the cub's brains had been licked out

Emma59

Senior Member
French
Bonjour,

auriez-vous une idée de comment traduire "licked out" dans "the top of its head had been shorn away, and the cub's brains had been licked out" ?
J'avais pensé à lapé ou aspiré, mais je n'en suis pas du tout convaincue.

Merci d'avance !
 
  • CarlosRapido

    Senior Member
    français - English (Can)
    laper c'est boire avec la langue, aspirer c'est absorber un liquide, de l'air, etc, en créant un vide partiel; ça va pas vraiment.

    Je traduirais par 'on en avait extirpé/extrait/mangé le cerveau à coups de langue'
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Actually, no ... the word 'lick' has another meaning that has nothing to do with tongues ... a "lick" is a sharp blow, used in phrases like "a lick of the whip" and "to take one's licks" ... there was an ad for a wrist watch that used the tag line: "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

    To say here that the cub's brains had been "licked out" of its skull, simply means that the cub's body had been thrashed so violently that one blow had actually dislodged its brain from its body.
     

    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    CarlosRapido : en fait, j'avais aussi trouvé cela et je l'ai proposé à ma prof qui l'a trouvé bien trop littéral, pourtant j'aimais bien cette solution. Elle me semblait correcte. mgarizona : that is weird, when I talked about that passage to an American friend, he also thought it had to do with tongues. Then I guess it'll be easier to translate with your remark, thank you !
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    mgarizona : that is weird, when I talked about that passage to an American friend, he also thought it had to do with tongues. Then I guess it'll be easier to translate with your remark, thank you !
    I'm not surprised, it's a highly literary usage of "lick" and you need to have that sort of bent to pick up on it. I bet though if you mention "taking a licking" to your friend he'll recognize that it means receiving a beating. (Well, depending on his age: kids today would probably consider even that the sort of phrase Grandpa Simpson would use!!!)
     

    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    I told him what you just said and he still disagrees with that. Could some other people give their opinion on the subject please? =) If we admit what you say is true, do you think "Le haut de la tête avait été arraché et la cervelle de l’ourson en avait été éjectée" sounds good ?
     

    CarlosRapido

    Senior Member
    français - English (Can)
    Not impossible but I am not entirely convinced that lick = sharp blow here, knowing that bears do eat the brains out of their prey, specially in early spring.
     

    Omelette

    Senior Member
    UK English
    mg’s reading is certainly possible (SOED ‘to lick’: ‘to beat, to thrash’), though it wouldn’t have been my first thought. Do you know what killed the cub? Was it a human?
     

    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    It was killed by a bear, a male,: "Another bear got her cub. A male. Maybe the one we saw yesterday. Then she fought him for the body, and she won."
     
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    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    Maybe it's some kind of regionalism ? Would you have any idea how I can translate it not too literally? Any other opinions on the question ?
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Bears do eat brains, but do they 'lick them out' like ice cream from an unconsumed cone? And why would the narrator interrupt a stressful situation in which his characters' lives were threatened to insert this odd and macabre detail?

    Consider that the other verb here--- "the top of its head had been shorn away"--- is equally literary. It calls attention to the sharpness of the bear's claws, but in a roundabout way. Shearing is more readily associated with the removal of just the hair and the reader is forced to stop for a moment to appreciate that the whole "top of its head"--- i.e. skull--- had been removed.

    But ultimately, brains are not honey: licking does not seem a very effective means of ingesting brain. The image suggests a fastidious gourmandise I personally find at odds with eating habits of une bête carnassière.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'd interpret it the way Emma59 did at the beginning, though I'm certainly no expert on the eating habits of bears.
     

    emmsy

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Its is a tricky one, my instinct is lick like an ice cream, but given the context and language surrounding it has to be as MG says. How about turning the sentence around to say something along the lines of "the top of his head and brain had been ripped away?" Sorry my French isn't strong enough to suggest a french equivelant!
     
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    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    Ok, I know why I found this sentence so hard to translate now !
    Maybe I could try what you said emmsy. I'll wait a little and see if there are other suggestions/opinions. Thank you =)
     

    CarlosRapido

    Senior Member
    français - English (Can)
    Here is a link describing a bear attack on a camper that happened just last week near my former home town. It explains how the bear sheared the skin off the man's head by clawing and gnawing at it. The bear was in the process of trying to crack the man's skull open with jaws when he got rescued by two women who just happened to be driving by. Bears have very powerful claws for digging earth and stumps, but I think you are overestimating their sharpness (nothing like Freddy Kruger). You may be also underestimating the resistance of human, or bear cub skulls; it would take a hell of a blow to knock the brain clean out of one.

    As in the article, the skin is ripped away and the skull cap is cracked open with the jaws, then the brain is scooped out, the bear using its long and quasi prehensile tongue (remember, it uses that tongue to pick berries).
     
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    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    That's interesting ! Then it really has to do with the tongue ? Are you all sure ? How could I translate it not too literally ? Le haut de la tête de l'ourson avait été arraché et sa cervelle extirpée/extraite à coups de langue ?
     

    mgarizona

    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Yes, they use their tongues to "lick" berries off a bush--- hardly an uncanny skill, I could do the same---, but if you want to call attention to the violence required of a blow that could dislodge a brain from a skull, you can't logically follow that up with the notion that a tongue, however prehensile, can just slurp one up.

    The text is short story by a writer with a genuine literary bent: this isn't a blogger at work. Nor is it a nature study in National Geographic. The choice in reading the line is this: is the author opting for a bit of grotesquerie in the middle of an action sequence--- entirely plausible--- or exercising his narrative muscle with an unusual and potent verb? For me the answer can be deduced from the other verb used, 'shorn away,' which is also unexpected and perplexing in context.
     

    Emma59

    Senior Member
    French
    What do you think of "Le haut de la tête de l’ourson avait été arraché et la cervelle en avait été extraite par un coup violent" in this case ?
     
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