A 'mooching': the quotation

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I am currently translating a story about traveling, from Russian into English. There is a situation when the narrator meets a beggar woman with a baby who is pointing to her mouth clearly making him understand what she needs from him. And then the author uses an allusion to a famous satirical Russian novel ("12 Chairs" if that would ring the bell) in which a relatively well-off guy is forced to fake being a panhandler soliciting alms - and to increase compassion as well as to stand out from the crowd of the other beggars he would say in broken French "I have not eaten in six days (je ne mange pas six jours), please have mercy on a former member of the State Council". And this phrase is the only description the author gives about the beggar (“She pointed at her mouth: ‘Je ne mange pas six jours, please share with a former member of the State Council’"), as if putting these words into her mouth. The humor and the juxtaposition as well the allusion are obvious.

A direct translation with the translator's notes will not have on the English language readers the effect it would have on a Russian reader, given the allusions, hidden meanings and the subtlety thereof. I was wondering if in the English language literature (flicks, cartoons, radio shows, sitcoms, etc.) there might be a similar situation with a catch-phrase revealing a beggar as a faker. Or maybe at least somebody trying to mooch off faking a different state of things. To preserve the structure of the original it's better to use just a recognizable quotation which would bring out the whole array of the connotations mentioned above, without explanatory notes or mentioning the source, - something the general public would recognize and appreciate... Not necessarily direct speech. Nothing comes to my mind, but I thought somebody may come up with an idea... My colleagues metioned references to Pygmalion, The Prince and the Pauper and Dickens, without actual quotations though, and I can't remember anything related from those books, so would an average reader?
Anticipating this answer I will say right away: "I am a good gal, I am!" may be a little bit off (no matter how hilarious it looks) as the whole thing happens in the poor hoods of India and the contexts differ.

  • wickerman

    US English
    In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Man with the Twisted Lip," the fake beggar theme definitely occurs, but I'm not sure if I remember any catch phrases from the beggar. I don't have the story on hand...

    good luck,


    Senior Member
    I know, I thought about that, but I doubt everybody knows it, and there really are no catch phrases. Sherlock washes the guy's face.


    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    My only thought on this is not a very good one, in that it might be considered funny only in the U.S. On the U.S. comedy sketch show "Saturday Night Live," Jon Lovitz used to play a character who was a pathological liar. He would tell a series of escalating lies culminating in one particularly outlandish lie, after which he would say "yeah, that's the ticket."

    It lacks the subtlety of the original, but it's part of the popular culture of the U.S. and would be understood by many U.S. readers.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    There was a character called "Whimpie,", a friend of Popeye's, who always said, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." But this will probably not resound with anyone under, oh, 40?

    John Carter

    I think that you underestimate your potential audience who have been fed quite a diet of propaganda regarding Russia and the former USSR for generations.
    Were you to change your descriptive from the genreic 'member' to 'representative' or 'senator' the humour would be obvious to all.



    Senior Member
    Idialegre, I'm 22 and I know what you're talking about :D

    Yes, it might be an idea. You never know. In the mean time, I'm still searching my brain but I really can't find it. Though there must be.
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