Monday, June 18, 2012

Transliteration or Translation

In reading the bibliography of Zvi Mark's recent "Mysticism and Madness," on R' Nachman of Bratslav, I had to wonder - why the strange spellings?  Between Prof. Mark and two stages of translation, somehow a number of names, transliterated from Hebrew to English, were done by someone who didn't know that some of the authors already spell their names a certain way in English (or German, etc.).

E.g., מ' פכטר, which you would think is Mordechai Pachter, becomes Fechter.
Moshe Hallamish is rendered Chalamish.
Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer becomes Schatz-Oppenheimer.
Chabad bibliographer and historian Yehoshua Mondshine becomes Mundstein.  Since there's no Tet or Tav in מונדשיין, that's just careless.
Mendel פייקאז', usually rendered Piekarz from Polish, is now Feikazh.  Which is probably how the Polish name is pronounced.

And when he cites European non-Jewish authors, whose Hebrew names are already transliterations, we enter the world of Invisible Insanity.

Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens becomes Hoyzinga, האדם המשחק.
And who is Poko, author of Toldot haShigaon?  None other than Michel Foucault, author of History of Madness.

Evidently, Prof. Mark is more comfortable reading in Hebrew than other languages, which is understandable, so he listed his sources as he read them in Hebrew translation, as much as possible.  But somewhere along the line, someone didn't realize that these authors, writing for a wider academic world, had spellings that they used for their own names in Roman alphabets.

I've seen this before, in that R' Yuval Cherlow is often advertised as R' Sherlo, transliterating from Hebrew.  But he prefers that English audiences see his name as it should be spelled, not just as a transliteration from Hebrew.  And then there are names that are just confusing, like Dr. Shlomo Pines.