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Can-D: Philip K. Dick in Translation. By Patrick Clark

Traffic has been light on the list lately so perhaps a longish posting will not be too out of place. The whole question of translating Phil appears from time to time within the group and a chance remark by one of our French colleagues led me to wonder how two of Phil’s most famous terms are dealt with in foreign language editions. I refer to those most Phildickian of drugs from Palmer Eldrich, CAN-D and CHEW-Z. I emailed a number of folks from the group about the matter and, if no one minds, I’ll share the results here with everyone.

First, I ought to explain to those to whom English is not their first language that both terms are phonetic expressions of actual English words. CAN-D = "candy" and CHEW-Z = "choosy". I took it for granted that everyone understood this but some of my correspondents thought CHEW-Z didn’t really mean anything at all. In addition to their phonetic meaning both terms contain additional suggestions: "can" = the encapsulated life of the Martian colonist in their burrows AND in the make-believe world of Perky Pat Layouts; "chew" = being ground up between the steel teeth of Palmer Eldrich. I always wondered in CAN-D wasn’t suppose to remind of us "Candide", too. Phil must have had a lot of fun thinking these up. But while puns, slang, colloquialisms and homonyms make sense to native speakers they must leave many translators shaking their heads in confusion.

The Germans and the Italians are pretty strict in this matter. They use CAN-D and CHEW-Z, even though the terms don’t mean anything in their respective languages, literally or phonetically. At least one Spanish edition uses CAN-M. In Japanese they use the phonetic script (Katakana) for "Can" and then add the Roman letter "D" and render the word "KyanD". CHEW-Z, by the same manner, becomes "ChuuZ". In Russian the process is the same, though using the Cyrillic alphabet, and the results are "Ken-di (also "K-D" and "Key-D" depending on the edition) and "Chuing-Zet". Again, these words mean nothing at all in Russian; the translators in each case were faithfully rendering Phil’s own terms directly into their language.

Ah, but the French see things differently -- or hear things differently. The translation there tries to match Phil’s sense of humor. So CAN-D becomes D-LISS = "delice" ("delight" in English). CHEW-Z becomes K-PRISS = "caprice" ("caprice" in English, too: "an impulsive change of mind" or "a sudden, unpredictable change or action" ). While neither is an actual translation of Phil’s own terms they do suggest what Phil was getting at with his own choice of names and the playfulness of the words themselves Plus, we get the added pun of seeing the name of one of the androids from DADOES.

Any information from other languages (Greek, Polish... the list of translations is long) would be much appreciated.

Thanks to Yves, Perry, Andre, Eric, Sue, Gerardo and Vittorio for all the information

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