Taggle: even scrappier in French.
Look what I got this week: my author’s copies of the French edition of Plain Kate which is called Simplement Kate. It’s so pretty, with the seal printed on the front and the elegant French flaps. (But of course!)
It’s not my first foreign edition: that would be the UK’s Wood Angel. It’s not even my first translation: that would be Taiwan’s The Girl Who Had No Shadow. But it’s the first one I can poke through and enjoy myself.
I mean, a bit. My French is pretty terrible. I can mistake “beurre d’arachide” for “spider butter.” (WHY? WHY would you put that on toast? WHY!?) Still, I can poke enough in search of answers to my big questions. How would the translator handled a main character whose very name is a pun? Or what would she do with the very English name of Taggle, the talking cat? Well, here’s the cat’s grand entrance:
Il flânait sur la place du marché, élégant et le poil en bataille, admiré et maudit: un bandit de grands chemins, un gentleman cambrioleur. Il s’appelait Loque, car les trois chatons avaient reçu les noms Loque, Toque et Os.
I can do this largely because I have it memorized: “He sauntered through the marketplace, elegant and tattered, admired and despised: a highwayman, a gentleman thief. His name was Taggle, because the three kittens had been Raggle, Taggle, and Bone.”
But, did you catch that? In the French version the three kittens are Loque, Toque, et Os — Scrap, Cap, and Bone.
Scrap? Well, yes. Raggle-Taggle is an obscure variant of ragtag. Loque means “rag” or “scrap” — en loques, the more common phrase, means “in tatters.” And of course it also sounds, at least to my Anglophone ear, like “loquacious.” Inspired! She’s kept the pun on “ragtag,” given the cat a name a French speaker can get their tongue around, and added a pun of her own.
Translators? You rock.
The French translation of Plain Kate was done by Isabelle Allard, and the book is out in North America from Editions Scholastic.