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!