem

to bude. Trochu kulhm.

kapnek kulhm. U

tak ipern, jak jsem bval. nejsem takovej ipera, jako

Nejsem takov ipera jako

Tudy, pane.

zamlada. Tudy, vanosto.

sem bejval. Rej tuhle,


vanosti.

Jdte pry, vy bdn

Zmizte, ddku mizern!

B pry, ddku jedna

stare, ekl jsem.

kikl jsem.

uboh, utrousil jsem.

Nemohl jsem pijt dv,

Dv sem pijt nemoh,

Piel jsem, co nejdv to

pane. M ena vs vidla

vanosti, odpovdl.

lo, vanosto, odpovdl.

teprve ped chvl. Pojte

Moje panika jich

Bba vs vdycky uvid a

za mnou, pane. (75)

zmerila teprv te, v

na posledn chvli. Pojte

posledn chvli. Rej za

za mnou, vanosto. (72)

mnou, vanosti. (81 2)

Henzl again employs standard Czech which does not match the colloquial original text
and spoils the comic effect and mockery created by the use of the colloquial language.
Novk successfully transfers the original colloquiality into the Czech version by using
colloquialisms and colloquial forms (du, takovej, bejval, nemoh, teprv), by
employing the address in third person plural (rej za mnou) and the expression
vanosti, which is a very polite way of address and evokes the atmosphere of the past.
ek does not use the colloquial forms of words but tries to indicate the speech of a
villager by using colloquialisms such as vanosto and bba, referring to the keepers
wife.
Translation of the register-based methods for creating humour should not cause
any major problems as it basically involves a change of register. Still, there are some

50

differences between the three Czech translations. In the following example two registers
formal and slightly colloquial (underlined) are juxtaposed:

I impressed the fact upon George and Harris and told them that they had better
leave the whole matter entirely to me. They fell into the suggestion with a
readiness that had something uncanny about it. George put on a pipe and spread
himself over the easy-chair, and Harris cocked his legs on the table and lit a
cigar. (Jerome 36 7)

The first sentence of the extract is formal in tone, the expression impressed the fact
upon being employed, whereas in the rest of the extract the language becomes more
colloquial since the phrasal verbs (fall into, put on) and expressions such as spread
himself and cocked his legs are used. What follows are the translators renderings of
this passage:

Henzl
Tuto skutenost jsem

Novk
Dtkliv jsem George i

ek
Tuto skutenost jsem sdlil

vyloil Jimu a Harrisovi a Harrise na tuto skutenost

i Georgeovi a Harrisovi a

ekl jsem jim, e bude

upozornil a radil jsem jim,

ekl jsem jim, aby celou

nejlep, kdy celou

aby to vechno nechali na

zleitost nechali zcela na

zleitost pln penechaj

mne. Skoili na ten nvrh s

mn. Na tento nvrh

mn. Pijali tento nvrh s

ochotou, kter se mi hned

pistoupili s rychlost, v n

ochotou, kter mla v sob

njak nezamlouvala.

se zrailo cosi a

cosi neslunho. Ji si

George si nacpal dmku a

zlovstnho. George si

zaplil dmku a rozvalil se

rozvalil se v lenoce a

zaplil dmku a rozvalil se

v lenoce a Harris dal nohy

Harris si dal nohy na stl a

v kesle, Harris si poloil

na stl a zaplil si doutnk.

zaplil si doutnk. (45)

nohy na stl a zaplil si

(41)

doutnk. (42)

51

In Henzls and eks translations the transition to informal and colloquial language is
not quite apparent. The only expression that suggests informality is that of rozvalil se,
the rest of the passage sounds formal. There is a higher level of informality in Novks
version, since he uses more colloquial expressions (underlined). It is surprising that
none of the translators renders the expression cocked his legs colloquially in Czech as
it offers at least one solution that would fit the context more suitably hodil (si) nohy
na stl.
As for bathos, or a sudden switch in style, differences in the Czech renderings
occur as well. In the following passage, the first direct speech is formed by poetic,
pensive language, while in the second direct speech the author switches to
commonplace, dispassionate style thus creating humorous effect:

Hark! do you not hear? Is it but the mermaids singing deep below the waving
waters; or sad spirits, chanting dirges for white corpses, held by seaweed?
Harris would take you by the arm, and say:
I know what it is, old man; youve got a chill. Now, you come along with me. I
know a place round the corner here, where you can get a drop of the finest
Scotch whisky you ever tasted put you right in less than no time. (Jerome 19)

Henzl

Novk

ek

Poslouchej! Sly? To

Zmlkni! Co nesly? To

Poslouchej! Sly?

zpvaj mosk panny

neme bt nic jinho ne

Nejsou to mosk panny, co

hluboko v rozvlnnch

mosk panny pjc v

zpvaj pod zvlnnmi

vodch. Anebo jsou to

hlubinch tch zvlnnch

vodami, nebo smutn

smutn alozpvy duch

vod. i to truchlc due

duchov zpvajc

nad bledmi mrtvolami, je

lkaj alozpvy nad svmi

alozpvy za bl umrlce

se zachytily v chaluhch?

umrlmi tly, zachycenmi

uvznn v chaluhch?

ve spleti chaluh?
Harris by vs vzal za pai a

Harris by vs vzal pod pa


52

Harris by vs chytil za ruku

ekl by:

a ekl:

a pravil by:

Tohle, kamarde, znm;

J ti povm, co to je,

J vm, co to je, kamarde;

nastydl jsi se. Pjde se

kamarde. Leze na tebe

prochladl jsi. Poj te se

mnou. Vm tady o jednom

rma. Poj hezky se mnou,

mnou. Znm tu za rohem

mst za rohem, kde

j znm tadyhle za rohem

jeden lokl, kde ti nalej tu

dostane kapku nejlep

podniek, kde dostane

nejjemnj skotskou, jakou

skotsk whisky, jakou jsi

nejlep skotskou whisky,

jsi kdy ochutnal ne se

kdy pil a ta t okamit

jakou jsi kdy ochutnal, a ta

nadje, bude zase v

postav na nohy. (22)

t v cuku letu postav na

podku. (24)

nohy. (23 4)

All the translators successfully preserve the poetic and emotional tone of the first part.
They also switch into commonplace and informal style in the second part, however, the
level of informality in their translations differs. Novk employs a lot of colloquialisms
such as leze na tebe rma and a diminutive (podniek) which gives the utterance
even more comic tone. Thus, his rendering is more profoundly in contrast with the
poetic part and has a greater humorous effect. Henzls and eks level of informality
is not so high as that of Novk but the transition from the poetic to the commonplace is
clear in their translations and they fulfill what is required by bathos the sudden switch
in style.
To conclude this chapter on register, I would like to sum up the three Czech
translators approaches to dealing with register in Three Men in a Boat. Vladimr Henzl
tends to stick to standard Czech in all the cases of register mentioned, i.e. formal,
colloquial register and language of villagers. He avoids using colloquiality (except for
occasional informal expressions that occur in spoken language however, these
expressions are still in the standard Czech forms) contained in the original and thus
spoils a part of its humour. J. Z. Novk, on the other hand, employs standard Czech only
when the original register is formal; in the parts of the original which are of colloquial
53

tone or in which villagers speak he opts for colloquial, regionally unmarked Czech.
Finally, Milan ek preserves the colloquiality and informality where necessary as
well, but not to such an extent as Novk does. Concerning the level of colloquiality, he
could be placed between the two very different poles represented by Henzl and Novk.

54

5 Pragmatics, Wordplay, Ambiguity


5.1

Pragmatics, Wordplay and Ambiguity in Three Men in a Boat

In a study concerning humorous devices, the concept of pragmatics must be definitely


mentioned. Pragmatics focuses on the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker
(or writer) and interpreted by a listener (or reader) (Yule 3). In other words, it is
concerned with the analysis of what people mean by their utterances rather than with the
meanings of the individual words used in those utterances. In this kind of study it is
necessary to consider the context in which the utterances occur and how the context
influences what is said (Yule 3).
Humour elicited by pragmatics relies on a gap between the sense and force of
the utterance. The sense refers to the information an utterance conveys, whereas the
force pertains to the variety of messages the utterance offers in a given context (Ross
39). Thus, misunderstanding may occur when a person misinterprets what is said by the
speaker/writer and incorrectly infers, or deduces, the message. Here is an example from
Three Men in a Boat, in which the three characters discuss what to pack for their trip:

Begin with breakfast. (George is so practical.) Now for breakfast we shall


want a frying-pan (Harris said it was indigestible; but we merely urged him
not to be an ass, and George went on) a tea-pot and a kettle, and a methylated
spirit stove. (Jerome 30)

This example is based on the ambiguity of the phrase we shall want a frying-pan. The
intended meaning is easily retrievable from the context of the situation, however, Harris
pretends to misinterpret Georges utterance we shall want a frying-pan as we shall

55

want to eat a frying-pan instead of we shall need a frying-pan. Therefore, he makes a


remark about the frying-pan being indigestible, which creates a comic effect.
Another possible source of ambiguity consists in the way speakers co-operate in
a conversation. The philosopher H. P. Grice in his theory of co-operative principle
suggests that in conversational interaction people rely on the assumption that a certain
set of rules is in operation (Thomas 62). These rules should help them to avoid
ambiguity and to interpret an utterance correctly. He also proposes four conversational
maxims that contribute (if followed) to our understanding what the intended message of
an utterance is (Thomas 63 4):

Maxim of quantity:

Make your contribution as informative as is required.


Do not make your contribution more informative than is
required.

Maxim of quality:

Do not say what you believe to be false.


Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of relation:

Be relevant.

Maxim of manner:

Avoid obscurity of expression.


Avoid ambiguity.
Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
Be orderly.

If any of the maxims is not observed, or is flouted, the hearer has to make so-called
conversational implicature, i.e. an assumption about what the implied meaning is. If
the implicature does not correspond to the intended meaning, ambiguity or incongruity
occurs in the conversation. This result is often employed by writers to create

56

pragmatics-based humour (Zemanov 29). In the following extract, Harris and J. have to
sleep together in one bed and Harris asks his friend which side of the bed he prefers:

We tossed for beds, and Harris had to sleep with me. He said:
Do you prefer the inside or the outside, J.?
I said I generally preferred to sleep inside a bed. (Jerome 40)

Here Harris flouts the maxim of quantity and manner when he does not give enough
information about what the inside and the outside refer to (he could say the inside or
the outside of the bed), thus creating ambiguity (in the bed or on the floor, for
example). Even though the intended meaning is clear due to the context, J. takes
advantage of Harriss flouting the maxims and makes an incorrect implicature in order
to react wittily.
The already mentioned phenomenon of ambiguity is closely related to puns and
wordplay in general. Dirk Delabastita defines wordplay as the general name for the
various textual phenomena in which structural features of the language(s) used are
exploited in order to bring about a communicatively significant confrontation of two (or
more) linguistic structures with more or less similar forms and more or less different
meanings (in Korhonen 10). The ambiguity alone, however, is not the only trigger of
humorous effect of wordplay. It is the context, either verbal or situational, that activates
the resulting effect (Koponen 35).
Wordplay is a powerful device for creating humour as it captures readers
attention because it stands out from the surrounding text. Ambiguity contained in
wordplay can occur on phonological, graphological, morphological, lexical and
syntactical level (Ross 8). In Jeromes novel lexical and syntactical ambiguities are
most frequent. Syntax refers to the way that meaning is created by the structure of
57

words in a sentence (Ross 20). Syntactical ambiguity occurs when there are two
possible ways of grouping the words in relation to each other, as in this example:

For the next four days he lived a simple and blameless life on thin Captains
biscuits (I mean that the biscuits were thin, not the captain) and soda-water . . .
(Jerome 14)

The syntactical ambiguity here lies in the possibility of interpreting the phrase thin
Captains biscuits in two ways the Captain was thin or the biscuits were thin. Jerome
immediately explains what he means in brackets and thus draws attention to the
ambiguity even more.
Another source of ambiguity is the lexicon, or vocabulary, of a language.
Lexical ambiguity can be based on polysemy, i.e. the phenomenon of words having
various, related meanings (Ross 17) In the following extract, the three characters are
sitting in their boat, being lifted by water in the lock and at the same time a
photographer is going to take a picture of them. Suddenly, somebody tries to warn them
against the danger of getting upset as the nose of their boat got stuck in the lock:

As we stood, waiting for the eventful moment, I heard someone behind call out:
Hi! look at your nose.
I could not turn round to see what was the matter, and whose nose it was that
was to be looked at. I stole a side-glance at Georges nose! It was all right at
all events, there was nothing wrong with it that could be altered, I squinted down
at my own, and that seemed all that could be expected also.
...
We looked then, and saw that the nose of our boat had got fixed under the
woodwork of the lock, while the in-coming water was rising all around it, and
tilting it up. In another moment we should be over. (Jerome 175 6)

58

The author plays with the word nose which can refer both to the part of the face and
the front part of a boat. Moreover, he reinforces the humorous tone of the situation by
incorrect inference on the part of J.
The phenomenon of idioms can be also exploited as a source of lexical
ambiguity. An idiom is a group of words that should be perceived as a single unit as its
meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words. Ambiguity occurs if
the group of words can be interpreted both as an idiom and as individual words (Ross
18). The example below presents Harris using an idiomatic expression to a T, which
means exactly right, and J.s wrong inference that Harris talks about tea, i.e. a light
meal eaten in the early evening:

Harris, said, however, that the river would suit him to a T. I don't know what a
T is (except a six-penny one, which includes bread-and-butter and cake ad lib.,
and is cheap at the price, if you havent had any dinner). (Jerome 16)

Jerome K. Jerome also employs repetition of certain words as a form of


wordplay, as in the following extract in which J. uses the expression to give worlds for
mustard, meaning he desperately longs for a bit of mustard:

I dont think I ever in my life, before or since, felt I wanted mustard as badly as I
felt I wanted it then. I dont care for mustard as a rule, and it is very seldom that
I take it at all, but I would have given worlds for it then.
I dont know how many worlds there may be in the universe, but anyone who
had brought me a spoonful of mustard at that precise moment could have had
them all. . . .
Harris said he would have given worlds for mustard, too. It would have been a
good thing for anybody who had come up to that spot with a can of mustard
then; he would have been set up in worlds for the rest of his life. (Jerome 118)
59

Pragmatics and wordplay represent a very effective well of humour, whether the
device used is the gap between what is intended and what is inferred, flouting of any
maxim of the co-operative principle, or the exploitation of the phenomenon of
ambiguity. However, translation of these devices may be really challenging for a
translator since the source language linguistic characteristics employed for creating
humour often do not correspond to those of the target language.

5.2

Translation of Pragmatics-based Devices, Wordplay and


Ambiguity

As for translation, the pragmatic devices the gap between the sense and force of an
utterance (i.e. the gap between what is intended and what is interpreted) and maxim
flouting do not represent any insuperable problem. What could become a stumbling
block, however, is the necessity to create ambiguity in the target text since ambiguity is
a phenomenon on which the pragmatic expedients of humour often build upon. Peter
Newmark claims that in all cases of linguistic ambiguity, the translator has to bear in
mind that the ambiguity may be deliberate, in which case it is his job to reproduce it,
even if it means expanding the original (25). As the ambiguity in Three Men in a Boat
is supposed to produce humorous effect, one can assume that the ambiguity is deliberate
and thus should be preserved. Let us see what the Czech translators solutions to the
ambiguity in the already mentioned extract concerning the breakfast and the frying-pan
are:

Jerome
Begin with

Henzl

Novk

Zaneme sndan.

ek

Zaneme sndan. Zanme u


60

breakfast. (George

(Ji je tak

(George je velice

sndan. (George a

is so practical.)

praktick.) Tedy k

praktick.) Tak

ta jeho praktinost!)

Now for breakfast

sndani budeme

tedy k sndani

Ke sndani budeme

we shall want a

potebovat pnev

budeme potebovat

potebovat pnev -

frying-pan

(Harris podotkl, e

pnev, (Harris

(Harris podotkl, e

(Harris said it was

je nestraviteln; my

ekl, ta e je tko

je nestraviteln, ale

indigestible; but we

jsme ho jen drazn

straviteln; ale my

varovali jsme ho, a

merely urged him

napomenuli, aby

jsme ho prost

si nedl blzny,

not to be an ass,

nebyl osel, a Ji

vybdli, aby

nae George

and George went

pokraoval):

neblbnul, a George

pokraoval) -

on) a tea-pot and

konvici na aj,

pokraoval)

konvici na vaen

a kettle, and a

kotlk a lihov

konvici na aj,

vody, konvici na aj

methylated spirit

vai. (35)

kotlk a lihov

a vai na

vai. (38)

denaturovan lh.

stove. (30)

(36)

In this example, the ambiguity is based on the phrase for breakfast we shall want a
frying-pan which can be interpreted as we shall want to eat a frying-pan or we shall
need a frying-pan. The Czech translators opt for the Czech word potebovat which in
the phrase k sndani budeme potebovat pnev can be understood in two ways as well
as we shall need it for using or we shall need it for eating it. Even though the
misinterpretation is highly improbable (thanks to the context and the general
knowledge), the translators succeed in retaining the ambiguity and the humorous effect.
In the second example presented in this chapter, the task was surely more
difficult:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

Do you prefer the

Jsi radji na kraji

Chce spt radi u

J., chce spt

inside or the

nebo u zdi?

zdi nebo dl ode

uvnit, nebo vn?

outside, J.?

zdi? zeptal se mne.


61

I said I generally

Odpovdl jsem, e

Odpovdl jsem, to

Odpovdl jsem, e

preferred to sleep

nejradji jsem v

e je mi jedno, jen

zpravidla dvm

inside a bed. (40)

posteli. (45)

kdy to bude v

pednost span

posteli. (50)

uvnit postele. (46)

Here the ambiguity lies in the words the inside or the outside by which Harris intends
to say the inside or the outside of the bed, but J. wrongly interprets it as in or out of
the bed. As there are no words in Czech that would allow the ambiguity to be
preserved, Henzl and Novk drop the ambiguity and adapt J.s answer following their
own creativity. In Henzls solution, J. flouts the maxim of relation and quantity since his
answer is not exactly relevant to what Harris asked and does not provide adequate
information for Harris. The effect of Novks translation is weaker than that of Hezl
because Novk uses neither ambiguity nor pragmatic devices to produce humour. Thus,
J.s answer sounds more phlegmatic than humorous. Finally, ek retains the
ambiguity, though at the cost of naturalness in Czech since spt uvnit postele sounds
rather clumsy. However, one can infer from the italicised form of uvnit that this
expression is used on purpose to elicit humour by using an unusual preposition.
Puns and wordplay also rest on ambiguity. Translating wordplay can be a
challenging task since it is often impossible to find a counterpart in the target language
(Korhonen 21), as in the above example, and since the translator is bound to preserve it
if s/he wants the translated text to have the same effect as the original. The difficulty of
this task consists in the fact that the translator must usually solve the clash between the
demand of semantic adequacy on the one hand, and stylistic and pragmatic adequacy on
the other hand (Polkov 90). As homonymous expressions of the same semantic
content in two different languages are very rare, Polkov suggests that, when
translating wordplay, the translator should transpose the information invariant, i.e. the

62

complex of semantic, stylistic and pragmatic information, into the target language text.
This transposition is, of course, accompanied by necessary adaptations and adjustments
that are carried out from a modification of a single expression to reorganising the whole
text (90 1). In Delabastitas view, this leads to the paradox where the translator is
able to be faithful to the source text in terms of its wordplay only through being
unfaithful to the grammatical and lexical aspects (in Koponen 43).
According to Newmark, when ambiguity occurs within a lexical unit, the
translator has several options of tackling it. First of all, s/he should attempt to retain the
word with the same double meaning in the target language. If this is not possible, s/he
may substitute a synonym with a comparable double meaning. The last two options are:
distributing the two senses of one lexical unit over two or more lexical units, or
sacrificing one of the two meanings (108). Leppihalme claims that when choosing a
strategy for translating wordplay, the translator should also bear in mind the importance
of different factors, such as the function of the wordplay, the expectations of the
audience, and the norms and conventions of the target language (in Koponen 45).
Let us see how the three Czech translators cope with the syntactical and lexical
ambiguity contained in wordplay in Three Men in a Boat. I have come across two cases
of syntactical ambiguity; the most interesting being this one:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

For the next four

Po pt tyi dny

Cel pt tyi dny

Dal tyi dny vedl

days he lived a

vedl prost a

vedl prost a

prost a bezhonn

simple and

bezhonn ivot,

bohulib ivot

ivot s tenkmi

blameless life on

ivil se mizernmi

pouze ve

kapitnskmi

63

thin Captains

kapitnovmi

spolenosti lodnch

suenkami

biscuits3 (I mean

suchary a sodovkou

suchar (myslm

(nepatily

that the biscuits

. . . (16)

tm opravdov

kapitnovi, to se jen

were thin, not the

suchary, nikoli

tak jmenovaly) a

captain) and soda-

leny lodn

vodou s

water . . . (14)

posdky, kte mli

bublinkami. (18)

vichni velik
smysl pro humor) a
sodovky. (17 8)

The order of words in this case (thin Captains biscuits) causes syntactical ambiguity
since the adjective thin can refer either to the Captain or the biscuits. Jerome,
moreover, makes the ambiguity even more apparent by explaining it in the brackets.
Henzl decides on leaving the ambiguity out, which, of course, deprives the text of the
humorous tone. Novk, on the other hand, succeeds in transposing the information
invariant (Polkov) i.e. ambiguity that is based on something light to eat, that is
explained in brackets and that elicits humorous effect and makes necessary
adjustments: he changes the syntactical ambiguity into lexical one by using the Czech
expression suchar which can relate both to a kind of light biscuits and to a person
lacking a sense of humour, and recreates the explanation in brackets so that it is
meaningful and humorous. ek transposes the information invariant as well, but treats
the whole wordplay differently. He translates the original phrase thin Captains
biscuits word for word, but since it is impossible to found the ambiguity on the
adjective thin in this case, he shifts the ambiguity to the genitive form kapitnskmi
which can be interpreted as belonging to a Captain or named after a Captain4. He

Probably biscuits made by Huntley & Palmers bakery. In 1830s the firm was selling around twenty
kinds of biscuit, among them the Captains.
4
In my opinion, however, the word kapitnovmi would sound better and more natural.

64

also replaces the syntactical ambiguity by the lexical one and retains the explanation in
brackets and the humorous tone of the extract.
As for the second case of syntactical ambiguity, the translators use almost the
same techniques as in the previous case: Henzl omits the wordplay, while Novk and
ek render it closely following the original. Even though the wordplay is preserved at
the cost of natural word order in Czech, Novks and eks translations are successful
and acceptable:

Jerome

Novk

ek

I begin to strike out Zoufale se snam

Zbsile sebou

Zanu zbsile

frantically for the

doshnout behu,

plcm smrem k

mchat rukama,

shore, and wonder

uvauji, jestli se mi pobe, pochybuju,

abych se dostal ke

if I shall ever see

jet kdy poda

e jet nkdy

behu, pemlm,

home and friends

spatit domov a

uvidm domov a

jestli jet nkdy

again, and wish Id

ptele, a lituji, e

ptele, a vytm si,

spatm domov a

been kinder to my

jako chlapec jsem

pro jsem nebyl hod-

ptele, a peji si,

little sister when a

nebyl hodnj ke

nj na svou

abych bval

boy (when I was a

sv sestice. (33)

sestiku v

hodnj na svou

klukovskch letech

sestiku za

(kdy jsem j byl v

chlapeckch let

klukovskch letech,

(tedy za mch

pochopiteln, nikoli

chlapeckch let).

ona). (36)

(33 4)

boy, I mean). (29)

Henzl

The majority of instances of wordplay in the novel are created on the basis of
polysemy which means that a word can have various, related meanings. It can
sometimes happen that an expression with several meanings in source language has an
equivalent expression with the same meanings in the target language:

65

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

He says hell teach

k, e vs nau

Vol na vs, e vs

k, e vs nau

you to take his

brt mu prkna a

nau brt jeho

brt mu fony a

boards and make a

dlat si z nich vor,

prkna a dlat si z

dlat si z nich vor,

raft of them; but,

ale ponvad to sm nich vor; ale

ale vzhledem k

seeing that you

u dobe umte,

vzhledem k tomu,

tomu, e vy jste

know how to do this pipad vm tato

e to u docela

tuto innost ji

pretty well already,

nabdka

slun umte,

docela dobe zvldl,

the offer, though

nepochybn dobe

pokldte tu jeho

nabdka, by ji bez-

doubtless kindly

mnn zbyten a nabdku, i kdy

pochyby sdluje s

meant, seems a

ostchte se

nepochybn dobe

tmi nejlepmi

superfluous one on

obtovat ho jejm

mnnou, za zcela

mysly, se vm z

his part, and you are pijetm. (169)

zbytenou a

jeho strany jev

reluctant to put him

ostchte se ji

ponkud zbyten a

to any trouble by

pijmout, abyste mu

vm se nechce

accepting it (152).

nepidlval prci.

vystavovat ho ja-

(185)

kmkoli dalm
obtm, paklie
byste na ni
pistoupil. (161)

This wordplay employs the ambiguity in the phrase to teach somebody to do


something which can mean to show somebody how to do something or refer to a
threat of punishment. In this case, the Czech translators do not have to adapt or even
substitute the ambiguity of nauit nkoho nco/emu as it works in the same way in
Czech and it retains the ironic tone of the original utterance.
Nevertheless, this is not always the case. There are much more instances in
which the source language polysemous expression has no applicable counterpart in the
target language, and thus are more challenging from the point of view of translation:

66

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

ek

As we stood,

Kdy jsme tak

A jak jsme tak ekali

Zatmco jsme ekali

waiting for the

stli, ekajce na

na ten pamtihodn

na tento pamtn

eventful moment,

vznamn

okamik, najednou

okamik, zaslechl

I heard someone

okamik, slyel

slym, jak nkdo za

jsem, jak nkdo za

behind call out:

jsem, jak za mnou

mnou ki:

nmi zvolal:

nkdo ki:
Hi! look at your

Hej, podvejte se

Hej! Pozor na lev

Hej, vy tam!

nose.

na nos!

bok!

Koukejte na umk!

I could not turn

Nemohl jsem se

Nemohl jsem se

Nemohl jsem se

round to see what

otoit, abych se

pochopiteln

obrtit, abych se

was the matter,

podval, co se dje

ohldnout, abych

podval, co se stalo a

and whose nose it

a kdo se m

zjistil, o jde a kdo si

na umk mme

was that was to be

podvat na nos.

to m na ten svj

koukat. Jen jsem

looked at. I stole a

Kradmo a kosem

lev bok dt pozor.

kradmo pohldl na

side-glance at

jsem pohldl na

Jen jsem se koutkem

Georgev nos! Byl v

Georges nose! It

Jiho nos. Ten byl

oka rychle podval

podku nebo se s

was all right at

v podku

na lev bok

nm pinejmenm

all events, there

rozhodn na nm

Georgev. S tm bylo nedlo nic, co by lo

was nothing

nebylo nic

vechno v podku

opravit. Zailhal

wrong with it that

vadnho, co by

takhle vsed a pod

jsem i na svj vlastn

could be altered, I

bylo teba zmnit.

kazajkou nebylo

a i ten se jevil, jak se

squinted down at

Zailhal jsem na

natst vidt, jak je

dalo oekvat.

my own, and that

svj vlastn nos,

George v bocch

seemed all that

ale i ten, jak se

obtloustl. A sm

could be expected

zdlo, nebyl jin,

jsem se kvapn

also.

ne se dalo

troku narovnal a

oekvat.

povythl, abych lev


bok pli
nevystrkoval.

...
We looked then,

Podvali jsme se

Teprve te jsme

To u jsme se

and saw that the

tedy a uvidli jsme,

sklopili pohledy a

otoili a spatili

67

nose of our boat

e nos naeho lunu zjistili jsme, e se

jsme, e pedn st

had got fixed under

se zachytil pod

nae lo zachytila

naeho lunu se

the woodwork of

trmy zdymadla, e

levm bokem o

zachytila o

the lock, while the

voda kolem dokola

vynl balvan ve

konstrukci

in-coming water

stoup a nakln

stn zdymadla a e

zdymadla, zatmco

was rising all

lun. (196)

stoupajc voda

vude kolem ns u

around it, and

zved jenom n

stoupala voda a

tilting it up. (175

prav bok a chyst

naklnla ns. (184

6)

se ns pevrhnout.

5)

(212 3)

This situation takes place in the lock, the three men are sitting in the boat and preparing
themselves to be photographed. The nose of their boat gets stuck in the woodwork of
the lock and a man tries to warn them by shouting look at your nose, without adding
that he is referring to the nose of their boat (flouting the maxim of quantity), which
causes misunderstanding on the part of J. In Czech there is no counterpart of the English
word nose that would refer both to the part of the face and the front part of a boat,
therefore, it is up to the translators to adapt the wordplay appropriately. In his
translation, Henzl retains the direct equivalent of the word nose, i.e. nos in Czech,
which can be used to designate the part of the face, but when related to the front part of
a boat, it sounds unnatural and clumsy. Even though the humour based on wrong
inference is preserved in Henzls version, the wordplay is rather distorted. Novk opts
for substituting nose for a different body part bok (hip in English), as it can also
refer to a side part of a boat. He keeps this ambiguity throughout the whole section
dealing with the situation and makes necessary as well as optional adjustments, e.g. in
the sentence S tm bylo vechno v podku takhle vsed a pod kazajkou nebylo
natst vidt, jak je George v bocch obtloustl, he adds the information about
Georges chubby hips which is not present in the original. On the other hand, ek
68

decides on using the expressive form of nose, i.e. umk, which is a derogative
expression for nose as well as a slang word for the front part of a boat. However, in the
part of the text in which J. realizes that nose refers to the nose of their boat, ek
switches to using the phrase pedn st naeho lunu which somewhat clarifies what
umk was related to and thus rather spoils the ambiguity. Nevertheless, as the
relation between umk and pedn st naeho lunu is clear from the context, the
wordplay is for the most part preserved.
There is only one instance of ambiguity based on an idiom in the novel. The
ambiguity in this example lies in the possibility to interpret the T in the idiomatic
expression to a T as tea, a light evening meal:

Jerome

Henzl

Novk

Harris, said,

Harris vak

Pak ale Harris

however, that the

prohlsil, e eka by dodal, e pesto

ek
Harris dodal, e
jemu osobn eka

river would suit him se mu hodila jako

pese vecko by mu

vyhovuje do posled-

to a T. I dont

. Co to je ,

eka sedla. J sice

nho puntku.

know what a T is

nevm (leda e by to nevm, jak by eka

Nevm sice, co to

(except a six-penny

byl aj za est penc

posledn puntk je,

one, which includes

i s chlebem, mslem by sedla modelem,

ale mm za to, e na

bread-and-butter

a peivem podle

a ani potom mi nen

takov shod mus

and cake ad lib.,

libosti, co je za ty

jasn, na em by

rozhodn nco bt.

and is cheap at the

penze levn, kdy

sedla, . . . (20)

Zd se navc, e

mohla sedt, ledae

price, if you havent to m lovk msto

eka vyhovuje pln

had any dinner). It

obda). Zdlo se, e

vem, a to j lze

seems to suit

vichni jsou pro

pipsat jedin k

everybody,

eku, co je ece

dobru. (20)

however, which is

jenom ke cti. (19)

greatly to its credit.


(16)

69

Henzl is probably not aware of the idiom used in this extract and renders the original
wordplay literally, which again distorts the wordplay and does not make sense for a
Czech reader. Novk employs the Czech idiomatic expression eka mu sedla and then
fittingly recreates the following remark, only leaving out the brackets. ek follows a
similar strategy as Novk, choosing idiomatic expression vyhovuje do poslednho
puntku and remaking the original utterance in brackets.
It was already pointed out that translation of humour activated by pragmatic
devices and ambiguity is a demanding work and that it is up to the translator to provide
the target language readership with a meaningful text, preserving as many wordplays
and ambiguities as possible, especially when a humorous text is in question. When the
three Czech translations of Three Men in a Boat are compared, it comes out that Henzl
leaves out almost all the instances of ambiguity and in cases in which he retains the
ambiguity, he renders it in a way that sounds unnatural in Czech. Novk, on the
contrary, is in most cases successful in preserving the invariant of the humorous
situation (or wordplay) and transposing it into Czech, only then making necessary
adaptations and reorganisations. Finally, ek also manages to preserve the majority of
instances of ambiguity by transposing the invariant from the original into the target text,
sometimes at the cost of full naturalness and fluency in the Czech version, however.

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6 Conclusion
This study was performed in order to define and exemplify the leading humour devices
in Jerome Klapka Jeromes novel Three Men in a Boat and to present their Czech
translations, the translation procedures the Czech translators employed and their final
solutions. As the three translators Vladimr Henzl, J. Z. Novk and Milan ek
opted for very different strategies and distinct approaches to the translation of the
novels humour, I will attempt to summarise them in this concluding chapter.
Translation of humour based on irony and reversal of situation should not
constitute any substantial problems. The only obstacle that could make the translation
more difficult is culture-specific irony which, however, is not present in the novel.
Moreover, the mechanisms for creating irony in English are the same as in Czech (e.g.
overemphasis, contradiction, understatement, pretended innocence etc.), therefore, the
translators were not forced to make any considerable changes in the text. All the
translators preserved the above stated mechanisms but when it came to formal features,
such as the repetition and the forms of sentences which sometimes also contributed to
the irony, only Henzl and Novk were successful. ek retained the formal features
only partly or neglected them altogether. All in all, the translators maintained the effect
of the irony in the novel, the irony ranging only in its intensity: Henzl stuck to the
original and did not play with the language very much; Novk enhanced Jeromes irony
by using more expressive words; and ek enriched the irony in some cases as well,
but not to such an extent as Novk did.
In chapter three metaphorical language and its contribution to humour was
explored. Two types of metaphor stock metaphors (idioms) and original metaphors
and two categories of metaphor (simile and personification) were chosen to be studied.
Metaphorical language was used in the descriptive, nature-depicting as well as
71

humorous parts of Jeromes novel. As the metaphors were not culturally based and
involved only universally applicable symbols, their translations did not require any
substantial changes or recreations. If there were any, they were the results of the
translators own initiative, not of the necessity (for example, on the grounds of cultural
differences) to recreate them. Peter Newmark suggested five approaches to rendering
metaphors in translation, out of which three were employed by the Czech translators. In
the overwhelming majority of cases the strategy of translating metaphor using the same
image was applied by the translators. There were only two cases of replacing the source
language image by a different image with the same sense (both by ek) and one case
of translating metaphor by a simile (employed by Novk). As far as the translation of
idioms (stock metaphors) is concerned, the translators either made use of Czech
idiomatic equivalents or opted for Czech unidiomatic expressions with the same sense,
both ways being equally successful. The categories of personification and simile were
rendered literally for the most part, with only one exception the expression hold on
like grim death had to be substituted, for literal translation would not make sense to
Czech readers.
The linguistic device of register was also exploited to establish humour in
Jeromes Three Men in a Boat. The author employed very formal register in
inappropriate situations to exaggerate or to create irony, and informal register, including
colloquial language used by the three characters and language of villagers, to
characterise and mock the figures. The mechanism of juxtaposition or mixing of
different registers could be also found in the novel. As for the translation of register,
Vladimr Henzl chose standard, formal Czech for translating all the register types. This
approach worked when formal English appeared in the original as well; when the text
was written in non-standard, colloquial English, however, applying standard Czech

72

spoilt the original authors intention to portray and mock the characters and impaired
the comic effect. Novk, on the other hand, preserved formal register where necessary
and rendered colloquial language by means of colloquial, regionally unmarked Czech.
Milan ek maintained highly formal register as well; when translating non-standard,
colloquial parts of the text, he opted for standard Czech with occasional colloquial
expressions so that a certain level of colloquiality was preserved. Juxtaposition of
registers in which the transition from formal to informal register (or vice versa) was
important, was retained and accentuated to the highest degree by J. Z. Novk thanks to
his frequent usage of colloquial language. In eks translation the transition was
apparent only to some extent whereas in Henzls version the juxtaposition could not
even be created due the translators employment of only one register.
The last chapter discussed pragmatics-based expedients of humour, among them
maxims flouting and breaking the cooperative principle which can lead to
misunderstanding. Misunderstanding can be also caused by ambiguity, mainly lexical
(polysemy) and syntactical as far as Three Men in a Boat is concerned. The
phenomenon of wordplay was included in this chapter as well as it was very frequently
built on lexical ambiguity. The pragmatics-based devices and wordplay are really
effective sources of humour but also very difficult to deal with in translation. The very
pragmatic devices, such as the gap between what is intended and what is interpreted or
the maxims flouting, are not difficult to tackle; problems arise when the pragmaticsbased humour exploits ambiguity. Translating ambiguity presents a demanding task as
the source language linguistic features used ambiguously do not have to correspond to
the target language ones and as homonyms of the same semantic content in two
languages occur very rarely. Polkov suggested that it is important for a translator to
transpose the information invariant of the ambiguity-based humour and then make

73

necessary stylistic and other adaptations. Henzl did not take such an approach he very
frequently left the ambiguity out and when he preserved it, it was at the cost of
naturalness of language or comprehensibility. Novk and ek, on the contrary,
retained almost all the examples of ambiguity by transposing the information invariant
into Czech and making subsequent adjustments, or by substituting the English
polysemous words by adequate Czech ones.
This thesis serves as an in-depth study of four principal humour devices present
in Jeromes novel Three Men in a Boat irony, metaphor, register, and ambiguity and
wordplay. It also provides the findings concerning the individual translators
procedures, approaches, solutions and tendencies as well as comments on the
renderings, though these are mostly subjective and are a matter of personal preferences.
This work gives a deeper insight into the selected problems of humour translation and,
as very little has been written about the translation of the expedients of humour so far, it
could serve as inspiration for further research in this area.

74

Bibliography
Primary Sources

Jerome, Jerome Klapka. Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog. Bristol:
Arrowsmith, 1946.
Jerome, Jerome Klapka. Ti mui ve lunu, o psu nemluv. Trans. Vladimr Henzl.
Praha: Prce, 1957.
Jerome, Jerome Klapka. Ti mui ve lunu: o psu nemluv. Trans. J. Z. Novk. Praha:
Odeon, 1975.
Jerome, Jerome Klapka. Ti mui ve lunu (o psu nemluv); Ti mui na toulkch.
Trans. Milan ek. Praha: Aurora, 2002.

Secondary Sources

Alvarez, Antonia. On Translating Metaphor. Meta 38.3 (1993): 479 90. Erudit. 5
March 2010 <http://www.erudit.org>.
Cuddon, J. A. A Dictionary of Literary Terms. London: Penguin Books, 1979.
Henzl Vladimr. Obec pekladatel. 2008. Obec pekladatel. 5 April 2010
<http://www.obecprekladatelu.cz/H/HenzlVladimir.htm>.
Koponen, Maarit. Wordplay in Donald Duck comics and Their Finnish Translations.
Pro Gradu Thesis. U of Helsinki, 2004
<http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/hum/engla/pg/koponen/wordplay.pdf>.
Korhonen, Elina. Translation Strategies for Wordplay in The Simpsons. Pro Gradu
Thesis. U of Helsinki, 2008 <http://www.snpp.com/other/papers/ek.paper.pdf>.
Lev, Ji. Umn pekladu. Praha: Panorama, 1983.
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Mateo, Marta. The Translation of Irony. Meta 40.1 (1995): 171 8. Erudit. 28 Jan.
2010 <http://www.erudit.org>.
McArthur, Tom, ed. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford: Oxford
UP, 1992.
Menacere, Mohammed. Arabic Metaphor and Idiom in Translation. Meta 37.3
(1992): 567 72. Erudit. 5 March 2010 <http://www.erudit.org>.
Montgomery, Martin et al. Ways of Reading. London: Routledge, 1992.
Newmark, Peter. Approaches to Translation. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1988.
Newmark, Peter. Paragraphs on Translation. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 1993.
Nicholas, Jeremy, ed. Idle Thoughts on Jerome K Jerome. Great Barfield: The Jerome K
Jerome Society, 2009.
Novk Ji Zdenk. Obec pekladatel. 2008. Obec pekladatel. 5 April 2010
<http://www.obecprekladatelu.cz/N/NovakJiriZdenek.htm>.
Polkov, Milena. On Some Problems of Humour in Language (With Regard to
Translation from English to Czech). Philologica Pragensia 33 (1990): 80 93.
Richards, I.A. The Philosophy of Rhetoric. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1971.
Ross, Alison. The Language of Humour. London: Routledge, 1998.
Stbrn, Zdenk. Djiny anglick literatury II. Praha: Academia, 1987.
Thomas, Jenny. Meaning in Interaction: An Introduction to Pragmatics. London:
Longman, 1995.
Vlan, tpn. Slovnk literrn teorie. Praha: eskoslovensk spisovatel, 1984.
Yule, George. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
Zemanov, Markta. The Literary Study of Humour in the Novel Three Men in a
Boat. MA thesis. Masaryk U, 2000.
ek, Milan. Email to the author. 21 April 2010.

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Bibliografie A. Tichho. 2005. Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky FF MU v Brn. 10


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The Huntley and Palmers Collection. 2003. Reading Borough Council. 5 March 2010
<http://www.huntleyandpalmers.org.uk/>.

77

Rsum
The present diploma thesis concentrates on the humour devices employed in Jerome
Klapka Jeromes novel Three Men in a Boat and on their Czech translations. The novel
was first published in 1889 and became very popular in no time, not only in England but
also in the Czech literary milieu. Its popularity has been confirmed by numerous
translations, republications and adaptations for films. There are five Czech translations
of the novel, the last three by Vladimr Henzl, J.Z. Novk and Milan ek being
the subject of the study in this work.
The work provides background information on Jerome Klapka Jerome, his life
and his work, and briefly explains the concept of humour. The following chapters are
devoted to the research into the principal devices and expedients of humour in the novel
irony, metaphor, register, and ambiguity and wordplay. The leading device of humour
contributing to the overall tone of the novel is represented by irony which is
predominantly created by overemphasis, pretended innocence and innuendos. Metaphor
functions as a mechanism for stimulating images and enables the reader to perceive a
situation in new, original ways, thereby reinforcing and even more activating comic
situations. To exaggerate and to characterise and mock the figures in the novel, Jerome
exploits the device of register, choosing from highly formal, colloquial or rural
languages. The phenomenon of ambiguity also forms an essential part of the novel as it
is used to establish humour based on misunderstanding and appears in wordplay which
participates in creating humour in the novel as well.
The main aim of the thesis, however, is to observe and describe the individual
translators methods, procedures and tendencies in the translation process concerning
the humour devices. The translators pursue very different translation strategies and each
of the translations offers excellent as well as less successful renderings. Nevertheless,
78

the work is not meant to judge or criticise the translators solutions, its purpose is rather
to point out interesting translation methods and approaches and to provide the basis for
further study of humour devices translation.

Resum
Ve sv diplomov prci jsem se zamila na prostedky humoru pouit v romnu
Jeroma Klapky Jeroma Ti mui ve lunu a na jejich esk peklady. Romn byl poprv
vydn roku 1889 a okamit si zskal oblibu jak u anglickho, tak eskho tenstva.
Jeho oblibu dokld i znan poet peklad, znovuvydn a filmovch adaptac. Do
etiny byl Jeromv romn peloen celkem ptkrt; posledn ti peklady Vladimra
Henzla, J. Z. Novka a Milana ka jsou pedmtem studie v tto diplomov prci.
Prce uvd zkladn informace tkajc se autorova ivota a dla a strun
vysvtluje vznam pojmu humor. Nsledujc kapitoly jsou vnovny vzkumu
hlavnch prostedk humoru uitch v romnu ironie, metafor, eovch registr,
dvojsmysl a slovnch her. stednm prostedkem humoru, kter pispv k celkovmu
vyznn romnu, je ironie tvoen zejmna pomoc plinho drazu, pedstran
nevdomosti a narek. Metafora slou jako nstroj, kter podncuje pedstavivost a
umouje teni vnmat uritou situaci novm, neotelm zpsobem. Pouit metafory
tak me komickou situaci jet vce zvraznit a oivit. K nadszce, k znzornn a
zesmnn postav v romnu vyuv Jerome eov registry, a u se jedn o formln,
hovorovou nebo vesnickou mluvu. Tak dvojsmysly hraj v tomto romnu dleitou roli
objevuj se v humoru zaloenm na nedorozumn a ve slovnch hrch, kter
k humoru neodmysliteln pat.

79

Hlavnm clem tto prce je vak sledovat a popsat, jak metody a postupy
jednotliv pekladatel pi prci s prostedky humoru pouvaj a jak jejich een
psob. Pekladatel se dr odlinch pekladovch strategi a kad peklad nabz
velmi zdail, ale i mn poveden vsledky. Diplomov prce se vak nesna peklady
posuzovat nebo kritizovat, jejm elem je spe poukzat na zajmav metody a
pstupy k pekladu a poskytnout jaksi podklad pro dal vzkum v oblasti pekladu
prvk humoru.

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81