Keep calm and carry on

Translation Management

2020-03-03-Keep-calm-and-carry-on

Keep calm and carry on.” “Keep calm and eat more chocolate.” And, of course: “Don’t Panic and Fake a British Accent.”

The saying exemplifying typically British calm conquered the world only a few years back: it appeared as if out of nowhere on coffee mugs, decorative posters and T-shirts. Despite its succinctness, this catchphrase became famous only sixty years after it had been created by British government officials to boost the morale of a nation preparing for World War II. However, after becoming renowned, the slogan has taken on a life of its own. “Now Panic and Freak Out”, “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake” and “Stay Alive and Avoid Zombies” are all maxims that assume that the reader is aware of the original expression and knows how to combine the intertextual reference to its root phrase.

The aphorism has appealed to me ever since I first saw it and it works in all situations. When you feel overwhelmed by a situation, panic never helps; you must just look ahead and get on with things.

One aspect of the appeal of the tagline is surely that it reminds me of the everyday work at a translation agency.

Many translation theorists consider the task to be a mission impossible to begin with; translation is a logical impossibility.

A project manager receives an order from a customer, who is usually in a hurry, and rushes to find an experienced and educated expert translator for it, who also is a native speaker of the target language and happens to be available at exactly that moment. Keep calm and carry on!

The translator receives a text that has been written by an unknown person for an unknown audience and yet they have to step into the shoes of the original writer while translating the text into fluent and idiomatic target language – in other words, the translator has to produce the text the original writer would have produced, if they had been as fluent in the target language as the translator. Keep calm and carry on!

You simply have to keep calm and carry on in this line of work – towards new and better translations.

After this, the language reviewer and technical support do their part before the project manager can return the completed text to the customer. All this often has to happen in just a few hours. Finally, you have to be prepared to receive customer feedback; sometimes thanks and praise, sometimes quite harsh criticism. Keep calm and carry on!

Many translation theorists consider the task to be a mission impossible to begin with; translation is a logical impossibility. Therefore, you simply have to keep calm and carry on in this line of work – towards new and better translations.

P.S. The sentence “Keep Calm and Carry On” has been described in terms of at least eight partly synonymous terms: saying, aphorism, maxim, slogan, expression, catchphrase, tagline and phrase. Which one is the best – which term will be validated? And how should the slogan be translated? For that matter, how should this blog post be translated? Go ahead and read the Finnish version as well!