The Perils of Translation: Part 2

Hello there everyone,

Since I made my post about the translations of the book, a few people have asked if I would make my list of Translator guidelines public.

Unfortunately, I can’t. Well… that’s not true. I won’t. There are too many secrets in there.

Even if there weren’t secrets I’d be hesitant to do it. Not just because I’m cussed (though I am.) But because a lot of the beauty in a book comes from the things that are inobvious. If I pointed them all out to you, it would ruin it. It’s like when you have to explain a joke, you might get it afterwards, but it’s not really funny.

Still, since people asked, I can give you a little non-spoiler taste of the sort of questions that are asked, and the way that I tend to answer them. Just so you can see….

“Shamble-Men. Is this a term you’ve come up with yourself? I’m not happy with my translation for it yet. It doesn’t sound frightening enough in Dutch.”

The Shamble-men are entirely my own creation. The term doesn’t sound particularly scary in English either. But it have vaguely menacing, creepy overtones. This is partly because there is an old usage of the word “shambles” that also means a place where you butcher animals.

(That’s where we get the expression, “This place is a shambles.” Nowadays it means messy, but back in the day it meant strewn with bloody guts.)

Stagger-men would just be drunk. Shuffle men would be odd and slightly silly.

Imagine a homeless person, bundled against the cold, raggedy with a lot of hair. They’re dirty and ragged, and walking in a slow walk, as if they’re sick or hurt or very tired. It’s a slow slightly unsteady walk, dragging their feet a little. That’s what I’m trying to capture with “shamble.”

But the name should be vaguely menacing if you can manage it.


“In Tarbean, Pike calls Kvothe “Nalt.” What does this mean?”

“Nalt” is a mildly derogatory slang term. It’s a reference to Emperor Nalto, who mismanaged the Aturan Empire so badly that it collapsed…. The name is mentioned briefly during Kvothe’s first admissions interview.


“One last thing that I’d like to ask you, is your permission to change the names of Jake, Graham, Shep and Carter to more general-sounding names. These names have a very English sound, and though I initially had no intention of changing them, they keep “poking me in the eye” when I read the book in Dutch. Most or all other names are pretty universal. These I would like to change to Jaap (which is actually how we Dutchies abbreviate Jacob), Gard, Stef and Karsten.”

Those names are meant to be very plain, rustic even. They should be very common, rural names. If you need to change them to make them appear that way for your culture, that’s a great idea.

Keep in mind that Carter is, by profession, a carter: someone who drives a cart for a living. It would be nice to maintain that…

That’s all for now. PLEASE don’t take this an an invitation to pepper me with questions about the book. If that happens, all it will do is cut into my writing time, slowing down my revisions of book two…

Besides, a little bird told me that we’ll actually be getting a forum pretty soon, and when that goes live it will be the perfect place for questions and answers and of all sorts. So if you’ve got a question, don’t worry, its time will come. Just write it down and save it for the upcoming forum shindig.

Later all,


This entry was posted in concerning storytelling, foreign happenings, translationBy Pat20 Responses


  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 7:10 PM | Permalink

    Holy crap dude. How many pages are those notes going to be?? Talk about cutting into your writing time, LOL. Thanks for sharing some of that with us. It’s interesting to see how it all works behind the scenes.

  2. Jordan R
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    That was quite interesting. Can I ofer you a fun way to come up with alternate names that are seemingly out of this world? Simply post a comment on this page and before you do so you will have to type in a word verification. Those make great names!It has offered up such gems attufphvoskesugzaaand vehfxall great fantasy names. However I would like to buy a vowel please.

  3. black Sunshine
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

    forum?FORUM!!!!woo woo!!!

  4. TK42ONE
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

    I’d likely to make a friendly suggestion. When you finish this series and put it to bed, collect your notes and publish a “behind the scenes” book with all your notes. This stuff is awesome!

  5. roseneko
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    Seconding TK42ONE’s suggestion. I’m a big fan of seeing how things work, and it’d be a slightly less public way of sharing the information, since those who were genuinely interested would have to track down a copy of the book. Plus, more royalties are always good, nu?

  6. Lea
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 9:30 PM | Permalink

    Yay for forums!Really interesting reading all of the name translations… I third tk42one!

  7. Jeff
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 9:38 PM | Permalink

    I would like to know how “shamble-men” got translated into dutch. Forum is a great platform for readers to get acquainted with the writer and the other way around. Although, you’ve got to visit it regularly.

  8. matt
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 10:17 PM | Permalink

    A forum sounds great! Love the “behind the scenes” stuff, too. I like the idea of a behind-the-scenes book, or maybe an ‘annotated’ edition of each novel.

  9. Amanda
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for that “Nalt” explanation, I never understood that.I think the most bizarre thing is that you posted this at 10.30 in the morning as opposed to the usual 2 or 3 am.

  10. Nick
    Posted February 11, 2008 at 11:01 PM | Permalink

    That’s a really cool way to think. I’ve once again been “smartened” by reading this blog. The shambles description was sweet. -also looking forward to forums…

  11. ToddM326
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 2:33 AM | Permalink

    Forum?!?!To quote “Labyrinth”:Did he say the word??? Did he say the word???

  12. Mary J.
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 3:09 AM | Permalink

    <>SQUEAL!!!<>Forum, forum, forum, forum!Okay, better now.*waves*

  13. Anonymous
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 4:44 AM | Permalink

    That’s awesome Pat, thanks for the post!

  14. Anonymous
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 8:04 AM | Permalink

    i think theres a couple of necessary phrases that should be translated into dutch, even if they aren’t in the book. Things like “You are likely to be eaten by a grue.” I want to hear that in Dutch…

  15. Brian Igelchen
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 2:14 PM | Permalink

    How many pages is that book of yours?And: YAY! on getting a forum :D

  16. Mary J.
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 3:38 PM | Permalink

    < HREF="" REL="nofollow"><>I think you should film a happy dance too- show your solidarity. :-)

  17. maarten
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    @ jeff.I think that “Shamble men” got translated as “Chandrian”. Though i’m not sure. Pat has created more than one fictional creature and I’m not sure wich one should be Shamble men.@ anonymous“U (or “jij” or “Gij”) zult waarschijnlijk gegeten worden door een Grue”I liked this topic. And I’m hoping there will be a forum.By the way Pat. “Kar” from Karsten is quite similair to “Cart” from Carter. What in English would be “pulling the CART”, is in Dutch: “de KAR trekken”.Now I’ll be silent again and wait patiently for a topic…

  18. Joch for president
    Posted February 12, 2008 at 8:56 PM | Permalink

    Go Maarten!

  19. Anonymous
    Posted February 18, 2008 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

    Forums? =D*prays*I’m really interested about “Kote”…Kvothe’s assumed name…is it really meant to mean disaster??

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  • […] 6) Is It Drafty in Here?: behold, two beautiful babies. 7) The Perils of Translation: perils also here, here, and here. Perils everywhere. 8) Fanmail Q&A: Revision: how Pat spends his Friday nights. […]

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