New East Digital Archive

Russian comic book translators propose patriotic onomatopoeia

Russian comic book translators propose patriotic onomatopoeia
(Image: cybergedeon under a CC licence)

11 August 2015

A group of Russian comic book translators has suggested that the use of onomatopoeic words such as “bang” and “wow” is unpatriotic, proposing a new list of indigenous alternatives.

The translators wrote to the Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, lamenting the “unpatriotic” use of English onomatopoeic terms in Russian translations of comic books.

“In comic books you can often encounter words imitating sounds. How can one express the sound of a phone ringing, of a creaky door, or a soda can being popped open […] Often translators simply transliterate the English words,” the letter stated.

The translators also suggested a list of words taken from the official languages of the Russian Federation that could replace the offending “unpatriotic” terms. According to their proposal, words borrowed from Lezgian — a language spoken in southern Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan — such as “chorkh” and “khurt-khurt” could be used to express scratching and a gulping sound respectively.

The letter was initially attributed to the Centre of Comics and Visual Culture, which subsequently dismissed the claim in a Facebook post. The Centre stated that the letter had in fact been written by translators involved with the annual KomMissia festival of comics, graphic novels and manga.