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siduri comments on The Optimizer's Curse and How to Beat It - Less Wrong

44 Post author: lukeprog 16 September 2011 02:46AM

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Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2011 06:28:36AM 1 point [-]

My comment arose from the suspicion that you reacted as if Burns had been paraphrased, as opposed to translated

I don't know what to tell you except that you're wrong. I know the original poem pretty well ("Gang aft agley" is a famous phrase in some circles). Burns isn't my specific field, but my impression, backed by a cursory Wikipedia search, is that the name of the original translator has been lost to the mists of history. If anyone can correct me and supply the original translator's name, I'll be truly grateful.

I don't see it as lowering the status of the quote

Yes, you wouldn't, and I can't prove it to you except by assembling a conclave of Ivy League-educated snooty New York poets who happen to not be here right now. I will tell you -- and you can update scantily, since you don't trust the source -- that the high-status thing to do is to provide quotes in the original language without translation. You are thereby signalling that not only do YOU read Scots Gaelic (fluently, of course), but you expect everyone you come into contact with socially to ALSO be fluent in Scots Gaelic.

The medium-status thing to do is at least to credit or somehow mark the translator, so that people think you are following standard academic rules for citation.

The reason that quoting translations without crediting them as such is low-status is that it leaves you open to charges of not understanding the original source material.

Comment author: wnoise 16 September 2011 07:39:38AM 10 points [-]

You are thereby signalling that not only do YOU read Scots Gaelic (fluently, of course), but you expect everyone you come into contact with socially to ALSO be fluent in Scots Gaelic.

Scots Gaelic is not Scots (is not Scottish English, though modern speakers of Scots do generally code switch into it with ease, sometimes in a continuous way). Scots Gaelic is a Gaelic, Celtic language. Scots is Germanic. Burns wrote in Scots.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 September 2011 12:33:39AM 2 points [-]

You're right, and thanks for the clarification. As I said, Burns isn't really my field.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2011 01:28:38PM *  7 points [-]

Scots Gaelic is a thing, but it is not the language in which Burns wrote. That's just called Scots. I wouldn't ordinarily have mentioned it, but... you're coming off as a bit snobby here. (O wad some Power the giftie gie us, am I right?)

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 September 2011 12:42:21PM 6 points [-]

that the high-status thing to do is to provide quotes in the original language without translation

This may be high status in certain social circles (having interacted with the snooty Ivy League educated New York poets also, they certainly think so) but to a lot of people doing so comes across as obnoxious and pretentious, that is an attempt to blatantly signal high status in a way that signals low status.

The highest status thing to do (and just optimal as far as I can tell for actually conveying information) is to include the original and the translation also.

Comment author: [deleted] 21 September 2011 12:36:42AM 2 points [-]

I agree that this is probably optimal. My own class background is academics and published writers (both my parents are tenured professors). It's actually hard trying to explain in a codified way what one knows at a gut level: I know that translations need to be credited, and for status reasons, but press me on the reasons and I'm probably not terribly reliable.

Comment author: gwern 21 September 2011 01:15:57AM 7 points [-]

I find it interesting that everyone here is focusing on status; couldn't it just be that crediting translations is absolutely necessary for the basic scholarly purpose of judging the authority and trustworthiness of the translation and even the original text? And that failing to provide attribution demonstrates a lack of academic expertise, general ignorance of the slipperiness of translation ('hey, how important could it be?'), and other such problems.

I know I find such information indispensable for my anime Evangelion research (I treat translations coming from ADV very differently from translations by Olivier Hague and that different from translations by Bochan_bird, and so on, to give a few examples), so how much more so for real scholarship?

Comment author: [deleted] 21 September 2011 01:53:25AM *  6 points [-]

Well, what I originally [see edit] wrote was "It's wrong (deprives the translator of rightful credit) -- and, FWIW, it's also low-status." I think people found the "low-status" part of my claim more interesting, but it wasn't the primary reason I reacted badly to seeing a translation uncredited as such.

Edit: on reflection, this wasn't my original justification. I simply reacted with gut-level intuition, knowing it was wrong. Every other explanation is after-the-fact, and therefore suspect.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 September 2011 01:59:10AM 2 points [-]

Upvoting for realizing that a rational wasn't your actual reason.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 September 2011 01:26:01AM 1 point [-]

Yes, agreed. I did note above that including the translation details with the original was optimal for conveying information but I didn't emphasize it. I think that part of why people have been emphasizing status issues over serious research in this context is that the start of the discussion was about what to do with epigraphs. Since they really are just for rhetorical impact, the status issue matters more for them.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 April 2012 12:25:25AM 1 point [-]

[if you] provide quotes in the original language without translation [you are signalling that] you expect everyone you come into contact with socially to ALSO be fluent in [the language].

This was the case until about a decade ago, but nowadays it merely signals that you expect the audience to know how (and be willing to) use Google. (The favourite quotations section in my Facebook profile contains quotations in maths, Italian, English, Irish and German and none of them is translated in any other language.)

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 16 September 2011 01:14:21PM 0 points [-]

Status is in the map, not in the territory, siduri. The map of "snooty New-York poets" needn't be our own map.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 16 September 2011 04:19:05PM 1 point [-]

Status is in the map, not in the territory, siduri. The map of "snooty New-York poets" needn't be our own map.

Yes but being aware of what signals one is sending out is helpful. Given that humans play status games it is helpful to be aware of how those games function so one doesn't send signals out that cause people to pay less attention or create other barriers to communication.

Comment author: Hey 16 September 2011 04:31:51PM 3 points [-]

Agreed, but it takes a high degree of luminosity to distinguish between tactical use of status to attain a specific objective, and getting emotionally involved and reactive to the signals of other (inducing this state of confusion is pretty much the function of status-signals for most humans, though).

Tactical = dress up, display "irrational confidence", and play up your achievements to maximize attraction in potential romantic partners, or do well at a job interview.

Emotional-reactive = seeking, and worrying about, the approval of perceived social betters even though there is no logical reason.