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By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by aparis2, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. aparis2 Senior Member

    Maryland, United States
    American English
    I was trying to find the Russian translation for that famous quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!" I'm sure there are several translations, but wondered if there were any that were more prominent than others. I went to Wikipedia, and it had these translations:
    «Палец у меня зудит//Что-то грешное спешит»;
    «Палец у меня зудит//Что-то злое к нам спешит»;
    «У меня заныли кости//Значит, жди дурного гостя»;
    «У меня разнылся палец//К нам идет дурной скиталец».
    Do you know which of these would be a closer translation to the original quote? If I had to choose, and I'm really not very good at Russian, I would choose the second one: Палец у меня зудит, что-то злое к нам спешит. Which leads me to my second question: I would assume since the quote in English is not literal but somewhat idiomatic, that the Russian versions would also be idiomatic. So, does anyone know what they exactly mean? Even without an idiomatic explanation, there are a few words I haven't been able to find in the online dictionaries. I think I've figured out that зудеть means itch, which adds to my theory of it being idiomatic. But I haven't been able to find any translation for either заныть or разныться. Can anyone help? Thank you in advance!
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2008
  2. Hoax

    Hoax Senior Member

    Shame on me but I haven't read it in English and hardly remember in Russian. But without the context I see no connection between a finger and something evil in Russian, that's why I prefer the third variant. Bones are said to be aching when nasty weather is coming, so it may mean something bad approaching.
  3. aparis2 Senior Member

    Maryland, United States
    American English
    Okay, let me try to give some additional context. In the scene Macbeth is traveling back to the witches. Before he enters, one of the witches says the above quote. The "...something wicked this way comes" is referring to Macbeth, he is the wicked something, who, at this point in the play, is a murderer and traitor to his country. The "By the pricking of my thumbs..." part is harder to explain. The saying supposedly comes from Ancient Rome, where palpitations of the heart, the flickering of the eye, or the pricking of a thumb were warnings of evil. So, it could be very roughly paraphrased as "I have a very troublesome/worrisome feeling that something wicked/evil is coming this way." Does that help at all? Probably not. I'm really neither an expert on Shakespearean literature nor on supposèd Ancient Roman expressions.

    I might add that the witches are not really worried about something wicked coming to them, because they know Macbeth is coming, they've been expecting him, since they have filled his head with prophesies of him being king and, in my opinion, expected him to return for more prophetic answers to his troubles. They are, in fact, waiting for him.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2008
  4. Hoax

    Hoax Senior Member

    Thx for explanation, I still have the same idea I said above. I understand that some worrisome feeling is intended that's why I think that comparison with the aching bones is the best because aching fingers have no meaning in Russian =)
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2008
  5. bravo7

    bravo7 Senior Member

  6. aparis2 Senior Member

    Maryland, United States
    American English
    I found some additional translations from a different website; some are the same, but there a few new ones:

    Что касается перевода фразы "Something wicked this way comes", то он немного неоднозначен. Можно посмотреть, как переводили его непосредственно в "Макбете". Оригинал звучит так:

    By the pricking of my thumbs,
    Something wicked this way comes.
    Open, locks,
    Whoever knocks!

    Борис Пастернак перевел так:
    Пальцы чешутся. К чему бы?
    К посещенью душегуба.
    Чей бы ни был стук,
    Падай с двери крюк.

    Михаил Лозинский перевел так:
    У меня разнылся палец:
    К нам идет дурной скиталец.
    Подымайся, крюк,
    Чей бы ни был стук!

    Юрий Корнеев перевел так:
    У меня заныли кости.
    Значит, жди дурного гостя.
    Крюк, с петли слети,
    Пришлеца впусти.

    А Сергей Соловьев перевел так:
    Палец у меня зудит,
    Что-то злое к нам спешит.
    Так и быть,
    Надо открыть.

    Ну а Виталий Рапопорт перевел так:
    Колет палец мой большой,
    Кто-то к нам подходит злой.
    Кто бы в дверь ни постучал,
    Пусть откроется тотчас.

    I was thinking about the lack of a connection with finger, but maybe since in the original English version it's the pricking of her thumb, which is a finger, that maybe that's why a few of the translations use палец. I will concede that it still may not make sense because it's possible the translator went for the more word-for-word translation instead of the best translation to get the idea across.
  7. cyanista

    cyanista законодательница мод

    Hello aparis,

    I will try to answer some of your questions. First off let me offer you a literal back-translation of the available translations:

    1. Палец у меня зудит // Что-то грешное спешит - My finger is itching // something sinful is hurrying (to us).
    2. Палец у меня зудит // Что-то злое к нам спешит - My finger is itching // something evil is hurrying to us.
    3. У меня заныли кости // Значит, жди дурного гостя - My bones started aching // which means an ill guest is due to come. (a clumsy translation, sorry!)
    4. У меня разнылся палец // К нам идет дурной скиталец - My finger started aching // an evil wanderer is coming to us.
    5. Пальцы чешутся. К чему бы? // К посещенью душегуба - My fingers are itching, what might it mean? // A visit from a slayer
    6. Колет палец мой большой // Кто-то к нам подходит злой - My thumb is prick(l)ing ??? // someone evil is approaching us

    заныть or разныться are two perfective forms deriving from ныть (ache, hurt).

    To my mind, versions 1, 2 and 6 are closer to the original but it's hard to say which is the most idiomatic. Number 3 sounds the most natural to me but it is just a personal opinion.

    If you have more questions you are most heartily welcome. :)
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2008

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