Fun With Translations (pt 2) – Fantasy Terms

So previously we already had a chat about fun with fantasy names, but I wanted to share a little more with you (and this may or may not be because I still can’t sleep).  Certain fantasy terms and expressions in particular take a great deal of my time, even though it might look like the translation is simple.

Let’s get right down to it.  Let’s start with the term 黑钰, which we first encountered in Book 7, Chapter 3.  Now, 黑 means dark/black, but when I saw the character 钰, I blinked; what’s that?  Didn’t recognize it.  Looked it up at Baidu Baike, and according to the (in-Chinese explanation), 钰 has two meanings; the first is ‘precious treasure’, while the second means ‘hard metal’.  Hrm.  Okay.  Well, ‘black precious treasure’ sounds stupid, but so does ‘black hard metal’.  I now had the definition for what 钰 means by itself, but what is the combined term ‘黑钰’?  I do a search for it on Google for 黑钰是什么 (“what is 黑钰”), and the first few results I find…are from various internet webnovels.  Nothing that would tell me what the equivalent term would be in English.  I flip through multiple pages.  Nothing that would help.  There was a Chinese company named 黑钰 that called itself ‘Black Diamond’, but that wouldn’t work because the 黑钰 here was clearly a metal, not a diamond.

Now, let me explain; I couldn’t simply half-ass this translation, because having read the novel, I knew that 黑钰 would be coming up repeatedly.  Repeatedly!  So I had to come up with something pithy that would sound good, and ‘black treasure’ or ‘black hard metal’ just was not cutting it.  At the same time, this seems to be something specific to these Chinese fantasy novels.  So how am I supposed to translate it?  Well…I started thinking.  What cool fantasy metals would work?  Mithril?  No, mithril was light and shiny.  Meteoric iron?  Maybe, but I -think- meteoric iron comes up later in the story, so I’d rather ‘save’ it.  Dark iron?  Sounds as lame as ‘black hard metal’, and plus I didn’t want it to be two words long.  Okay, so, what did I know about 黑钰?  It was very hard.  It was dark in color.  It was heavy.  When alloyed with other metals, it would become nearly unbreakable.  Dark, hard, heavy, hard to break…and then, something clicked.  Adamantine.  Yes, that’s right; the 黑钰 here is the same 黑钰 used in Linley’s sword.  Now, most people think of adamantine/adamantium as Wolverine’s shiny silver claws, but any RPG/D&D fan knows that in western fantasy novels, adamantine is described as a dark metallic ore that was extremely hard to break.  Good enough.  I had found my 黑钰.

After half an hour (seriously) of pondering, Googling, and reading…I finally managed to translate those two characters.  And thus, the ‘adamantine heavy sword’ was born.  As opposed to, say, the ‘black treasure heavy sword’ or the ‘black hard metal heavy sword’.

Just thought it would be a fun read to get another ‘peek’ into translation funsies!

54 thoughts on “Fun With Translations (pt 2) – Fantasy Terms” - NO SPOILERS and NO CURSING

    1. Not as wrong as him using his black hard metal heavy sword to train wielding something heavy as though it were light… or using his black hard metal heavy sword to impose someone.

  1. Thank you for the insights into translation, it was interesting ^^!

    I’m slowly reading from chapter 1 raw (aided with Perapera chrome extensions, it auto-highlights chinese words and give meaning + pinyin ) and comparing it to your translation. O.o.. all i can say is great work! 😀 :D..

  2. each time i see chinese, japanese or korean “letter” i say to myself wtf is that?, even more when people at forum compare 1 “word” with another and i say ” omfg people say that spanish is hard but that? ” like a “word” has ” ´ ” and the other not and that change the definition entirely XD

    thanks for sharing us some of your suffer , it reminds me how i love my language even though it sucks xD

  3. Cool story, I appreciate the hard work that went into something so simple yet so crucial to the story. It would just seem wrong now for it to be anything other than adamantine. I wonder if the sword bypasses hardness. 😛

  4. My first thought was Obsidian. But I guess it’s not a metal. More like a glass.
    I always think of it as a rock though. I checked for fun, and it doesn’t look like there is a natural black metal, lol. So it sounds to me like that was a good decision. From what I’ve seen, naming things is usually the hardest part of translation. :/

    My second thought was….Do we need to send someone over to your place and have them knock you unconscious?

    1. I wish I could fall asleep! Seriously! T.T

      Obsidian is a glass, right, but more importantly, it’s very brittle and also very light (compared to metals). So it fails those two criteria =\

      1. I still think you should see about taking something. Drowsy/night time whatever that matches your symptoms. If you haven’t already.

        It should at least get you a little sleep. Though for me, the first dose was the only one that really helped. After that it wasn’t near as helpful. Still, a little sleep is better than none right?

  5. Just WOW
    I thought the translations were hard, but damn…

    Just in case you haven’t done so already, you should take a pill for that stuffy nose and that ‘insomnia’ as soon as you can

  6. Kinda unrelated, but how can Wolverine even stand, much less run, jump, fight, etc.? Adamantium is a fictional metal from the west, so you’d expect Hollywood to be a little more consistent. Or maybe he is also a Saint-level mutant warrior? 😀

    1. Because the real definition for Adamant(ine) isn’t a heavy metal. It’s just defined as any hard material. It’s not even necessarily a metal.

      Ironically, it has references to diamonds as one of it’s possibilities. So that actually fits with “black diamond” translation perfectly.

      1. The man’s a Beast(Wolverine)!
        Anyways the adamantinum isn’t that heavier then other metals i guess.
        They only coated His bones with that metal to give a protective layer.

        You become be a bit heavy but you can still run and shoot(slash) like those army guys in the movie in Iraq or Afghanistan with their Huge ass backpack with all the necessaries.

        1. In the case of it coating to his bones, it would be like increasing gravity a little. Like with the field Linley creates to increase the weight on enemies. But since it’s part of his body, and a constant, over time you’d get use to it and it would be negligible except maybe in fantasy circumstances. Or when swimming I guess, lol.

  7. If it’s that bad that you can’t sleep long then play a video game or something dude, anything to at least give your mind a rest, that’s what I did when I had that miserable sinus cold crap back in October.
    That said, I guess it’s handy to have things like D&D or other fantasy RPG online (or on bookshelf) manuals handy when you’re translating a fantasy. Heck even other english fantasy novels would be helpful for descriptions as they usually use each other for refrence to keep consistency, I once heard that was what R. A. Salvatore did when he developed the weapons used in his stories.

  8. Hey! thank you for an inside look into a translators mind when translating.

    I found this post to be really interesting and thought provoking.

    Feel free to post more like this, it was very enjoyable to read.

  9. About that Black Metal stuff…

    Maybe the author took that idea from Louis Cha’s book. In Return of Condor Heroes (Gallant Knight, Divine Eagle) The main character gets a heavy metal sword, that is made from Black Iron, which is supposed to be very heavy.

    My memory is generally bad, so I could be remembering wrong though.

    1. pothb, welcome to our little community! I honestly think that may very well be the case. In Condor Heroes, the name of the sword is 玄铁剑, lit. ‘black iron sword’, and it is described as coming from meteors. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Tomatoes admitted to ‘borrowing’ the concept of 黑钰 from Jinyong’s 玄铁.

      1. Yea, I was thinking of saying Black Iron Sword, but I did an internet search to verify my memory, and failed horribly. Virtually every page calls it the Heavy Iron Sword.

        But I do distinctly remember one of the characters wanting to steal that sword from him and said it was made out of black iron, so I went with that instead.

        And thanks… am loving Coiling Dragon. Which is a surprise to me, as I do not like Stellar Transformation.

  10. Really enjoyed this bit of insight into translation. I’ve been rapidly trying to improve my Chinese over the last few months and I’ve been thinking about eventually trying to translate some popular online novels. Still I have a long way to go. Thanks for this little tidbit.

  11. Hey Ren I was wondering if you know where i can find the Vietnamese version of this novel if there is even one for it, its probably posted on Spcnet somewhere but iim too lazy to look lol 😛

  12. What about thunderbolt iron/meteoric iron? Iron has that dark grey color and meteoric iron is usually referred to as metal from the heavens. I think it is similar to adamantium in a way but the thunderbolt iron holds magical properties such as how linley’s heavy sword was struck by lightning upon creation. Although, of course it is not as strong as adamantium, the unbreakable metal.
    Where I got the idea from:
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThunderboltIron

  13. Thank you for hard work. I know translation is not quite easy as other language has different grammar than English. Thats why uf directly put to Google translate the sentence dont even make sense.

  14. In arufereta they use adamantine and I’m sure it’s used in quite a few other translations for the hardest metal. Plus seeing as every person on the planet near enough knows what it is meant to be because of wolverine then there is less need to explain. If I ever see the word adamantine I automatically think ” yup, that’s some tough sheeet.

  15. I don’t think it is the hardest metal but if its black in color and hard to break there is also black mithril. It is a classic in asian based rpg games. It is rare and almost imposible to refine. Well adamantine is good too.

  16. I was once translating game to my native language. I could not translate simple you have died cuz game did not recognise gender disparsity. So I came up with my own text. Death gifted you with its kiss during battle.

  17. The history in the one word is deep. I had some instances myself that nobody will ever know troubled my soul. Really it doesn’t feel right till it’s right. Eventually I found a reverse dictionary to give me some inspiration. Afterwards, It’s feels like, I made a drawings by stringing some words together. Thanks Ren for allowing me to learn from my Elder.

  18. Adamantine sounds very epic, i think you did a great job with this translation.

    When I first heard that Linley was going to use the Adamantine, I instantly felt the badassery of carrying an Adamantine based weapon.

    Maybe because I’m a fan of wolverine, but yeah it gave a good impression.
    Didn’t realize it came from western fantasy not just X-men xD

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