παιδιά μου

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by OssianX, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    I try to avoid imposing too much on this wonderful list by sticking to questions about the language, rather than problems of translation, if the distinction makes sense. But here's one that falls in between.

    I hear the expression "Παιδιά μου" all the time, and I know what it means, in the sense that I can always hear how it's being used, and even use it myself, without any illusion that I'm speaking about biological children of mine.

    But how to translate it? The problem looks more interesting the more I look at it. Expressions like this are so bound up with a cultural and historical moment that even if I find what seems like an equivalent in (say) U.S. culture in 2010 -- "Hey guys!" or something -- it's guaranteed to sound quaint or impenetrable in five years. Or to put it another way, the hard thing about translating a set phrase like Παιδιά μου is that the reader (in English) has to understand that it is a set phrase; I need to short-circuit any temptation to take the phrase literally.

    I've thought about "Fellows --" or "My dears --" or even "Boys and girls --" but they all sound silly. Παιδιά μου may be effusive, but it's never silly. Has anybody found a solution to this problem?
  2. cougr Senior Member

    Hi OssianX

    I don't think I have encountered the phrase in its plural form meaning anything other than "my children",though its singular form ie "παιδί μου" or "παιδάκι μου" can have connotations apart from its literal meaning. However, I think it's one of those phrases that without some elaboration or explanation its exact nuance can sometimes be lost in translation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2010
  3. Visnja New Member

    I prefer "Hey guys!". I like it and I use it very often in everyday speech. :)

    Τι έγινε ρε παιδιά;
    Ε όχι ρε παιδιά...
    Να σου πω, παιδί μου...

    Πως αλλιός να τα πούμε; Αχ! Αυτά τα Ελληνικά! <3 :)
  4. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    Thanks, Visnja. "Hey guys!" is what I say sometimes too, when I'd say Παιδια μου! in Greek. I have tried it in the translation, but it doesn't seem to work there for a couple of reasons. First, it's entirely informal and cheery, while παιδί μου or παιδιά μου, though it can be casual, often seems to have a more ardent or vehement tone. Second, "guys" has problems -- some women object to being assumed to be included by it, and the context of the poem doesn't let me assume they're not -- and indeed "guy" has another layer of meaning that implies not just male but "typically male" (as in Garrison Keillor's book, The Book of Guys). Then too, I worry about the expression becoming "dated" too quickly; if we say "Hey guys!" in 2010, what will it sound like in five or ten years?
  5. Visnja New Member

    I agree with you, it is entirely informal, but you need to adapt this phrase to the target language. You know what it means and you can find out the current phrase in your language. Now, it will be “guys”, tomorrow something else and you need to be updated. I am learning Greek language already 30 years and they still use this phrase. In case we have two or more girls, I will use (in my language) “girls” instead of “guys”. ;)
  6. elliest_5 Senior Member

    I think you have to make a clearer distinction between "παιδιά μου" and "(ρε) παιδί μου" or "(ρε) παιδιά".

    What we use as equivalent to "you guys!", "hey mates!", "listen, mate" etc is "παιδί μου", "παιδάκι μου" or "παιδιά" .

    The phrase "παιδιά μου" is not used in that sense...When I hear it out of context it brings to mind some grandfather talking to his grandchildren "ακούστε, παιδιά μου" or someone narrating a fairy tale to children "και που λέτε, παιδιά μου, έζησαν αυτοί καλά κι εμείς καλύτερα". If I were to hear it in a more everyday context (like among friends, for example) I would certainly think it's used in a playful/ironical tone "και τώρα τι κάνουμε παιδιά μου/καλά μου παιδιά?" which is certainly very distinct from "και τώρα τι κάνουμε ρε παιδιά?" which is the normal and expected expression...
  7. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    Hm! I wonder if this also varies by particular place? I'm pretty sure that recently on Zakynthos I've heard Athenian/Zakynthians use it in the "παιδί μου" tone. But thinking that way leads to madness: the next question would be how someone writing in Athens in 1972, who'd been born in Monemvasia in 1909, would hear it ...

    If you're right (and as far as I can tell, elliest_5, you're always right), then maybe I should use "My children--" (and a line later the speaker says it twice more) though there's no indication of any actual children in the poem. But then, as we know, there might well not be, as we know. But I'll rethink it. I was beginning to settle on "My dears--", but I guess I'll have to rethink it.

    In any case, very helpful, as always; thanks.
  8. elliest_5 Senior Member

    Could you give us the whole context of Ritsos' poem? That would help us make out the tone..
    Well, I know I never say "παιδιά μου" to mean "(ρε) παιδιά" unless, as I said, it's for joking, like "και τώρα, παιδιά μου, την πατήσαμε!" or something similar. But then, these expressions, as you pointed out earlier, vary among generations, so I can speak for my generation (people born between mid-70's and early 90's I suppose) but then maybe for my parents' generation it might sound more informal than it sounds to us...

    hahaha! Oh, I wish that was true, but life disproves me every single day
  9. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    OK, here is the whole poem. As in the past, I imagine ireney or another of the moderators will take it down soon so as to avoid infringing on the publisher's rights. Since I'm now trying very hard to negotiate with Kedros, the publisher, for permission to print any of these translations, I'm in full sympathy. But for the moment, maybe it will help clarify this vexing question:


    Εκείνος άφησε το ψάρι πάνω στήν καρέκλα.
    Η γυναίκα αποκοιμήθηκε μες στον καθρέφτη.
    Το φρέσκο βούτυρο είναι μέσα στο ψυγείο. Το αλάτι
    στη μικρή νάϋλον σακκούλα. Παιδιά μου ― είπε ―
    (τόπε στραμμένος προς τον τοίχο απ’ όπου είχαν βγάλει
    όλα τα κάδρα). Παιδιά μου, παιδιά μου, ― ξανάπε ―
    οι πιο καλοί είναι οι πεθαμένοι· εγώ δεν είμαι·
    μαζεύομαι γυμνός μέσα στο κούφιο ξύλινο άλογό μου·
    άβολα κάθομαι· ανάβω τσιγάρο· το σβήνω· φοβάμαι
    μη βγει ο καπνός απ’ τα μάτια του αλόγου και με προδώσει.

    Αθήνα, 7.Ι.72

    Oh and by the way, in a similar vein, is there a good way to translate that first word, Εκείνος, other than just "he" (or the awkward-or-obscure-in-English "that man")?
  10. elliest_5 Senior Member

    That's a nice poem - but totally surrealistic, so I understand the hard time it gives you in translating it...I would say that "παιδιά μου" is "my children" here - he seems to be talking to the missing frames (pictures/portraints) from the wall, which probably represented his loved ones, so that's why I would choose "my children" (although he may not be addressing his biological children). And definitely the tone does not dictate anything like "you guys" or "pals", so you should avoid these...

    As for "εκείνος", probably "he" is better than "that man", and I can't think of any other possible translation (unless you want to add some emphasis via topicalisation, so you could double the pronoun such as in "He, he left the fish...", but that would sound strange, right?)
  11. Visnja New Member

    In a/m context, "my children". A completely different context than I expected.
  12. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    Excellent point about the frames. I had that going in the back of my mind but hadn't formulated it consciously. Thanks for bringing it out.

    You're right about the "he," of course -- and yes, I think reduplicating it would make it strange in English in a way that doesn't correspond to the Greek.

    For "Παιδιά μου" I'm going to use "Children --" without the possessive pronoun. With the repetition (not without it), I think it incrementally develops the right sense.

    1,000 thanks.
  13. elliest_5 Senior Member

    [off topic] and I just noticed the trojan horse reference...now that's another thing that is difficult when translating poetry :cultural references. I mean, a foreigner who doesn't know the myth will not make the connection, he might still get the poem but he'll always be missing something...maybe you would need a translator's note here ;) [/off topic]
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
  14. OssianX Senior Member

    English (USA)
    Ah well there's a limit: anyone who doesn't know about the Trojan horse is just hopeless. (Notes, though, are anathema.)

    But then, I can imagine someone responding to the hollow horse, "Wow, that's weird!" and maybe getting something out of it. For that matter, "οι πιο καλοί είναι οι πεθαμένοι" feels to me like a clear reference to Sophokles; but not knowing the Oedipus at Kolonos doesn't disable a reader of this poem. Readers faced with the impenetrable will make something up: that's the profound truth (about humans as linguistic animals) on which the poet's jiu jitsu usually depends. Almost everything is impenetrable, when you pay the kind of attention to it that a poem's language asks you to pay; that's when you realize that normal discourse is (in David Antin's wonderful phrase) just "skating over cracks in the real." So you fall in, and you make something up, and then you and the poet have together created a poem. The trick (for the poet) is to make a thing that seems not to demand that, but turns out to allow and occasion it. And Ritsos is awfully good at that.

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