Methods of transferring linguistic humor in J.K. Jerome’s novel "Three men in a boat ..." translated by Y. Lisnyak 📙 Курсовая → 🆔 722 (2023)

Methods of transferring linguistic humor in J.K. Jerome’s novel "Three men in a boat ..." translated by Y. Lisnyak

Table of Contents


The present research is devoted to the study of humour devices in Jerome Klapka Jerome’s humorous novel Three Men in a Boat, first published in 1889, and its Ukrainian rendering by Y. Lisnyak.

The aim of the work is to analyse methods of transferring linguistic humor in J.K. Jerome’s novel "Three men in a boat ..." translated by Y. Lisnyak.

The tasks of the given research are:

- to overview the biography of J.K. Jerome and his main works;

- to overview the meaning of “humour”;

- to analyse humour devices in Jerome Klapka Jerome’s humorous novel Three Men in a Boat;

- to find out methods of transferring linguistic humor in J.K. Jerome’s novel "Three men in a boat ..." translated by Y. Lisnyak.

The work is divided into five chapters, the first one providing a brief biography of Jerome Klapka Jerome, information on the reception of the novel in the English and Ukrainian literary milieus. One of its subchapters also presents the word ‘humour’ and what it means, describes the traits of humour of the Victorian era, and lists humour devices following Alison Ross’s (1998) division. Chapter two attempts to define the principal humour device in Three Men in a Boat – irony. It focuses on types of irony and the techniques used to establish it, illustrating the study with examples from the novel. Chapter three discusses metaphorical language (including metaphors, similes and personification) and its contribution to the humorous tone of the novel. It also deals with idioms which Peter Newmark (1988) classifies as stock metaphors. In chapter four the study concentrates on register as a humour device, especially on the inappropriate usage of formal register and juxtaposition of different registers. Finally, chapter five concerns the pragmatics-based device of breaking the cooperative principle, which leads to misunderstanding or misinterpretation, and the phenomenon of ambiguity and a closely related device of wordplay. The four chapters on humour expedients also include the study and comparison of the Ukrainian rendering as well as discussions on how difficult the task of translating humour is, what the main problems of translating the individual devices are and what translation procedures can be employed. In conclusion the findings pertaining to the translation habits of the translator are summarised.

Even though Jerome Klapka Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat was and still is popular in many countries, very little has been written about his style and humour, let alone the translations of his works.

CHAPTER I. General Information

1.1. Jerome Klapka Jerome’s Biography

Jerome Klapka Jerome, best known as the author of a comic masterpiece Three Men in a Boat, was born in Walsall, Staffordshire, on 2 May 1859 into a highly-religious family. His father, Jerome Clapp Jerome, worked as a non-conformist preacher and was interested in the local coal and iron industries. One of his coal-mining ventures proved to be a disaster and brought the family to financial ruin. He was forced to move the family to Stourbridge and subsequently to Poplar in the East End of London where Jerome spent his childhood in relative poverty.

At the age of fourteen Jerome left school to join various professions – a clerk on the London and North Western Railway, an actor touring the country with a stage company, a journalist, a schoolmaster and a solicitor’s clerk. In his spare time he was writing short stories, essays and satires which would be rejected for a long time. Then, Jerome had the idea of writing about his experiences as an actor which resulted in his work On the Stage – and Off, a volume of humorous sketches published in 1885. This was followed by a collection of humorous essays The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886).

In 1888 Jerome married Georgina Elizabeth Henrietta Stanley Marris (called Ettie) and acquired a daughter – Elsie – by this marriage. His own daughter Rowena was born in 1898. After the newly-weds’ honeymoon, spent on the Thames, Jerome began writing Three Men in a Boat. The book was published in 1889 and made him famous and rich and enabled him to make the acquaintance of great writers including H. G. Wells, Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. From then on numerous literary works came to being, among them the novels The Diary of a Pilgrimage (1891), Three Men on the Bummel (1900, the sequel to the Boat), Paul Kelver (1902), a popular morality play The Passing of the Third Floor Back (1908), and many more. He also excelled as the editor (of a monthly magazine The Idler and a weekly To-Day) and as the prolific columnist.

Jerome travelled a lot to Russia, America and especially Germany where he gave various lectures. He was fond of Germany, which prompted him to move his family to Dresden in 1900 where they stayed for two years. When the First World War broke out, he enlisted in the French army as a front line ambulance driver. He returned home disillusioned and a broken man. Towards the end of his life he finished his memoirs My Life and Times (1926) which, though short on domestic details and lacking chronological order, is one of Jerome’s most entertaining books.

On the way back from a motoring tour in Devon with his wife Ettie, Jerome suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died two weeks later (14 June 1927) in Northampton General Hospital. He and Ettie, who outlived him by eleven years, were buried in the Ewelme churchyard, Oxfordshire, close to their beloved River Thames (Nicholas 7 – 10).

1.2. The Novel Three Men in a Boat

Jerome’s novel Three Men in a Boat could be characterised as a comic pastoral celebrating simple life devoid of luxury, false friends and high society vices. Apart from comic events and situations the three characters experience, it contains lyrical descriptions of nature and philosophical reflections comparing the trip up and down the Thames to the voyage up and down the river of Life. In some parts of the novel social criticism comes to the fore, frowning upon greed and excessive accumulation of possession (Stříbrný 564).

Jerome Klapka Jerome claimed that all the events recorded in his novel Three Men in a Boat really happened, they were only a little embellished. Even the characters appearing in the novel were based on real people – Jerome’s friends with whom he made a considerable number of rows up and down the Thames and a cycling trip across Europe. George Wingrave (George in the novel) worked as a bank clerk and he shared a room with Jerome for some time. Carl Hentschel (Harris) was born in Poland and came to England with his parents at the age of five. He set up his own photography business and co-founded The Playgoer’s Club, on which occasion he met Jerome.

Jerome’s excellent essays The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (1886) had been serialised in the monthly magazine Home Chimes, edited by F. W. Robinson. And it was Robinson himself who accepted Jerome’s next project called The Story of the Thames. At first the book was not intended to be funny; it should have described the river’s scenery and historical events that had taken place near the Thames, and it should have been interspersed with occasional humorous passages. However, it came quite the other way round – it became a humorous novel with occasional passages dealing with the river’s scenery and history. Robinson readily removed some of those ‘serious’ passages and insisted that Jerome made up a better title. Three Men in a Boat seemed to be the most appropriate one.

The book was published in 1889 by J. W. Arrowsmith and it quickly made Jerome’s name, the copies being big sellers. It was extremely successful not only in Britain, but also in the USA, Germany and Russia, and translated into many languages, including Japanese, Hebrew, Irish and Portuguese. The novel has been filmed three times (1920, 1933, 1956), adapted into a musical by Hubert Gregg, made into a stage play, read aloud on radio and even performed in a one-man show.

The style of the novel Three Men in a Boat was completely new and fresh. Unlike other Victorian writers – such as Conan Doyle, R. L. Stevenson and Rudyard Kipling – whose stories captured fantastical adventures and fearless heroes, Jerome’s novel portrayed three ordinary pipe-smoking men having fun on an ordinary boating trip. He used everyday language and mocked the matters of everyday life. Of course, fervent critics (especially from The Saturday Review and Puch) soon took Jerome to task. He was criticised for the new kind of humour and accused of ‘vulgarity’, using colloquial clerk’s English. The extraordinary commercial success, however, suggested that the general readership was not influenced by this sharp criticism and that people wanted to take a rest from literary grandiloquence and solemnity and to spend their spare time with a book that made them laugh (Nicholas 57 – 61).

Despite the general interest in Jerome’s works, his writings are not very highly thought of in the official English literary history. The Ukrainian readership, however, received the novel enthusiastically.

1.3. Humour and Its Devices

As this thesis focuses on the study of translation of humour, I would like to provide a brief explanation of the term ‘humour’ and to mention some of its expedients.

The meaning of the word ‘humour’ was originally far from what it means today. The term derived from Latin humor, meaning ‘moisture’ or ‘body fluid’, and in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance period it was used to denote the four humours of the body – blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile (proposed by Hippocrates) – which determined a person’s mental disposition, character and temperament. The theory of humours survives up to this day in such expressions as ‘ill-humoured’, ‘good-humoured’, ‘yellow with jealousy’, etc. In the sixteenth century the theory of humours is employed in drama for the first time when Ben Jonson names the characters in his comedy Every Man in His Humour (1598) in terms of their prevailing bodily fluids (Cuddon 313 – 4). It is not until the seventeenth century that ‘humour’ is used to refer to the comic and ridiculous. In the eighteen century the word gradually got in all the European languages, differentiating the positive, kind and comforting comicality from caricature and satire (Vlašín 141).

The humour of the Victorian era, in which Jerome Klapka Jerome created his literary works, can be described as domesticated, which means that it “settles down to chuckling over the mores of an approved social order or the harmless oddities of stock figures and types: policemen, clergymen, urchins, schoolchildren, tramps, drunks, professors, artists, eccentrics” (McArthur 488). This is exactly what Jerome does in his Three Men in a Boat. He comments on social issues, such as poverty, superabundance of wealth, criminality; kindly mocks various types of characters, among them villagers, fishermen, railway employees, boasters, oversensitive ladies; and last but not least makes fun of the three main characters themselves. The humour of this kind can be also found in the nineteenth-century magazine Punch, “a representative of the affluent middle class smirking indulgently at its own foibles, at its own establishment and its servants, at the oddities of the poor, and at the strange ways of foreigners” (McArthur 488).

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What is important for the creation and reception of humour in general is the social context – humour outdates very quickly and is often dependent on specific cultures and attitudes. Humour is also a matter of personal taste as it is likely that two people will perceive a joke very differently (Ross 2 – 4). While the study of creation and perception of humour in social terms would be very complex and would differ from society to society, the study of language features that contribute to humour is far less demanding as the features are almost the same across languages and are relatively easy to detect. Humour can be elicited by structural ambiguity on phonological (homophones), morphological (compound words), lexical (polysemy) and syntactical (ambiguous sentence structures) level; or by incongruity in language. Incongruity theory “focuses on the element of surprise. It states that humour is created out of a conflict between what is expected and what actually occurs in the joke” (Ross 7). Incongruity can appear in the fields of semantics (metaphors, contradictions, verbal irony), pragmatics (breaking of cooperative principle, misunderstanding), discourse (breaking the expectations) and register (using inappropriate register) (Ross 7 – 51). In Three Men in a Boat the most significant of these devices of humour are those of irony, metaphors and similes, register, and lexical and syntactical ambiguity. And these particular devices and their translations into Ukrainian are studied in the present thesis.


2.1. Irony in Three Men in a Boat

Irony plays a vital, if not leading, role in Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and represents an element that contributes most to the overall humorous tone of the novel. Jerome employs irony mainly to observe and criticise human weaknesses, such as laziness, lying or drinking, to express his or his companions’ attitudes (e.g. to work or food) and to complain about the “natural cussedness of things in general” (Jerome, 100).

This linguistic device is very difficult to define and even more difficult to recognise and evaluate. Martin Montgomery presents irony as the non-literal use of language “in which we say one thing but mean another” and which “is also often thought of as a type of tone, a particular way of speaking or writing” (138). Marta Mateo, on the other hand, thinks that this definition (adopted by most critics) is not sufficient and does not cover the complex techniques that are used to create irony. At the same time she admits that there is no universal set of linguistic features that could help identify irony and proposes that irony depends on context “since it springs from the relationships of a word, expression or action with the whole text or situation” (172).

Irony is a matter of interpretation and can be easily misunderstood as it works at two levels: a lower level – the situation as it is deceptively presented by the ironist – and an upper level – the situation as it appears to the observer or the ironist. There must be the element of opposition (contradiction, incongruity) between the two levels and they both must be presented as true. Another element that contributes to irony is the element of ‘innocence’ which refers to the victim’s unawareness of the upper level or the ironist’s pretending not to be aware of it. Irony is not employed to deceive the reader/hearer but to be recognized. The reader/hearer is supposed to realise that a proposition has a different – real – meaning from what is being proposed (Mateo 172). The ability to spot irony depends mostly on the awareness of how the language is used, on values shared by the ironist and the victim and on general world knowledge.

Montgomery (138 – 9) classifies irony into two main types: verbal (corresponds with Mateo’s intentional irony) and situational (Mateo’s unintentional irony). Verbal irony is being communicated and occurs when a combination of words and its literal meaning seem to be somehow odd or wrong. In order to understand the irony one has to – with the help of context and the world knowledge – find another (real) meaning. Situational irony exists already in the situation. It is created by an author, but the characters involved are not aware of it.

Jerome Klapka Jerome uses both verbal and situational irony in his novel. Several examples of verbal irony appear already in the subheadings that introduce each chapter. As Markéta Zemanová correctly points out in her diploma thesis, the irony can be traced back only after reading the whole chapters (22). Thus we can find out that bathing in rough sea, in windy weather is referred to as “Delights of early morning bathing” (Jerome 23). An accident in which J., after decrying his decision to have a bath in the cold water, unwillingly falls in the river is described as “Heroism and determination on the part of J.” (Jerome 100), and the three friend’s conversation concerning various diseases presented as “The cheery chat goes round” (Jerome 181). In all these examples the element of opposition or contradiction is clearly apparent – the author renders unpleasant feelings as delights, cowardice as heroism and chatting about diseases as a pleasant chat.

Verbal irony can be also found in large numbers in the narration itself. In the following example, in which Jerome talks about his fellow student’s rather odd health, one can see how the author works with contradiction (underlined):

He would take bronchitis in the dog-days, and have hay-fever at Christmas. After a six-weeks’ period of drought, he would be stricken down with rheumatic fever; and he would go out in a November fog and come home with a sunstroke. (Jerome 53)

It is not common to catch bronchitis in summer time or hay-fever in winter time and it is highly improbable that one can suffer rheumatic fever when the weather is dry and sunstroke when it is foggy.

Here is another extract in which verbal irony can be traced. The character of J. describes his encounter with the owner of the material he made his raft from without permission:

His anxiety to meet you, however, is proof against all your coolness, and the energetic manner in which he dodges up and down the pond so as to be on the spot to greet you when you land is really quite flattering. (Jerome 152)

Here the underlined words are used inappropriately and are in opposition to the real situation that is most likely in progress – the owner is very angry (“his anxiety to meet you”) which means that he probably won’t greet the thief and the encounter won’t be flattering in any way.

Montgomery mentions two main techniques that are used to create irony: overemphasis and internal inconsistency (140). When an author employs overemphatic language, he uses words that have “the effect of overemphasizing what is being said, and so drawing attention to it. What makes them excessive is that their presence needs to be explained; we can account for their presence as a clue to the reader that what they are saying is not plausible (hence it needs excessive emphasis)” (140). I selected two examples from the novel in which overemphatic language (underlined) is apparently used to express the narrator’s ironic attitude:

It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me; the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me; my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.

And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take a great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do. (Jerome 148 – 9)

It was my misfortune once to go for a water picnic with two ladies of this kind. We did have a lively time! (Jerome 62)

When a statement does not make sense or the style of a narration is not consistent (e. g. unexpected changes in register), it is a case of internal inconsistency which is the second type of mechanism for creating irony (Montgomery 140). Jerome frequently switches suddenly from one register to another or from commonplace to poetic, refined language as in this example:

And the red sunset threw a mystic light upon the waters, and tinged with fire the towering woods, and made a golden glory of the piled-up clouds. It was an hour of deep enchantment, of ecstatic hope and longing. The little sail stood out against the purple sky, the gloaming lay around us, wrapping the world in rainbow shadows; and, behind us, crept the night. We seemed like knights of some old legend, sailing across some mystic lake into the unknown realm of twilight, unto the great land of the sunset.

We did not go into the realm of twilight; we went slap into that punt, where those three old men were fishing. (Jerome 121 – 2)

In the first part of the extract, Jerome employs poetic repertoire and language including several poetic devices – vivid imagery (e. g. ‘mystic light’, ‘deep enchantment’, ‘ecstatic hope’, ‘rainbow shadows’), a simile (‘like knights of some old legend’) and personification (‘the gloaming . . . wrapping the world’, ‘crept the night’). In the following paragraph, the author all of a sudden switches to ordinary language (underlined), describing the collision with the boat. Thus, he produces a comic and ironic effect related to the characters’ absentmindedness.

Muecke (in Mateo 173) distinguishes three types of irony that are characteristic of novels: impersonal irony, in which the ironist as a person is in the background and the irony lies solely in his words; self-disparaging irony, in which the ironist presents his qualities, such as ignorance or naivety; and ingénu irony, in which the ironist uses a character (an ingénu) for his irony.

There are several techniques for creating impersonal irony. In Jerome’s novel the most frequent is that of innuendo, i.e. an indirect remark about something or somebody:

There is an iron “scold’s bridle” in Walton Church. They used these things in ancient days for curbing women’s tongues. They have given up the attempt now. I suppose iron was getting scarce, and nothing else would be strong enough. (Jerome 78)

He said it, The Pride of the Thames, had been in use, just as it now stood (or rather as it now hung together), for the last forty years . . . (Jerome 183)

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The first example alludes to some women’s cantankerousness and garrulousness, the second one to the miserable state of a boat called The Pride of the Thames.

Other techniques include overstatement (dealt with above as overemphasis) and understatement as in this extract:

And at that precise moment the man did it, and the boat rushed up the bank with a noise like the ripping up of forty thousand linen sheets. Two men, a hamper, and three oars immediately left the boat on the larboard side, and reclined on the bank, and one and a half moments afterwards, two other men disembarked from the starboard, and sat down among boat-hooks and sails and carpet-bags and bottles. The last man went on twenty yards further, and then got out on his head. (Jerome 85)

The author here describes an accident when a boat hits the river bank and the passengers fall out of the boat in different directions. He makes use of words (underlined) that do not match the situation and thus disparages it.

Pretended innocence or ignorance also ranks among the impersonal irony techniques that occur frequently in Jerome’s novel. The following example again concerns J.’s encounter with the proprietor of the material which J. made his raft from. The irony here is based on the double meaning of the expression ‘to teach somebody to do something’. The character pretends not to recognise the threat and interprets it falsely as a mere offer made by the proprietor to teach him something new:

He says he’ll teach you to take his boards and make a raft of them; but, seeing that you know how to do this pretty well already, the offer, though doubtless kindly meant, seems a superfluous one on his part, and you are reluctant to put him to any trouble by accepting it. (Jerome 152)

The above example could also be regarded as self-disparaging irony as the author of the irony himself presents his seeming innocence. Another instance of this type of irony appears in chapter eight and refers to J.’s ignorance of German language:

I don’t understand German myself. I learned it at school, but forgot every word of it two years after I had left, and have felt much better ever since. (Jerome 75)

The last type of irony – ingénu irony – occurs quite frequently in the novel as well. The author often makes the characters of Harris and George the targets of his irony as in the instance below, in which George’s job is made fun of:

Harris and I would go down in the morning, and take the boat up to Chertsey, and George, who would not be able to get away from the City till the afternoon (George goes to sleep at a bank from ten to four each day; except Saturdays, when they wake him up and put him outside at two), would meet us there. (Jerome 17)

Until now I have been focusing on verbal irony. Jerome’s work abounds with situational irony as well, in fact, I dare say it makes it one of the masterpieces of humoristic literature. However, as situational irony is not much workable from the point of view of translation, I won’t deal with it in detail.

2.2. Translation of Irony

Translation of humour is often compared to translation of poetry as “the formal aspects are an integral part of both types of texts. The link is also established on the basis of the difficulty of both tasks” (Mateo 174). The difficulty of translating humour depends on what means it is based on. If humour lies in linguistic aspects such as puns, it is highly probable that it will be difficult to translate or even untranslatable. On the other hand, humour based on irony or on reversal of situation or tone will be easier to deal with (Mateo 174).

As stated above, the identification of irony depends mostly on context and background knowledge. However, when an author works with satire and allusion to create irony, the socio-cultural aspect becomes relevant as well. Thus, the translation of irony is heavily influenced by the proximity of cultures – the more distant the culture is, the more difficult the understanding of humour and irony will be (Mateo 174). In my opinion, the Ukrainian and English cultures and their perception of irony are close enough to allow the translator to render all the cases of irony in Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat without any substantial changes. Moreover, Jerome uses similar mechanisms for creating irony (contradiction, overstatement, pretended innocence etc.) as those that are generally employed in world literature, as well as similar topics to be ironic about (laziness, weather, work, Murphy’s laws and so on), therefore the understanding and translation of irony in this case are not very complicated.

The following example of irony is based mainly on overemphasis, contradiction (lies vs. veracity) and on the surprise at the logic of the statement claiming that what makes a good fisherman is not mere lying, but well-thought-out and meticulous saying of untruths:

Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing; but this is a mistake. Mere bald fabrication is useless; the veriest tyro can manage that. It is in the circumstantial detail, the embellishing touches of probability, the general air of scrupulous — almost of pedantic — veracity, that the experienced angler is seen. (Jerome 168)

Дехто вважає, що длятого, щобстатидобрим рибалкою, потрібна тільки здатністьбрехатилегкойне червоніючи. Алетака думкапомилкова. Самі голі вигадкинічого не варті, вони до снагийнайзеленішомуновачкові. Досвідченого вудкаряможнавпізнати по докладних подробицях, тонких штрихах, які надають розповіді правдоподібності, і загальному враженню педантичної, майже хворобливої правдивості. (Лісняк, 213-214)

To create overemphasis, Jerome uses phrases including descriptive adjectives, such as ‘circumstantial detail’, ‘the embellishing touches of probability’ and ‘scrupulous/pedantic veracity’ which are easily translatable into Ukrainian (underlined) and for which there are plenty of different solutions. The translatability is moreover made easier by generally shared attitude to lying as something unacceptable.

Another aspect that plays a role in translating humour is that of transporting “sense” and “form” which are both very important when dealing with humour. Keeping the sense is more or less easy but preserving the form can cause problems as “irony and humour may simply spring from an alliteration in the usual syntactic order of a sentence, from the choice of an unusual collocation or, indeed, from the very use of a certain word” (Mateo 174). These formal features are very difficult to transfer to the target text assuming that the translator wants to preserve the original sense as well.

As the irony in Three Men in a Boat is created mainly by the devices of contradiction, opposition, overemphasis and pretended innocence/ignorance, there are not many cases of irony in which form plays a crucial role. However, some examples can be found. In the following extract, which describes the characters being chased by the smell of paraffin oil, the chief device to create irony is the repetition of the expression ‘oily wind’ and the coordinating conjunction ‘and’:

Sometimes a westerly oily wind blew, and at other times an easterly oily wind, and sometimes it blew a northerly oily wind, and maybe a southerly oily wind . . . (Jerome 31)

Another instance of irony, in which transporting the form is essential, concerns George’s playing the banjo accompanied by Montmorency’s howling. George’s question is ironically answered by Harris’s question of the same form, only the verbs ‘to howl’ and ‘to play’ are swapped:

“What’s he want to howl like that for when I’m playing?” George would exclaim indignantly, while taking aim at him with a boot.

“What do you want to play like that for when he is howling?” Harris would retort, catching the boot. (Jerome 140 – 141)

Якого віндідька завжди таквиє, коли яграю? –обуренопитавДжордж, націлюючисьуМонтморенсічеревиком.

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- Аякогодідькатизавждитакграєш,коливінвиє?–відповідавГаріс,перехоплюючитойчеревик. (Лісняк, 181-182)

In the last example of irony, whose form presents an inseparable part of it and thus should be translated into the target language, Jerome overemphasises such a common thing as ‘being full up’ by using very refined and lofty language:

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father – a noble, pious man. (Jerome 94 – 5)

Мивсі–тільки жалюгідніраби свогошлунка. Не поривайтесьдо моральностійсправедливості, друзімої; стежте пильно за своїмшлункомігодуйте його дбайливо й розважно. Тоді доброчесність і задоволення прийдуть і запанують у вашому серці самі собою, без ніяких зусиль з вашого боку, й ви будете добрим громадянином і дбайливим, ніжним батьком родини – благородною, богобоязливою людиною. (Лісняк, 125)

The poetic and philosophical tone of this extract is established by the use of descriptive adjectives (‘sorriest’, ‘loving’, ‘noble’ etc.), adverbs (‘vigilantly’) and words concerning morality such as ‘righteousness’ and ‘virtue’. These features are supplemented with a metaphor (‘slaves of our stomach’) and personification (‘virtue and contentment will come and reign’). In my opinion, the three translators are successful in transporting the form into the target language as they use appropriate adjectives, preserve the metaphor and personification and their language contains about the same loftiness as the original:

As Zemanováobserves in her thesis, Jerome employs another device to create irony – he uses italics to stress words and their contribution to irony (24). The use of italics occurs, for example, in the sentence concerning Harris’s singing a comic song:

You have never heard Harris sing a comic song, or you would understand the service I had rendered to mankind. It is one of Harris’s fixed ideas that he can sing a comic song; the fixed idea, on the contrary, among those of Harris’s friends who have heard him try, is that he can’t, and never will be able to, and that he ought not to be allowed to try. (Jerome 70)

Ви, мабуть, не чули, як Гарісспіває комічнікуплети, ато бзрозуміли, якувелику послугузробив ялюдству. Гаріс, бачте, втовкмачив собі вголову, ніби вінуміє співатикомічнікуплети, тоді як усійого знайомі, що чули, як вінпробує їх співати, твердо переконані,що він цього не вміє, і ніколи не вмітиме, і йому не слід дозволяти навіть пробувати. (Лісняк, 95)

The translator place the verb ‘вміє’ at the beginning of the phrase, although it would gain more stress in the final position. However, their solutions of keeping the italics are probably based on their assumptions that words in italics stand out from the text and monopolise the reader’s attention more than non-italicised words in the final position. In this type of text the solutions are justifiable and can be considered successful.

In conclusion of this chapter on irony, I would like to comment on the general way the three Ukrainian translators render irony in Three Men in the Boat. I will attempt to demonstrate it on one example, the comments are, however, based on the overall study of irony in the novel. The extract is related to J.’s judging Harris’s taste in clothing:

It is a great pity, because he will never be a success as it is, while there are one or two colours in which he might not really look so bad, with his hat on. (Jerome 61)

А шкода, бо вінзі своїмсмаком ніколи не матиме успіху, тоді як євсежтаки кольори, вяких вінздавався бнепоганиміз себе, - принаймніпоки не скинекапелюха.(Лісняк, 83)

Y.Lisnyak seems to stick to the original and does not play with the language very much. The ironic tone is preserved but it is not so marked, on the other hand, tends to enhance Jerome’s irony by using more expressive and colloquial words and phrases.


3.1 Metaphor in Three Men in a Boat

Metaphorical language is an integral part of any literary text and is one of the most admired features in literature. Metaphor represents one of the figures of speech and it “occurs when a word or phrase in a passage is clearly out of place in the topic being dealt with but nevertheless makes sense because of some similarity between it and what is being talked about” (Montgomery 129). To be able to interpret metaphor, the reader has to recognise the similarity between the two concepts and carry it over to the new context. Metaphor can reinforce the reader’s imagination and conceptions of the world, as well as influence his or her attitude to the topic that is discussed (Montgomery 134). In other words, metaphor is “a process of referring figuratively and emotively to an object in terms of another” (Menacere 568), and serves to stimulate an image, to provoke an interesting comparison or to provide original ways of perceiving the world (Alvarez 480).

When studying (or translating) metaphors it is useful to be able to analyse them. In 1936, I. A. Richards proposed and named three aspects of metaphor (96 and 117):

Tenor – the original idea; what is really being said or thought of, Vehicle – the borrowed idea; what the original idea is compared to, Ground – the common characteristics. Thus, in Jerome’s metaphor “Sunlight is the life-blood of Nature” (Jerome 184), sunlight is the tenor, life-blood the vehicle, and the shared element (or ground) probably life or energy.

Peter Newmark understands metaphors as devices used to “describe an entity, event or quality more comprehensively and concisely and in a more complex way than is possible by using literal language” (Approaches 84) and divides them into five types (84 – 94):

Dead metaphors are fossilized metaphors (e. g. ‘arm of the chair’); many of them have been imported from other languages (e. g. ‘think’ from Old English); Cliché metaphors usually consist of stereotyped collocations (‘leave no stone unturned’); Stock metaphors are standard or common metaphors; they may be one word metaphors (‘a ray of hope’) or extended metaphors, i.e. idioms (‘cast a shadow over’)

Recent metaphors often include neologisms such as ‘head-hunters’; Original (creative) metaphors are invented by an author and are often dramatic and shocking in effect (e.g. ‘the sun flung spangles, dancing coins’).

As this division is quite complex and analysing the metaphors in Three men in a Boat in this way would require a thorough (sometimes even etymological) study, I will confine my focus to the most frequent types of metaphor in the novel – the stock metaphors, especially idioms, and original metaphors. These types of metaphor are also worth of studying from the translation point of view – it is interesting to observe what Ukrainian equivalents of the English idioms are used and how the translators maintain the creativity of the original metaphors.

One of the subtypes of metaphor that is widely employed in Jerome’s book is that of simile. Like metaphor, simile also draws attention to the similarity between two things or phenomena but whereas in metaphor the comparison is implied, in simile the comparison is explicitly expressed with the help of words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’ (Montgomery 129). Jerome makes use of similes in his humorous or ironic remarks about somebody or something, as in

The man they had got now was a jolly, light-hearted, thick-headed sort of chap with about as much sensitiveness in him as there might be in a Newfoundland puppy (Jerome 63);

as well as in his poetic parts of the novel:

It was a glorious morning, late spring or early summer, as you care to take it, when the dainty sheen of grass and leaf is blushing to a deeper green; and the year seems like a fair young maid, trembling with strange, wakening pulses on the brink of womanhood. (Jerome 49)

Personification (anthropomorphic metaphor), another category of metaphor, is abundant in Three Men in a Boat as well. Personification appears when human traits (qualities, feelings etc.) are attributed to non-living things, animals, phenomena, and so on. Jerome again applies personification both in the humorous situations and in the poetic descriptions. In the former he personifies food, toothbrushes, tow-lines, boats, tea-kettles, towns and the like, to make fun of the things and especially of people who are affected by the things’ mean ‘behaviour’:

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That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. . . . You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out . . . (Jerome 93)

In the latter Jerome uses personification as a poetic device to make the poetic descriptions more vivid and imagination-provoking:

. . . with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the grey-green beech-trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows o’er the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to the lilies, . . . (Jerome 184)

Even though metaphor is a feature predominantly present in and typical of poetry, it occurs very frequently in any literary text and can contribute to its humorous tone. It is the non-literal meaning or the comparison included in metaphor that, when used inappropriately or awkwardly, creates incongruity and thus humorous effect (Ross 35):

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. (Jerome 94)

In this example, the comparison of humans to slaves who have to constantly serve their stomachs produces a comic effect, as the statement is obviously exaggerated and contains poor justification for people’s indulgence in eating.

3.2 Translation of Metaphor

The problem of translation of metaphor has not been sufficiently researched yet and individual translators and literary critics hold different attitudes to approaching it. Some think that metaphor should be rendered literally, some claim that this would result in a meaningless expression in the target text (Menacere 568). Culturally based metaphors, i.e. metaphors in which the two images compared are perceived differently by the source and target cultures, will be naturally more difficult to translate than those in which the images have the same cognitive content in both cultures. This fact is also related to the use of symbols. Some symbols have universal applications and are perceived equally in the cultures and thus are easily translatable. On the other hand, symbols that convey different meanings in different cultures require complete transformation of metaphor otherwise the translation would be senseless (Menacere 569 – 70).

Since English and Ukrainian cultures are, in terms of understanding symbols and perceiving images, relatively close, the translation of metaphors in Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat did not involve any substantial changes. For example, as the concept of ‘sword’ is understood as a symbol of power (or power gained by violence) both in English and Ukrainian, the Ukrainian translators do not have to transform the metaphor in any way:

. . . for the sword is judge and jury, plaintiff and executioner, in these tempestuous times . . . (Jerome 107)

1. Translating a metaphor using the same or a similar image;

2. Translating it with a different image that has the same sense;

3. Converting the metaphor into a simile;

4. Translation of metaphor by simile plus sense;

5. Conversion of metaphor into sense.

As has been already mentioned, English and Ukrainian cultures are not so remote to cause problems in translating metaphors or to force translators to recreate them. Therefore, the first method was used by the translators of the Jerome’s novel in the majority of cases. The use of this mode is possible if the image has comparable frequency and validity in the target language (Alvarez 484), as in this example:

Had it been a Richard there! the cup of liberty might have been dashed from England’s lips, and the taste of freedom held back for a hundred years. (Jerome 110)

Якбине Ричард, келихсвободи, може, ще було бвідірвановідустАнглії івона ще сотнюроківне спізнала бсмакуволі. (Лісняк, 143-144).

The translator choose translation “келих» for the word ‘cup’, it still preserves the sense of the metaphor and the cup’s relation to the lips of personified England. Since the metaphor of ‘the cup of . . .’ is widely used in Ukrainian as well, the translations are perfectly understandable for Ukrainian readers.

It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather; in wet, the task becomes herculean. (Jerome 19)

Напнути наметівгарнупогоду нелегко, авдощ–це робота дляГеркулеса. (Лісняк, 30)

Lisnyak retain the image of Hercules in his translation. The image refers to the tremendous effort required to accomplish the task.

The modes of transferring the metaphor by simile plus sense (Newmark mentions this example: ‘he is a lion’ developed into ‘he is as brave as a lion’) and of converting the metaphor into sense were not registered in the novel.

Until now I have been dealing with the translation of original metaphors or metaphors that are invented by an author and that are not hackneyed and stereotyped. In the following paragraphs I will focus on the translation of idioms – expressions that Newmark counts into stock metaphors.

Idioms are expressions or phrases that have fixed meanings. They can sometimes present translation problems because “they contain more than one word but form a single unit of meaning” (Menacere 570). Thus, if the words are interpreted individually, then the whole cluster of those words does not make sense. Another obstacle in translation of idioms can arise when an idiom is culturally specific and when translated literally, the target readership does not understand. According to Menacere, a reasonable approach to translating idioms is to understand the idiom, interpret its meaning (emotive and aesthetic) and transfer the meaning in the target language (571). The Ukrainian translator render the idioms in two ways, both equally successful. First, they use Ukrainian idiomatic equivalents where there are any or when the context makes it possible.

Secondly, if there is no idiomatic equivalent in Ukrainian or when the idiom does not fit the context, they translate them with unidiomatic expressions with the same sense as that of the original idioms.

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Peter Newmark claims that similes “are the poor cousins of metaphors” as they “have none of the power and the incisiveness of metaphors” (Paragraphs 19). However, Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat abounds with them, their main function being to describe and illustrate the events and incidents in both the humorous and poetic parts of the novel. They normally do not cause any problems in translating and are predominantly translated literally, as the translator does not have any reason to change or recreate them (Newmark, Paragraphs 19). This is the case in most instances of similes in Jerome’s novel.


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