Nov 9, 2013
Mar 30, 2013
So now we need to clarify what an idiom is. First of all, note that idioms are culture specific, or "culture bound" as secular translation scholar Susan Bassnett puts it (Translation Studies, 3rd ed., 30). For example, consider some idioms from the Old West, such as "men with the bark on" (tough men) and "salty" (good in a fight), easily found in western novels like those of Louis L'Amour. This illustrates how an idiom comes into existence from some aspect of the culture. These idioms are not used in modern America except for a few places out West where the Old West culture lingers on.
According to secular scholar Susan Bassnett, Hilaire Belloc gave this guideline for translating idioms in 1932: “The translator should render idiom by idiom ‘and idioms of their nature demand translation into another form from that of the original.' Belloc cites the case of the Greek exclamation 'by the dog!', which, if rendered literally, becomes merely comic in English" (Translation Studies. 3rd ed., 2002, p. 116). So, while Belloc believed the best way to translate an idiom is with another idiom, he realized that the original idiom often may not be carried into the target language, but requires an idiom equivalent in meaning.