Friday, April 22, 2011

How to translate 犀利人妻 into English?

Learning that the cheated housewife accepts neither the return of her unfaithful husband nor the love of her caring boyfriend, many felt a bit disappointed watching the last episode of a popular local soap opera 犀利人妻 last Friday. Well, though I am one of the enthusiastic audience those who are expecting to see that 謝安真 could fall into the arms of藍天蔚, I must admit that the arrangement of the scriptwriter does leave much to be desired for the sequel. Commenting melodrama is not my special interest. Here, I would like to talk something about the translation of its title.

According to its official website, 犀利人妻 is translated into "The Fierce Wife." Is this translation appropriate? China Post, the local English daily, printed an editorial today titled "Drama shows growing Chinese influence on Taiwan's culture" discussing some after effects of this drama. 犀利人妻 was named "Trenchant Housewife" by the editor. Which is better, fierce wife or trenchant housewife?

My fifth edition Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English gives "fierce," an adjective, this definition to describe people or things "done with a lot energy and strong feelings, and sometimes violence." And "trenchant" is a written form meaning "expressed very strongly, effectively, and directly without worrying about offending people."

I do not consider 謝安真 qualified in the state as described by the definition "fierce" here for one simple reason. She is really not a violent person. Yes, she does slap 薇恩once, her cousin who steals her husband from her, in the 12th episode when she finds out that they cheat on her behind her back. Given what she has been through, one slap is really nothing and her violent response is only human.

In contrast, "trenchant" is more appropriate to say about her. As her well-guarded home is being ruined by the extra-marital affair of her husband and her cousin, she begins to lead her own life and raise her child independently working as a car salesperson. As a traditional Taiwan wife, it takes great courage for her to decline gracefully the call from her mother and her in-laws to return to her husband and starts pursuing her own happiness. This is even rare even for the majority of females in this modern time and that is also why this drama has become so popular because she wants to be herself and is not afraid of offending others including the family elders.

In addition, "housewife" is more preferable than "wife" to say about 謝安真's status as a 人妻, translated directly from "hitojuma" in Japanese.

As fans of 犀利人妻, my dear readers, which translation do you like? I guess it may be too late for the TV station to change the translation of their official website, huh?

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