We're continuing to examine the possibilities for better translations of the title Slow Fat Triathlete into German than "Endlich Fit und Schlank" or "At Long Last Fit and Lean." I checked in with Germanist buddy Will and Comp Lit guru Anne, and after initial shock, they got down to thinking of possible candidates and analyzing the ins and outs of each. I found this to be endlessly informative and amusing, so here are some more gems from the email thread.
I offered, "Another phrase that was considered as an original title was The Imperfect Triathlete – maybe that would be easier for them to digest, as it were?"
Will: Sure, "imperfect" has potential. It does have a variety of possible German equivalents, and I'm guessing of the two plausible ones for this context, "imperfekt" would be preferred to "unvollkommen." The latter term is much more transparent to the average German and does seem to get used in some contexts implying acceptance (see linguee.de or linguee.com , my new favorite German reference site), but I would worry that "unvollkommen" can also go in the direction of "faulty" or "inadequate," a bit more connotation of "coming up short" than you want. It's just a question of whether the Latinate "imperfekt" sounds intimidatingly learned or is sufficiently naturalized now not to. Obviously you aren't the one who needs to decide this; I'm just wondering what they'd pick. "Triathlete" will presumably have to be gendered in German -- not "der Triathlet" but "die Triathletin" -- which is not ideal, but that's translation for you. Maybe you can tinker with alternatives using "triathlon" instead if you want to avoid this. It seems conceivable to me that some "headline-style" title could use "Triathlet" as a common-gender noun, like if your book were instead a different book that could be called "Triathlet wider Willen" (Triathlete malgre soi, willy-nilly triathlete), but actually I can't be sure whether they might want "Triathletin" even there. Hm. "Triathlet im Stubenhockerkoerper" : Triathlete in a Couch-Potato Body. Mit (some kind of ) Koerper zum Triathlon! We'll keep at it and see if we can find something.
Me: Oh, I love Triathlet im Stubenhockerkoerper! Can we do that? Or how about “Triathlon for Couch Potatoes”? Then they could even use the subtitle verbatim and it would work.
Will: Triathlon fuer Stubenhocker!
Anne: wild applause!
But now Anne's brilliance takes center stage:
Anne: Maybe Jayne should have a few great options, just to make sure "endlich fit und schlank" is buried buried buried? I really, *really* like Triathlon fuer Stubenhocker. But if they say, refusing to see the humor: "but Frau Williams is inviting people OUTSIDE! They aren't really Stubenhockers anymore if they're triathletes!" Then . . . maybe something like "Triathlon: Komm, wie Du bist!" -- or something along those lines, getting the "in the body you have now" side of the equation across??
Sofa spuds are apparently a little different in Germany? But "Triathlon: Come As You Are!" is awesome.
Will: Yes, I do see Anne's points, absolutely, and had myself been worrying about Stubenhocker: Stube is "room," and on the small, stuffy side of "room" even. Hocken is to crouch or squat, with some of the same connotations of immobility and possessiveness as "squat." So it really does convey a hard-to-dislodge indoorness. I suppose at worst it cd suggest your book is a guide to watching triathlon on TV. Now, "Couch potato" does show up in German too. "Die Couch" is an old German word and needs no glossing for anyone, so the question is just how familiar this idiom is, and how the plural is formed -- very likely it'd be "fuer Couch Potatos," Dan Quayle notwithstanding. Komm wie du bist neatly sidesteps all of this, though!
So "Triathlon for Those Who Squat Immobile in Smallish, Stuffy Rooms" might actually not be the best title. Dang. Cause that was sounding pretty cool to me. But wait, there's more! (It's so awesome that Will is on leave this semester.)
Will: Okay, it turns out that "die Couchpotato" and "die Couch-potato" (Duden prescribes hyphenation, but the outcome of Swiss Orthographic Conference deliberations on this point was that the spelling should be changed to a single word without a hyphen -- yes, really!) are very common in the Internet and seem likely to be recognized by nearly all readers. Very strong association to TV watching, which I guess the English word has too? There also exists "die Sofakartoffel" (no one suggests that one should have a hyphen), which is attested all the way from bodybuilding bulletin boards on up to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Munich's main newspaper) and indeed Deutschlandradio (the most intellectual radio station in Germany, which makes the snootiest public radio in the US sound like pabulum) -- but despite this range, the number of hits for "Sofakartoffel" is much smaller, probably because Germans are powerless to stop their instinctive need to become cooler by using English words. The plural is definitely Couch(-)potatoes, sorry to have misled -- see Duden http://www.duden.de/definition/couch-potato . The verb for triathlon in German? "Triathlon machen" does seem to be in use, which has to be the best for you. (Beyond that it seems like "durchfuehren" comes up -- to "carry out" or "perform"; "versuchen" (to try) is not quite the same thing; "erleben" (to experience) is common but again not quite the same meaning.) I'm actually feeling a bit like I like "Komm, wie du bist" even better than all of these. Not you? The command-style version in German would probably be something like "Couch-potatoes: Auf zum Triathlon!" What this doesn't capture, what none of these capture, is the sense that Step 1 isn't going to be "spend two years dieting and going to the gym before undertaking step 2." The "body you have now" is missing...
Wow. This is serious business, yes? We haven't even gotten to the subtitle yet. Once again, Anne chimes in with a spate of creative oomph.
Anne: I notice they weren't even too excited about "triathlon" in the title. How about something like Wettlauf für Couchpotatos: Komm, wie du bist!
Couchpotatos in Bewegung: Komm, wie du bist!
Die unwahrscheinlichste Sportlerin: lache dich fit!
(Just trying to think slightly out of the box here.)
I had to use Google translate to figure these out, since my German is less than rudimentary. I would perhaps render them as:
Racing for Couch Potatoes: Come As You Are!
Couch Potatoes in Motion: Come As You Are!
The Unlikeliest Sportswoman: Laugh Yourself Fit!
Will: Ooh, I really like #2 and #3 here! "Unwahrscheinlich" is excellent.
I liked them too. And there will be more, but not today. Do I have awesome friends, or what?