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ISSN 1355-6509 St Jerome Publishing, Manchester

The Translator. Volume 8, Number 2 (2002), 195-220 ISBN 1-900650-58-4

A Cognitive Approach to Literary Humour
Devices: Translating Raymond Chandler
University of Athens, Greece
Abstract. This paper explores Marlovian wisecracks in Raymond
Chandlers early texts and their translations into Greek. Source
texts and target texts are analyzed using the GTVH (Attardo 1994,
2001), which provides a sound linguistic framework allowing for
a comparison of humorous texts. In addition, cognitive linguistic
insights are adopted (particularly from Fillmore and Kays forth-
coming work on Construction Grammar) as it is suggested here
that for the purposes of translation research we can benefit from
a cognitively based, fine-grained analysis emphasizing idiomat-
icity. Shifts attested in the target texts are explained in terms of
(a) encoding or decoding idiomaticity and conventionalized mean-
ings of constructions, and (b) different humour traditions or
repertoires (Toury 1997) in the two languages. A tentative hypoth-
esis is presented relating the suggested motivation for observed
shifts to processing effort, which has been shown to impact on
humour appreciation (Attardo et al. 1994).
In this paper,
I intend to focus on specific humour devices exploited in
Raymond Chandlers early texts and their translated counterparts in Greek.
My aim is (a) to underline shared interests in humour and translation re-
search, beyond traditional areas of common ground, such as punning (and
other loci of ambiguity) or data of explicit sociocultural significance and,
accordingly, (b) to suggest strategies for effective humour translation. In
particular, I will discuss specific constructions and tropoi in source Ameri-
can English and target Greek texts with the overall aim to explore, on the
one hand, the importance for humour theory of using translated texts as data
and translation studies insights as input and, on the other, the importance
for translation research of using data from humorous texts and insights from
I am indebted to Jeroen Vandaele for invaluable comments. I would also like to thank
my colleagues K. Nikiforidou and M. Sifianou for reading and commenting on earlier
versions of this paper, as well as the anonymous reviewers for useful suggestions. This
research has been funded by the Special Research Account (No 70/4/5268) of the
University of Athens.
Translating Raymond Chandler 196
humour theory for its own purposes. To this end, I will focus on humorous
lines within narratives and use the General Theory of Verbal Humor, and
cognitive linguistics (both Cognitive and Construction Grammar) as theo-
retical frameworks.
The humour devices under investigation belong to what is commonly
referred to as Marlovian wisecracks; they are quite typical of Chandlers
early texts (following the Black Mask period), especially those written be-
tween 1939 and 1949 (see Primary Sources). The wisecracks will be shown
to be linguistically encoded in similes and metaphors,
equative or compara-
tive syntactic patterns, conditionals, as if-clauses and patterns reversing
the count-mass distinction of nouns. Among these, only ironic similes have
received specific attention in literary analyses (e.g. Irwin 2001), although all
these devices contribute to both style and characterization.
At least four different categories ((i) to (iv) below) are exemplified in the
introductory paragraph of Trouble is my Business (Chandler 1939/1950:7):
Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged
putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny
black shoe-buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same
colour. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Na-
poleons tomb and she was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that
was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella. She said: I need a man.
(i) Count-mass noun reversal: Anna Halsey was about two hundred and
forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman.
(ii) Simile: She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Na-
poleons tomb.
(iii) Negation (NEG) + equative construction: She was smoking a ciga-
rette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella.
(iv) Metaphor: Her eyes were shiny black shoe-buttons.
These different linguistic encodings will be shown to have a common
cognitive basis: they are traceable to a cognitive event whereby two distinct
entities are coactivated and an operation is executed for comparing them in
order to assess their relative identity. For example, in (i) a person is pre-
sented as comparable to 240 pounds of meat, in (iii) a cigarette holder is
presented as comparable (in size) to an umbrella, in (iv) a persons eyes are
Linguistic expressions are characterized here as metaphors following traditional
terminology for figures of speech. In the cognitive linguistic framework (e.g. Lakoff
1993, Grady 1998) metaphors are taken to be conceptual mappings between a source
and a target domain with linguistic use being understood as a reflex of that conceptual
Eleni Antonopoulou 197
presented as comparable to shoe buttons and (ii) is obvious.
To my knowledge, the humorous mechanisms in these texts have not
been linguistically discussed, although they are illuminating for both hu-
mour theory and translation studies, as I will try to show. The need to analyze
such constructions in detail has arisen from a consideration of mainly Greek
translated texts (using Chandlers stories and novels as source texts), but
also French and German texts used as tertia comparationis. Informants re-
actions have also been sought as I consider that humour appreciation is more
important for translation scholars than it may be for linguists working on
What follows is to be understood as an interdisciplinary experiment start-
ing, for purely methodological reasons, with a linguistic analysis of ST data.
In the following section (1) the relevant theoretical frameworks are presented
with tentative suggestions for modifications of current linguistic humour
analyses. Attested translational shifts related to constructions such as (i) and
(iii) above are discussed in section 2 and a hint is made at linguacultural
preferences in terms of humour devices. This last issue is further exploited
in section 3, which deals with figures of speech in source texts (e.g. (ii) and
(iv) above) and target texts manipulating semi-fixed expressions with strong
sociocultural currency. In section 4 the results of the attempted analysis are
summed up and explained in terms of idiomaticity (and conventionalized
meanings) of constructions, and a tentative hypothesis is forwarded relating
the suggested motivation for the shifts to processing effort and humour ap-
1. Theoretical background
In the analysis of the data, I have applied the General Theory of Verbal
Humor (GTVH; Attardo & Raskin 1991, Attardo 1994, 2001, Attardo, this
volume). I specifically argue that for the purposes of translation research the
data under consideration are best accounted for if the GTVH incorporates
insights from cognitive linguistics (e.g. Langacker 1991 for basic semantic
The extracts in question were given to 52 men and women, well-educated native speak-
ers of Greek, aged between 40 and 60. This age range was chosen on the assumption that
it was the group targeted when the translations were produced (in the 80s). Informants
were asked to rate each jab line on a scale of 1-3 (very amusing, amusing, non-amusing)
and to offer comments explaining their initial reactions. Sheets were distributed, each
including genre and contextual information along with the specific sentence with the
jab line(s) highlighted (where jab lines are non-final punch lines fully integrated in
the narrative in which they appear, Attardo 2001:82). The percentages obtained are
included in the notes accompanying each example. Most of the informants were col-
leagues and friends, with whom I also had the opportunity to discuss the texts, after they
had completed the task.
Translating Raymond Chandler 198
distinctions such as count-mass nouns) and Construction Grammar (Fillmore
and Kay, forthcoming) for the fine-grained analysis of the semantic and syn-
tactic effects of constructions. What follows is a brief presentation of those
tenets of the GTVH and Construction Grammar which are necessary for the
attempted analysis and can be safely skipped by readers familiar with these
theories. Cognitive Grammar insights from Langacker (1987, 1990, 1991)
will be stripped of jargon where possible, hopefully not beyond recognition.
The GTVH is in my view the only fully-fledged linguistic theory of hu-
mour today and can prove invaluable for humour translation research. In its
most recent and extended version (Attardo 2001) it makes a bold attempt at
providing both a theoretical framework for and a detailed analysis of long
narratives, such as whole stories. The method of analysis requires identify-
ing humorous instances in a narrative, approaching them as punch lines of a
joke (or jab lines if they are non-final) and supplying for each one of them
six parameters, called Knowledge Resources (KRs) by which the jab/punch
is informed. Each KR is a list/set of lists from which choices are made and it
is understood as a parameter of joke difference: similarity among jokes is to
be worked out according to the number of shared parameters and the hierar-
chical position of any differing parameter, given that KRs are hierarchically
ordered although of equal status (Attardo & Raskin 1991:223, Attardo, this
volume). A disclaimer also holds to the effect that the proposed ordering is
not a representation of the cognitive process of joke production.
The KRs identified by the theory are presented in detail and exemplified
in Attardo (1994, 2001). At this point I will simply list them according to
their hierarchical order
and take special issue with the last one, namely Lan-
guage: Script Opposition (SO),
Logical Mechanism (LM), Situation (SI),
Target (TA), Narrative Strategy (NS), Language (LA). As already pointed
out, the six KRs informing the joke are based on and are explicitly consid-
ered to be capable of accounting for joke similarity: two jokes may be variants
on one or more KRs (Attardo & Raskin 1991). The GTVH introduces, there-
fore, a metric for the degree of joke similarity, experimentally supported by
empirical studies (Ruch et al. 1993). Two jokes are more similar to each
other the higher the position of the KR they share. Therefore, since Lan-
guage is at the bottom of the hierarchy, jokes differing only in terms of
Language are considered to be most similar. This is an important issue for
translation: jokes sharing all their KRs except Language are expected to have
very similar force.
Editors note. All six Knowledge Resources are explained in detail in Attardos contri-
bution to this volume.
The term script is to be understood as an organized complex of information, a cogni-
tive structure internalized by the speaker (Attardo 2001:2-8).
Eleni Antonopoulou 199
Language includes all the linguistic components of the text on all levels,
i.e. information necessary for the verbalization of a text. The claim is made
explicitly that as any sentence can be recast in a different wording (using
synonyms, other syntactic constructions, etc.) any joke can be worded in a
(very large) number of ways without changes in its semantic content (Attardo
2001:22). The notion of meaning being kept intact under paraphrase is
also explicitly applied to (interlingual) translation, with puns regarded as a
marginal exception, along with other verbal (as opposed to referential)
jokes (Attardo ibid.:23, 1994:29, 95).
For the purposes of analyzing source-text and target-text jab lines, the
Language KR might require further elaboration. Indeed, the theory rests on
the assumption that Language is too obvious a criterion which moreover
wouldnt distinguish interesting classes of jokes (Attardo 2001:69). The
reason behind this downgrading is probably the fact that both Raskins (1985)
and Attardo & Raskins (1991) GTVH were originally modelled on jokes
(as a text type), and referential rather than verbal (i.e. punning) jokes in
particular. It is fairly obvious that, for the humorous effect of a referential
joke, the Language KR, i.e. the actual wording of the text, is of little impor-
tance. However, the humorous effect of certain jab lines may lie crucially in
the specifics of the construction used. If this proves to be the case, it might
be useful to borrow insights from cognitive linguistic theories (even though
they are not designed to cater for humour). Specifically, the suggestion for-
warded here is to enrich the Language KR with more fine-grained, cognitively
based analyses which emphasize the importance of idiomaticity (rather than
relying entirely on compositionality), as Construction Grammar does.
Construction Grammar, as originally formulated by Fillmore and Kay
(forthcoming), integrates different levels of analysis and is attuned to and in
conformity with what we know about human cognition and interaction. Its
most important tenets for present purposes are the following: it considers
constructions, i.e. form-meaning pairings, as the basic units of language.
Constructions involve linguistic expressions of any length and complexity,
from single lexemes to phrases standing on their own, i.e. sentences. There-
fore, lexical entries (single constituent constructions) combine with other
(multi-constituent) constructions to form phrases. Crucially, the theory treats
constructions consisting of more than one word as units. The meaning of a
phrasal construction may be arbitrary (i.e. idiomatic) in the same way the
meaning of a single word is arbitrary.
The main issue which needs to be emphasized at this point is the notion
of conventionalized meaning as it bears directly on humour and translation
(as I will hopefully show). What Construction Grammar refers to as the mean-
ing of a construction draws simultaneously on semantic, pragmatic and
sociocultural information. For instance, in the construction Whats X doing
Y (e.g. Whats this coat doing in my wardrobe?), discussed in Kay &
Translating Raymond Chandler 200
Fillmore (1999), the disapproval implication is clearly non-derivable from
the component parts of the construction. In other words, as Kay & Fillmore
(ibid.:4) put it, certain meanings are neither given by ordinary compositional
processes, nor derived from a literal meaning by processes of conversational
reasoning. This implies that certain aspects of a constructions meaning
can be compositionally derived (i.e. predicted from the meaning of its parts),
others may be conversationally derived (by applying conversational, prag-
matic principles to the basic meaning), but still others may be non-derivable
either compositionally or conversationally (e.g. disapproval in the above
example). Such meanings are of a pragmatic, encyclopedic, sociocultural
nature and they are attached to the specific construction arbitrarily, i.e. by
convention. This cognitive residue (for lack of a better term) is a crucial part
of the meaning of certain constructions. The fact that certain aspects of mean-
ing are conventionally attached to a whole multi-constituent construction
can at least partly explain why paraphrases may not have the same humor-
ous effect and why formally similar constructions belonging to different
languages may give rise to humorous effect in one language but not neces-
sarily in another.
The conventional/idiomatic aspect of meaning of a construction is, there-
fore, what is left unexplained after the contribution of the meaning of each
word has been computed (e.g. the implication of disapproval in the Whats
X doing Y construction above). Therefore, although the theory does not
rule out compositionality, it emphasizes the fact that constructions display
idiomaticity to varying degrees. Consequently, idiomaticity is understood as
a continuum. Prototypically idiomatic constructions (e.g. by and large)
occupy one end of the continuum; relatively general patterns of the language
(e.g. What is this?) occupy positions at the other end (Kay & Fillmore
1999). It is important to note that in traditional terms, idiomaticity is re-
stricted to non-transparent constructions (like by and large above).
Construction Grammar, however, crucially distinguishes between decoding
and encoding idiomaticity, drawing on the distinction between language un-
derstanding (decoding) and language production (encoding). The linguistic
expression by and large constitutes a clear case of a decoding idiom, be-
cause no part of its meaning can be attributed to the meaning of the individual
words composing it. This implies that a foreigner, for instance, cannot de-
code the message communicated by this expression by simply knowing the
meanings of by, and and large and the general combinatorial rules of the
English language. The linguistic expression let me be the first to congratu-
late you, on the other hand, is not a decoding idiom, because its meaning is
clearly derivable from the contribution of the meanings of the words com-
posing it. Nevertheless, a foreigner, for instance, is unlikely to use it
spontaneously and appropriately, i.e. to encode the message communicated
by this expression, if he or she has not been exposed to the English language
Eleni Antonopoulou 201
enough to know that this is how it is said by native speakers of the lan-
guage. It is for this reason that the semi-formulaic expression let me be the
first to congratulate you is a clear case of an encoding idiom. In other
words, encoding refers to the most common, popular and usual expressions
employed by a linguistic community. Encoding idioms are the frequently,
normally and spontaneously activated constructions within the set of all theo-
retically possible constructions of a language. It is clear that the criterion of
transparency/compositionality is irrelevant for encoding idioms and valid
only for decoding ones but constructions may of course be decoding and
encoding at the same time and to various degrees. It is my contention that
for humour appreciation and (humour) translation this extended understand-
ing of idiomaticity and the related notion of conventionalized meaning can
be very useful, as we will see shortly.
To sum up, the (conventional) meaning of a construction depends on a
genuine unification of syntactic-semantic-pragmatic and sociocultural infor-
mation, including facts about register, dialect variation, topicality, already
established relevance to the discourse, etc. (Goldberg 1995). This meaning
may well be unique to a specific construction and arrived at in a holistic
rather than a purely compositional manner, thus rendering the construction
in question idiomatic despite its transparency in terms of propositional con-
tent. The relevance of these issues for the Language KR lies in that the
humorous effect of a certain construction may depend crucially on its idi-
omatic, conventional meaning, which is uniquely related to that particular
construction. In such cases, even intralingual paraphrase may change or even
destroy the humorous effect. The remaining sections are devoted to analyses
of jab lines exemplifying types of devices as those listed in (i) to (iv) above.
1.1 Negative equative constructions
The initial paragraph of Chandlers Trouble is My Business has already been
cited in the previous section. It involves playful comparisons of Anna Halsey,
the owner of a detective agency employing the private eye John Dalmas (a
dead ringer for Philip Marlowe). Anna Halsey is portrayed as a monumentally
large figure behind a monumentally large desk with additional connotations
ridiculing both. The culmination of these comparisons is probably
(1) She was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as
long as a rolled umbrella. (the emphasis in all examples is mine)
The text is interspersed with similar constructions exemplifying a type of
humorous device where humour depends crucially on the actual construc-
tion used, as will be shown in what follows.
In pre-theoretical terms, Chandler seems to be playing here with his readers
Translating Raymond Chandler 202
in a specific way. He is asking them to consider something preposterous, or
obviously false, as a possibility and at the same time is telling them that it is
of course false. This strategy is in a way similar to teasing a child, but it is
linguistically realized in quite a sophisticated manner. In my view, it tells us
something about the type of reader the author aims to address and the au-
thors concomitant views on style expressed in his letters.
Exaggeration in
the form of playful comparisons is a common feature of Chandlers early
texts and the negative equative construction in (1) is just one example. For
the GTVH, the processing of a humorous text involves reaching an inter-
pretive dead-end and backtracking in order to find another interpretation to
the text (Attardo 1994:276), and the dead-end is typically reached through
a violation of Grices quality maxim. Interestingly, this is hardly the case
here, because what is blatantly flouted is the be brief submaxim of man-
ner: a reasonable brief paraphrase could well be:
(1') She was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was slightly shorter
than a rolled umbrella.
The question arising here is why (1) rather than (1') is opted for. In cognitive
linguistic terms, where meaning is a matter of construal, it is important to
examine how the conceptualizer chooses to construe the situation and por-
tray it for expressive purposes (Langacker 1990:5). Applying the apparatus
of Construction Grammar, one can provide an interpretation for construc-
tions such as (1) which will show how it differs from possible paraphrases.
In particular, it should show that such constructions specify, besides compa-
rability of two entities, an exact judgement (after careful comparison) of
actual values of z (length) on the part of the speaker (the narrator in this
case), functioning here as the judge (see Kay & Fillmore 1999:26). The steps
of the judgement in the not quite construction can be presented as follows:
x is not quite as z as y means approximately:
It is no easy trick to keep your characters and your story operating on a level which is
understandable to the semi-literate public and at the same time give them some intellec-
tual and artistic overtones which that public does not seek or demand or, in effect,
recognize, but which somehow subconsciously it accepts and likes. My theory has al-
ways been that the public will accept style, provided you do not call it style either in
words or by, as it were, standing off and admiring it. There seems to me to be a vast
difference between writing down to the public (something which always flops in the
end) and doing what you want to do in a form, which the public has learned to accept
(Gardiner & Walker 1997:61). Despite Chandlers complaints about the public (his read-
ership) who, in his view, are characterized by an efficient vulgarity, the author makes
it his task to retain a sense of style and quality (ibid.:58). He seems to expect his readers
to display a certain degree of sophistication. In compensation he undertakes the task of
offering them intellectual stimulation and amusement.
Eleni Antonopoulou 203
(a) Someone (including narrator) judges x and y to be comparable as to z.
The narrator presents this as a fact.
(b) Someone (excluding narrator) judges x and y to be identical as to z.
The narrator presents this as a possibility.
(c) Someone (at least narrator) judges x and y to be not identical as to z.
The narrator presents this as a probability.
(d) Someone (at least narrator) judges x to be only slightly less than y as to
z. The narrator presents this as a fact after careful consideration of (a)
(c) and an implicit accurate examination of the relevant sizes of x and y.
Thus, incongruity seems to arise at all four steps: incongruity between real
world scripts/scenarios (cognitive script 1, activated by a default narrator
seen as a very serious, bona fide communicator) and non-real world ones
(cognitive script 2, activated by the type of narrator that Marlowe really is).
The effect is cumulative. The concluding judgement in (d) presupposes all
the preceding steps.
What distinguishes not quite constructions from others (with slightly
less for instance) is, in my view, the presence of (b) above. Although con-
struction (1) is completely transparent (i.e. the whole of its propositional
content can be compositionally computed), it is on the conventional cogni-
tive residue that the joke rests. Not only are the entities compared
incomparable in size, but also the narrator pretends that they are in fact so
close in this respect that someone else might consider them identical in length.
This is exactly what forces the narrator-judge to measure the relative sizes in
order to establish their supposedly slight difference. Therefore, even intra-
lingual paraphrases of (1) need not have the same humorous effect, even if
the basics of the scripts and the way they are opposed are kept constant. The
GTVH acknowledges the importance of the Language KR in the case of
puns. My point here is that actual wording may play a decisive role in hu-
mour appreciation, not only in cases of (lexical or syntactic) ambiguity, but
also in cases of idiomaticity (as described above). If idiomaticity is much
more pervasive in language than is traditionally acknowledged, then intra-
and interlinguistic paraphrasability of jab lines cannot be taken for granted.
Therefore, the freedom of the Language KR is questionable. Slight dif-
ferences in the wording may bear directly on the content of higher-order
parameters, including Script Oppositions (SOs) and Logical Mechanisms
(LMs). This restriction related to Language may not be important for hu-
mour scholars but it seems especially relevant for translators and translation
1.2 Feature-changing constructions: count nouns construed as mass nouns
The initial sentence (i) in Trouble is My Business (1950:2), repeated here for
ease of reference:
Translating Raymond Chandler 204
Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-
aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit
construes a count noun (a person) as a mass one by presenting the person as
being x number of pounds of woman. It is what Fillmore and Kay
(forthcoming) call a feature-changing construction exemplifying it with
sentences like There was cat everywhere and I dont need much blanket.
More specifically, I will refer to Marlowes construction as a count-mass
noun reversal. In the understanding of (non-objectivist) theories of meaning
based on cognitive processes, count nouns designate things construed as
being inherently bounded in space, heterogeneous (of non-uniform compo-
sition) and individuated (Langacker 1991:15-35 and Fillmore & Kay
forthcoming). Here, Anna Halsey is presented as two hundred pounds of ...
woman, so the count noun woman is construed as being inherently
unbounded in space, a homogeneous substance (of uniform composition)
indefinitely extended, replaceable by meat, for instance. Although, strictly
speaking, incongruity seems to be encoded in the second half of the sentence
starting with of, in fact its resolution depends on the reader realizing the
reason motivating the switch, i.e. that she is so fat that she is more mass
than count. The construal foregrounds the mass and the volume and pushes
the individual to the background. In my understanding, it is the construction
as a unit which points to that interpretation and, in particular, its con-
ventionalized meaning, which obliges the reader to reverse the semantic
attributes mass-count and to construe individual, discrete entities as
substances. It is, therefore, clear that the relevant interpretation on which the
humorous effect rests is not derivable compositionally, although the con-
tribution of the constructions individual parts (two hundred and forty pounds,
of and woman) is quite transparent. Syntactic, lexical and semantic-pragmatic
information is conflated and the construction is idiomatic in the sense
discussed above. Evidently even an intralingual paraphrase of the reversing
construction (e.g. x was 240 pounds) cannot maintain the humorous effect.
2. Humour and translation: exploiting idiomatic constructions
2.1 Not quite versus slightly less
A careful examination of the Greek translations (see Primary sources) re-
veals that they exhibit various degrees along Tourys (1995:57) adequacy-
acceptability scale, which means that the translators naturalize to different
extents and make use of all the standard strategies (from omission to
explicitation to loan to adaptation, etc.). Yet, the overall tendency is to achieve
functional equivalence throughout the text, in the sense that translators de-
cide which considerations should be given priority at any time if they accept
that not all the variables in translation are relevant in every situation (Kenny
Eleni Antonopoulou 205
1998:77, referring to Newman 1994:4695). If the scripts evoked belong to
experiential domains with which the target reader is expected to have suffi-
cient familiarity, no cultural substitution is called for and none is used.
Interestingly enough, concerning humorous fragments, negative equative
constructions of the type discussed above receive different linguistic treat-
ments by different translators, or even by the same translator at different
points of the same text. If the scenes evoked for comparison do not represent
an amusing opposition in terms of their actual (referential) content, the ef-
fect of the corresponding jab line will necessarily depend on the linguistic
means used to perform the comparison (and the opposition), as has been
explained above. The crucial contribution of Language in such cases be-
comes obvious. Greek readers faced with the following extract were
moderately amused:
. (Balis 1982:7)
[She was smoking a cigarette with a long black cigarette holder that
looked like a closed umbrella.]
In GTVH-terms, the following KRs could be seen as shared by ST (appear-
ing as (1) in 1.1 above) and TT (1B): SO: size of a cigarette holder/size of an
umbrella (size explicitly mentioned in ST, but implied in TT); LM: false
analogy: NS: hyperbole; SI: context; TA: Anna Halsey and her conspicuous
In relation to the Language KR, however, it would be erroneous to
consider that since no punning is involved here, this jab line can be freely
paraphrased interlingually as the GTVH would predict for any referential
joke. Due to its cognitive residue and idiomaticity, the not quite as as
construction resists intra- and interlingual paraphrasing.
Consider further the following jab (2B), an extract from the same trans-
lation, to which informants reactions
were similar to those offered for (1B):
(2A) The lobby was not quite as big as the Yankee Stadium. (Trouble is my
Business, Chandler 1939/1950:18)
(2B) .
(Balis 1982:24)
[The hall was huge a regular football ground that is.]
The results obtained from the informants (see note 3) were as follows: Very amusing
4%; Amusing 42%; Non-amusing 54%.
To remind the reader: SO = Script Opposition; LM = Logical Mechanism; SI = Situa-
tion; TA = Target, NS = Narrative Strategy; LA = Language.
Very amusing 4%; Amusing 67%; Non-amusing 29%.
Translating Raymond Chandler 206
The lobby in (2A) belongs to a huge and hugely nouveau riche apartment
building. Thus, the same type of life style is targeted as in (1) and all high-
order KRs are shared, but a different strategy is adopted by the translator: an
explicitating paraphrase is overtly provided in the translation, thus lowering
the comic effect.
The following less naturalizing jabs were, however, considered even less
amusing than the preceding ones by the same informants, although the cor-
responding source lines are considered highly amusing:
(3A) He wore an Ascot tie that looked as if it had been tied about the year
1880. The green stone in his stickpin was not quite as large as an ap-
ple. (Farewell My Lovely, Chandler 1940/1949:22)
(3B) 1880.

. (Papadimitriou n.d:16)
[Gloss: He wore (an) Ascot tie which looked (as if) it had been tied
about 1880. The green stone of the pin on the tie was a little smaller
than an apple.]
. (Paraboukis 1984:29)
[Gloss: He wore a tie Ascot which looked (as if) he had it tied at his
neck since 1880. The green stone of his pin was a little smaller than an
All KRs could be seen as shared by A, B and C (excluding, of course, Lan-
guage). It would therefore be reasonable to expect all three texts to have
very similar humorous force, unless the Language parameter plays a very
significant role and needs to be approached in the way suggested in 1.1 above,
emphasizing idiomaticity and by implication questioning the assumption that
paraphrase is challenged only by wordplay-based humour. Such an approach
would allow us to explain why the absence of step (b) in 1.1 is probably
responsible for the important difference between the source and target texts
in terms of humorous effect. To appreciate the importance of Language, the
following remarks on the translations are necessary.
The original English jabs discussed in 2.1 involve explicit comparison,
encoded in equative patterns. In principle, the option is available to Greek
Results for 3B and 3C were strikingly uniform: Very amusing 3%; Amusing 36%;
Non-amusing 51%.
Eleni Antonopoulou 207
translators to reproduce this English pattern verbatim using the correspond-
ing Greek one x z y x is not exactly as z as y.
The Greek translators in my data do not take this option. The explanation
seems to rest with the status of simpler equative ... as as con-
structions in Greek. In the absence of frequency counts, I shall have to rely
on my native speakers intuitions and standard Greek dictionaries and gram-
mar books. It is interesting to note that ... is only listed in one
recent dictionary and even there it is mentioned as a marginal case for en-
coding comparison in Greek (e.g. Babiniotis 1998:1800). We find the same
information in grammar books (see e.g. Holton et al. 1997:474-75 on equa-
tion). Greek informants insights were sought for verbatim translations of
simple equative ST constructions which abound in Chandlers texts (e.g.
he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food,
Farewell my Lovely, Chandler 1940/1949:7)
...). Different translations preserving the ... as as pattern
were considered not amusing, bizarre and rather strange. It is therefore
hardly surprising that when it comes to a complex, negative equative pattern
with an additional (explicit) identity marker (i.e. quite), no attempt is made
at reproducing it in Greek. In other words, although sentences like
the cigarette holder was
not quite as long as an umbrella are well-formed in Greek, they do not con-
stitute common, idiomatic constructions in the sense of encoding idioms.
Apparently, linguistic expressions which sound bizarre and unnatural to
target audiences, i.e. those which are non-idiomatic in the encoding sense,
stand few chances of amusing these audiences (an issue to be considered
It is for this reason, I suggest, that (unlike the French and German trans-
lators of the same ST) the Greek translators mentioned above do not opt for
reproducing the English pattern. What further options are therefore avail-
able? In (3B) and (3C) the same paraphrase is used: a
little smaller. In terms of the constructions used, there is nothing unnatu-
ral here. Yet, there is also nothing which points to the (implicit) presence of
the possibility of x and y being identical or the implication of an exact meas-
urement being performed, i.e. the elements shown to characterize the English
construction(s) in question. This means that these jab lines have to rely (for
humorous effect) entirely on a simple comparison between non-comparable
entities (as to their length). Similar considerations are, in my view, applica-
ble to (2B): the semantic content is kept constant, but only on the crude
level of a simple comparison and a concomitant exaggeration.
2.2 Count-mass reversal in translation
As I have argued in 1.2 above, constructions like (4A) exhibit count-mass
noun reversal. Consider the Greek translation of that extract along with a
Translating Raymond Chandler 208
similar example from the Lady in the Lake (Chandler 1946/1979:8) and the
corresponding TTs:
(4A) Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged
putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. (Trouble is My Busi-
ness, Chandler 1939/1950:7)
(4B) 120 ,
. (Balis 1982:7)
[Gloss: Anna Halsey was a moving mass about 120 kilos, middle-aged,
with a face plastered with make-up and wore a black suit.]
In (4B) a person (Anna Halsey) is presented as x number of pounds of
woman, while in the next one (5A) a desk is presented as x number of
dollars worth of desk:
(5A) Derace Kingsley marched briskly behind about eight hundred dollars
worth of executive desk. (Lady in The Lake, Chandler 1946/1979:8)
(Balis 1982:10)
[Gloss: Derace Kingsley sat behind his desk that by a rough estimate
I calculated it (to be) about eight hundred dollars.]
. (Argyros 1982:10)
[Gloss: Derace Kingsley proceeded hastily behind his desk which would
cost about eight hundred dollars.]
In (5C) no special linguistic device is being used to create humorous effect,
and consequently no humour was detected by most of the informants.
terms of semantic, propositional content, however, there is no difference
between source and target versions. This is probably further evidence in fa-
vour of attributing the humorous effect of (5A) to the specific English
construction used, i.e. the count-mass noun reversal, a reversal which has no
formal counterpart in Greek.
In (4B) and (5B), humorous effect is achieved through different kinds of
semi-fixed expressions and very successfully, too, according to my informants.
Very amusing 0%; Amusing 4%; Non-amusing 96%.
The expression 120 120 kilos woman does exist in Greek, but is con-
strued by hearers as a reversal not of the semantic attributes (count-mass), but simply of
Eleni Antonopoulou 209
In (4B)
moving mass is a standard expression used for
ridiculing obesity. It is here part of a metaphor, a fact that should be reflected
in the Narrative Strategy KR (in accordance with GTVH-practice). Interest-
ingly, both source and target texts involve a type of metonymic part-for-whole
mapping: one of the features of a person (i.e. mass) stands for the whole
person, eliminating all the other, individual characteristics of that person in
order to emphasize her unusually large figure.
In (5B)
the translator
employs the construction: with
a rough estimate I calculated it. This draws from the sociolects of wholesalers
and construction managers: especially the verb is typical of (if not actually
restricted to) those particular sociolects.
The partial similarity of (4A) and (4B) can be readily captured in GTVH-
terms, despite the fact that completely different types of constructions are
employed; SO: attractive/non-attractive appearance, instantiated in the hu-
man being/mass of flesh equation; LM: false analogy, exaggeration (?); SI:
context; TA: Anna Halsey and (her) obesity; NS: comparison. Shared KRs
are used by the GTVH intralingually to compute the relative similarity be-
tween different jab lines in the same text or in different texts by the same
author. The metric of jab line similarity can function as a discovery tool in
an authors style, in genre identification, etc. (Attardo 2001:86). It is sug-
gested here that translation studies can exploit this tool interlingually, in the
case of translated texts which show relevant similarity to source texts in
terms of humorous force. A small-scale attempt to that effect is made here,
where same, similar and different humorous effect is accounted for in
terms of shared KRs.
Consider also in this respect the case of (5A) and (5B), where the follow-
ing KRs are shared; SO: simple/conspicuous life style, instantiated in the
piece of furniture for a specific use/(money) value equation; LM: false
analogy, exaggeration; SI: context; TA: Derace Kingsley and (his) conspicu-
ous life style; NS: comparison. In short, all higher-order KRs are shared
between STs and TTs. In relation to Language, however, it seems to me that
there is a crucial difference between the shifts in (4B) and (5B). In the former
case, the humorous effect is the same in ST and TT, because the target lan-
guage happens to have an expression whose conventionalized meaning is
the word order of the more neutral 120 woman of 120 kilos. The mass-
count reversal would require the head noun phrase (woman) to appear in the genitive
case, which would be unacceptable exactly because woman is not and cannot be seen as
a mass noun.
Very amusing 73%; Amusing 17%; Non-amusing 10%.
To account for this similarity between ST and TT metonymic mapping could appear
under the NS KR, in both cases.
Interestingly, the informants considered this jab highly amusing: Very amusing 83%;
Amusing 17%; Non-amusing 0%.
Translating Raymond Chandler 210
very similar to that of the relevant ST construction. In the latter case (5B),
the humorous trigger seems to me to be a case of register humour (the inap-
propriate use of , which is not obviously related to the STs
presenting the desk as more value than desk).
Be that as it may, the translators of these texts (a) show evidence of
recognizing the idiomaticity of the ST construction and its humorous
exploitation, and (b) produce humorous effect by exploiting equally idiomatic
constructions (in the TL system), characterized by strong sociocultural
currency (in CG terms).
Translation research has acknowledged the importance for humour of
clichs and idioms (in the traditional understanding of the term), which
Redfern (1997:266) calls the automatic features of language. Translators
have given proof of being alert to the significance of automatic features and
the recycling of fixed expressions (ibid.:267). My point is that both humour
and translation research could benefit from a principled, theoretically sound
approach to idiomaticity, which expands the notion to encompass the con-
ventionalized meanings of (deceptively) transparent constructions, and the
status of frequently used expressions of a language.
3. Different repertoires cause translational shifts
In the preceding sections I suggested that certain translational shifts observed
between English (ST) and Greek (TT) humorous texts are explainable in
terms of relative idiomaticity of the source and target constructions and their
respective conventionalized meanings. I have also observed that TTs in my
data which have proved successful in terms of humorous effect, tend, on the
whole, to replace syntactic manipulations in STs with manipulations of
culturally grounded fixed expressions. In this section I will focus on the
translational treatment of STs involving other types of constructions also
encoding comparisons between different entities. These comparisons may
be present either on the surface (as in the case of similes and metaphors,
which are commonly preserved in the TTs under consideration) or on a deeper
level (as in allusions, asif-clauses, etc.).
Consider first (6A) from Farewell my Lovely, consisting of three jab lines,
the last two also combining to form a third unit comprising the ifthen-
pattern (traditionally called the protasis-apodosis structure), along with their
translated Greek versions. The informants presented with the corresponding
translated chunks (see note 4) found them amusing, with a general prefer-
ence for C.
B1 Very amusing 19%; Amusing 65%; Non-amusing 15%.
B2 Very amusing 29%; Amusing 56%; Non-amusing 13%.
B3 Very amusing 12%; Amusing 71%; Non-amusing 17%.
Eleni Antonopoulou 211
(6) Farewell My Lovely (Chandler 1940/1949:36)
A1 A2 A3
Shes a charming middle- and if she has washed her Ill eat my hat rim and
aged lady with a face like hair since Coolidges all.
a bucket of mud second term
B1 B2 B3

. ,
, .
[She-is a very nice [And if she-has washed [I (will) eat the spare
woman with a face like her hair since Coolidge tyre of the car along
(a) mop.] was-elected again with the rim.]
president, even once,]
C1 C2 C3

[She-is a charming [and if she-has shampooed [I (will) eat my hat
middle-aged lady with from the First World War along with the
a face like (a) stepped- and after,] ribbon.]
on coffeepot]
The three similes (A1, B1, C1) can receive identical specifications for the
following KRs: LM: false analogy; TA: She (=Jessie Florian); NS: simile;
SI: context. (B1) opts for very likeable instead of charming, with a con-
comitant effect on SO: likeable is opposed to non-attractive, a much milder
incongruity (if any), than attractive/non-attractive appearance, which (A1)
and (C1) share. This difference notwithstanding, each one of these KRs re-
curs with the same content at many points in all of Chandlers early texts. In
GTVH-terms, this means that interesting strands and stacks are formed (see
Attardo 2001:29, 81-85)
giving substance to the intuitive judgement that
such devices constitute typical Marlovian wisecracks. Style and characteri-
zation are also served: KRs prove particularly useful in that respect too.
In relation to the Language KR, the following observations seem crucial.
In (C1) (attractive or charming) is used, which is marked for
elevated register, clashing very effectively with stepped-
C1 Very amusing 73%; Amusing 23%; Non-amusing 4%.
C2 Very amusing 65%; Amusing 35%; Non-amusing 0%.
C3 Very amusing 83%; Amusing 15%; Non-amusing 2%.
The term strand indicates generally three or more [jab or punch] lines which are
related ... Strands of strands are called stacks (Attardo 2001:29).
Translating Raymond Chandler 212
on coffeepot signalling low register besides flatness, destruction, wrinkles
and ugliness. Similarly in (C2) and (C3) semi-fixed expressions are used:
o since the First World War and
. Ill eat my hat. The first one is a standard expression for
something supposed to have happened a very long time before the time of
the utterance. The second one evokes directly scenes associated with comic
Greek movies of the 60s (widely considered the best time of comic Greek
cinema and repeatedly shown on television see Georgakopoulou 2000). It
is an expression associated with tough guys (or people aspiring to that char-
acterization) who did wear hats (like Chandlers Philip Marlowe) and were
proud of them. Common collocational patterns would involve threats like:
unless you do x Ill give you your hat to eat. It is therefore hardly surpris-
ing that C was better received than B, which was considered by some
informants unnatural or boring. In my view, the main difference between
(B2) and (C2) is that only the latter contains a fixed expression with socio-
cultural currency for a Greek audience.
The most successful jabs in my data invariably included culturally
grounded fixed expressions or familiar collocations and, crucially, register
clash. Let us consider some more examples.
(7A) He had his job, his reputation for toughness, his public esteem to
consider. (Farewell My Lovely, Chandler 1940/1949:12)
(7B) E ,
. (Apostolides n.d.:15)
[Gloss: He had to consider his professional career, his fame/(reputation)
and the public feeling.]
(7C) , ,
. (Papadimitriou n.d:8)
[Gloss: He had to consider his job, his fame as a tough cookie, his
The referent of he in A is a poor devil working as a bouncer in an extremely
low-brow joint. He is about to be beaten up by the colossal Moose Malloy
with whom he tries to put up a fight, in his capacity as the protector of the
joint that Malloy has started pulling to pieces. The narrator presents A as the
justification in the bouncers mind of why he should try to fight with Moose
although the odds are against him. The narrators statement in A is therefore
sarcastic in this context. Sarcasm is not only reproduced in both B and C,
but also intensified by the translators choices of actual wording. In B high-
register constructions are used. These range from single lexemes, i.e.
rather than the informal for consider, to colloca-
tions and fixed expressions, i.e. professional
Eleni Antonopoulou 213
career rather than the informal job, and the
public feeling rather than the informal the opinion of
(other) people. Register clash with the actual situation (high-low) adds to
the humorous effect by enhancing the incongruity.
he had to consider his professional ca-
reer sounds like a parody of old fashioned parents expressing concern for
the future of their offspring.
The phrase pro-
fessional career is completely transparent, i.e. its meaning is clearly
compositional from a linguists point of view. It owes its idiomatic status to
the fact that it is fixed, so that its individual parts are probably perceived by
speakers of the language as jointly forming a single unit (not unlike com-
pound lexemes). This construction would probably sound funny, by virtue
of its sheer pomposity, in many different contexts. No wonder, therefore,
that it was highly appreciated by the informants.
In C the language is colloquial; in fact the idiom (literally
hard nut, implying tough cookie) would be more appropriate for a bouncer
characterizing himself (or other members of the same social group). There-
fore, this translator makes a different choice (from the translator of B), which
is, however, also considered amusing by the informants (see note 17). Mixed
reactions accompanied the last noun phrase however: the
public feeling. This is also a fixed expression, and a high-register one, evok-
ing old-fashioned police jargon: people could be arrested for allegedly
provoking the public feeling and censorship was commonly justified on
similar grounds by the Junta in Greece.
The final triplet to be discussed here involves Marlowes protest against
Moose Malloys carrying him from the elbow into Florians caf.
(8A) All right I yelled. Ill go up with you. Just lay off carrying me. Let
me walk. Im fine. Im all grown up. I go to the bathroom alone and
everything. Just dont carry me. (Farewell My Lovely, Chandler 1940/
(8B) . .
. .
. .
. (Papadimitriou n.d.:7)
[Gloss: All right I roared. I will come with you. But stop carrying
me. Let me walk on my own. My legs are all right. I can go alone (by
This is an old-fashioned expression, of fairly formal register: in Greek films of the 60s
and the 70s it would be used by ageing parents favouring or disfavouring candidates for
the hand of their daughter on the basis of professional advancement.
B Very amusing 75%; Amusing 4%; Non-amusing 21%.
C Very amusing 54%; Amusing 33%; Non-amusing 13%.
Translating Raymond Chandler 214
myself) to the toilet and all that. I dont need help.]
(8C) , , . .
. .
. . (Apostolides n.d. :13)
[Gloss: All right, I cried, Ill come up with you. Stop carrying me
though. I manage fine. I am a big child (boy) now. I go alone (by my-
self) to the toilet. Just dont carry me.]
The winner is C
and in particular , , .
. .
. . . I am a
big child (boy) now, a fixed expression reminiscent of fathers reacting to
overprotective mothers (e.g. ,
stop cutting his nails for him, hes a big boy now). It may also be
reminiscent of children protesting to parents for offering unnecessary help
where the high-register more clashes with child talk and might there-
fore add to humorous effect.
The overall picture deriving from the comments of my informants on
data such as the examples discussed above in detail is the following: the
most successful TTs in terms of humorous effect seem to be those exploit-
ing semi-fixed expressions, crucially involving intertextual, socioculturally
grounded elements, inappropriate sociolect choices and register clashes
(with immediate linguistic or situational context). Humour devices of the
same type abound in original Greek texts of the same genre, produced at
about the same time as the TTs examined (e.g. , ,
This may reflect the possibility of linguaculturally specific
preferences for humour, towards an identification and understanding of which
translation theory may contribute. Toury (1997) explores the possibility of
the existence of linguacultural, conventional elements within the area of
humour. Discussing spoonerisms, Toury (1997:282) places them in the rep-
ertoire of habitual or conventional elements of a culture. In this sense,
spoonerisms and puns, for instance, may be said to constitute conventional
humorous devices in an English or a German speaking community, but not
in a Greek one. The claim I am making here is best understood within such a
B Very amusing 4%; Amusing 63%; Non-amusing 33%.
C Very amusing 75%; Amusing 21%; Non-amusing 4%.
These are of the best known translators and authors of Greek detective fiction in the
last twenty years. There is no research on this work but careful consideration of the
humorous devices these authors use and discussions with them have led me to the iden-
tification of these tendencies, a fuller account of which goes beyond the limits of the
present paper.
Eleni Antonopoulou 215
framework. Chandlers Greek translators, I suggest, may have a different
repertoire from which to draw. Unfortunately, there is very little humour
research based on Greek data, so a discussion of the contents of the relevant
repertoire is obviously premature.
I can only mention Canakis (1994), who
provides evidence for the importance for humour creation of register clashes
involving older forms of the language (i.e. Katharevousa forms clashing
with Koine Modern Greek) and Georgakopoulou (2000), who shows the
importance of sociolect choices in comic Greek movies (as already discussed).
Observations on the humorous effect of TTs (such as those explored here)
seem to corroborate the evidence provided in the above mentioned research
and could be used to inform humour theory in the direction of culture-spe-
cific preferences and tendencies.
4. A cognitive explanation of shifts and concluding remarks
A number of points emerge in examining jab lines typical of Marlovian wise-
cracks in Chandlers early texts and their Greek translations. The first point
to be made concerns what brings together the various instances discussed
above. Some of them are equative constructions (she was smoking a ciga-
rette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella); others
are feature-changing constructions exhibiting count-mass noun reversal
(Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged,
putty-faced woman). There are also immediately recognizable tropoi like
similes (a face like a bucket of mud) and metaphors (her eyes were shiny
black shoe-buttons), among other types of constructions.
As pointed out at the beginning of this paper, it seems reasonable to con-
sider all such cases as being motivated by a cognitive event whereby two
distinct objects are coactivated and an operation is executed for comparing
them and assessing their relative identity. The reader is asked to recognize
Evidently repertoires are not to be understood as closed lists or restricted and unique
language-specific sets, but rather as involving linguacultural preferences and tenden-
cies, probably relatable to historical facts (besides typological differences between
languages). One such example is the exploitation of register clashes for humorous pur-
poses. The phenomenon is attested in many different languages and the GTVH has
accounted quite insightfully for it. Its exploitation in Greek texts, however, seems to be
particularly extensive and it is certainly not unrelated to the problem of diglossia which
has had serious socio-political repercussions in Greece: university professors have been
taken to court for their views on language use in the 20th century and the Greek people
have been ideologically and politically divided and even castigated under totalitarian
regimes (dictatorship between the two World Wars and again between 1967 and 1974)
on evidence for their political views drawn from their language use and in particular on
what linguists (innocently) refer to as register. Turning an old problem into a laughing
matter is perhaps one way of coping with a trauma and is certainly outside the scope of
the present paper.
Translating Raymond Chandler 216
that A = B: a person equals two hundred pounds of meat, a cigarette holder
equals an umbrella. Equations can be evidenced also in allusive lines such
as: He had his job ... to consider (see 7A) or Just lay off carrying me
Im all grown up. I go to the bathroom alone and everything (see 8A). These
can be accounted for in similar, metaphoric terms: a bouncer equals a re-
spectable professional; a person carried equals a baby.
ST and TT examples were first analyzed in GTVH-terms and shown to
share KRs (except Language, since they are instances of interlingual trans-
lation). The GTVH can prove useful for translation research as it provides
tools for analyzing humorous texts to allow identification of thematic and
formal similarities holding between jab lines within the same text, but also
between different texts by the same author (see Attardo 2001:86). It is sug-
gested here that translation studies can examine similarities between ST and
TT jab lines interlingually for its own purposes, e.g. translators style, genre
identification, linguacultural preferences, etc.
In the texts examined, ST and TT jab lines have been shown to share a
number of higher-order KRs, and yet be dissimilar in terms of humorous
effect. This points to the direction of re-evaluating the contribution of the
Language KR for the purposes of translation research. I have in effect at-
tempted to show that we might need a more fine-grained, less compositional
and more cognitively based analysis in order to explain attested shifts in TT
jab lines. To that end I have specifically made use of the concepts of relative
(encoding and decoding) idiomaticity and conventionalized meanings of
constructions (as advocated in CG) and I have also pointed to the possibility
of translators awareness of different humour traditions/repertoires in SL
and TL.
Faced with highly idiomatic, albeit transparent, ST constructions like x
is not quite as z as y, Greek translators opt for shifts and employ construc-
tions such as x looks like y, or x is slightly less z than y although, in
principle, formally corresponding constructions are available in Greek. In
my view, these shifts are motivated by the extremely low degree of (encod-
ing) idiomaticity of the wisely avoided corresponding TL constructions.
The attested options have at least some humorous effect, although the exact
judgement element of the ST construction is necessarily sacrificed.
Faced with equally highly idiomatic ST constructions reversing the count
noun/mass noun feature, Greek translators resort to shifts, since no corre-
sponding reversal is available in Greek. If an (encodingly) idiomatic
construction happens to exist in the TL, with (accidentally) similar conven-
tionalized meaning, it is opted for and proves highly successful with
informants, e.g. z pounds of woman is rendered as a moving mass about z
kilos. If no such option is available, humorous effect is compensated for by
using an (encodingly) idiomatic construction in TL with different conven-
tionalized meaning, featuring a sociolectal clash, e.g. z dollars of desk is
rendered as a desk, which, with a rough estimate, I calculated it (to be) z
Eleni Antonopoulou 217
Alternatively, the translator may opt for adequacy and decide to
keep the propositional content of the ST constant at the cost of humorous
effect (to various extents).
The criterion of idiomaticity seems to be important also when it comes to
other types of constructions involving comparison, such as those containing
metaphors or similes, for instance, where (formally) corresponding
constructions are available in SL and TL. Shifts attested in this area involve
interference with the propositional content of the ST, in order to save the
humorous effect. In such cases highly encodingly idiomatic Greek con-
structions are used with strong cultural currency, register clashes and
inappropriate sociolect choices, e.g. with a face like a bucket of mud is
rendered as with a face like a stepped on coffeepot. The success of these
choices seems to point to the direction of the translators awareness and
creative exploitation of the automatic features of language (Redfern
1997:267), as well as to the possibility of the existence of linguacultural
preferences for humour (as suggested in Toury 1997).
It is evident that for any conclusions to be reached as to the relationship
between idiomaticity, linguacultural preferences and humorous effect we need
extensive data from corpora studies and a consideration of additional fac-
tors, such as genre, time of production and type of edition. The tentative
hypothesis I would like to forward here is simply that both factors discussed
above (i.e. degree of encoding idiomaticity and observance of a humour tra-
dition) may be related to the amount of cognitive effort required for humour
appreciation, which has figured prominently in humour research. Attardo et
al. (1994:39) explicitly point out that humor should provide some, but not
too much difficulty some cognitive challenge, without, however, being
too complex to process. Suls (1972:92) mentions that humor increases
with ease of information processing and that appreciation decreased as
processing time increased (ibid.:93). In other words, humour theory has
identified the importance for humour appreciation of the brevity of humor
resolution and of the short time span of the punch line (see Attardo
1997:407 for a discussion of these notions). Although these observations
are mainly based on the processing of jokes, the principle underlying them
can be brought to bear on the amount of cognitive effort required for the
successful processing of single jab lines in different text types, such as nar-
ratives. Jabs featuring high encoding idiomaticity and reflecting humour
devices well established in the repertoire of a linguistic community may re-
quire less processing effort and may therefore stand better chances of success.
Informants reactions to the data considered here, at least, seem to indicate
that effective humour may depend on the ease with which the opposed scripts
Calculated here stands for the Greek , which can be literally translated
as make up a quantity bill.
Translating Raymond Chandler 218
and the resolution of the opposition are accessible to the recipients. If effec-
tive humour is part of a translators agenda, high TL encoding idiomaticity
and TL humour preferences may be important considerations. Similar con-
siderations can be part of the translation researchers agenda; employing
fine-grained and at the same time cognitively based analyses seems a prom-
ising addition to complement the GTVH.
Faculty of English Studies, School of Philosophy, University of Athens,
Panepistimioupoli Zografou, 157 84 Athens, Greece.
Primary sources
Apostolides, Andreas (, ) (tr.) (n.d.) (Fare-
well, My Lovely), Athens: Agra Publications.
Argyros, Constantinos (, ) (tr.) (1982) ,
(The Lady of the Lake), Athens: Erato Publications.
Athanasopoulou, Eleni ( , ) (tr.) (1987) Y
(The Big Sleep), Athens: Grammata Publications.
Balis, Nikos ( , ) (tr.) (1982) (Trou-
ble is my Business), Athens: Grammata Publications.
------ ( , ) (tr.) (1982) (Trouble is
my Business), Athens: Mavros Ilios Publications.
------ ( , ) (tr.) (1991) (Ill Be Waiting), Athens:
Mavros Ilios Publications.
Chandler, Raymond (1939) The Big Sleep, London: Hamish Hamilton.
------ (1939/1950) Trouble Is My Business, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
------ (1939/1950) Ill Be Waiting, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
------ (1940/1949) Farewell, My Lovely, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
------ (1946/1979) The Lady in the Lake, London and Sydney: Pan Books.
Kargakou, Nena (, ) (tr.) (1987) Y (The Big
Sleep), Athens: Medusa.
Mistraki, Tzeni (, ) (tr.) (n.d.) (The Lady of
the Lake), Pireas: Lychnari Publications.
Papadimitriou, Anna (, ) (tr.) (n.d.) ,
(Farewell, My Lovely), Pireas: Lychnari Publications.
Paraboukis, Vagelis (, ) (tr.) (1984) (Ill
Be Waiting), Thessaloniki: Paratiritis Publications.
Secondary sources
Attardo, Salvatore (1994) Linguistic Theories of Humor, Berlin & New York:
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