Working as a translator , you are often faced with challenges posed by a text. This problem concerns especially those who work with literary and artistic pieces. One of the most ‘troublesome’ elements are proper names. Due to their complex nature based usually on a strong link between culture and the language of the text, translating them requires a great deal of attention.

However, it is not a completely hopeless situation for the translator – he/she is equipped with a wide range of strategies and techniques that he/she can use in case of difficulties. In today’s entry, we are going to take a brief look at how Polish translators decided to render proper names of one of world’s most translated texts, an unquestionable classic of children’s literature – Carlo Collodi’s ‘Pinocchio’. The adventures of the wooden puppet appear to be very popular in Poland, which is confirmed by the fact that there have been at least thirteen translations of the original so far.


Anthroponyms (names, surnames and nicknames of individual characters) are the most frequent type of proper names in the novel. Thanks to a relatively similar phonetic structure of the two languages and similarities between Italian and Polish names, most of the translators decided to keep the original names or to polish their pronunciation. Thus, Pinocchio became simply Pinokio and Geppetto – Geppetto or Dżeppetto. Much more interesting are the nicknames of the characters – Geppetto’s friend, Mastro’Antonio called Ciliegia is known to Polish readers as Wiśnia (literally: ‘Cherry’), Wisienka (a diminutive form of ‘Cherry’) or Czereśnia (‘Gean’), while the owner of the puppet theatre in which the protagonist is forced to work, Mangiafoco (a combination of the verb mangiare – to eat and the noun fuoco – fire), is known as Łykaogień, Ogniołyk (combinations of the verb łykać – to swallow and the noun ogień – fire) or Ogniojad (from ogień and a derivative of the verb jeść –
to eat).


Another group of proper names worth mentioning are zoononyms, which are used to name animals. In his novel, Collodi introduces a number of animal characters, creating their profiles in line with the features stereotypically attributed to particular species. The best example of such a character is the Talking Cricket (Il Grillo-parlante), called also Grillaccio del mal’augurio. His name is a kind of a pun based on the Italian idiom corvo del malaugurio (literally: ‘crow of misfortune’), typically used to refer to a person that brings us bad luck. Using native linguistic means, Polish translators decided to preserve the tricky nature of character’s original name – in their versions the Cricket appears as złowróżbny Świerszcz (‘the malevolent Cricket’), wstrętny wróżbita (‘the malevolent fortune-teller’) and even wstrętny Świerszcz kraczący jak wrona (‘the malevolent Cricket that croaks like a crow’).


The last category of proper names that we are going to analyse are toponyms (names of places). The novel is full of dynamic twists and turns, which naturally leads to frequent place changes. One of the most interesting names from the translator’s point of view is for example L’osteria del Gambero Rosso (literally ‘The Inn of the Red Prawn’), where Pinocchio meets with the Fox and the Cat – Polish readers know this place as Gospoda pod ‘Czerwonym Rakiem’ or Gospoda pod ‘Czerwonym Homarem’ (the Inn of the ‘Red Crayfish’ or the Inn of the ‘Red Lobster’). Another example worth mentioning is città di Acchiappacitrulli (a combination of the verb acchiappare – to catch and the noun citrullo – a fool), a town located in the utopian Land of Barn Owls (Paese dei Barbagianni) where Pinocchio is supposed to make his fortune. Polish examples offer a number playful solutions, among which we find ideas such as Miasto Chwyajcymbałów (literally: ‘Chatchfools’), Kupafrajerów
(a combination of the nouns kupa – heap and frajerzy – fools) or Oszustkowo (from oszust – cheater and a Polish place name suffix -owo).

These are only some examples that shows the ways in which translators cope with the proper names in ‘Pinocchio’. Their diversity confirms that translating them can be quite a challenge. We shouldn’t forget, though, that at the same time they are a perfect opportunity to express your creativity.

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