Jobs, vacation and the challenges of transcreation

We’re at the height of summer and, in many European countries, it’s blessed vacation season. People are exhausted and can’t wait to take a break from their jobs, to travel, relax, and have some fun. Because most people, it would seem, actually hate their jobs. Even before the pandemic, a global poll conducted by Gallup suggested that a whopping 85% of people worldwide are disengaged at work and don’t really enjoy being there.

Romanians are creative people and champions of gallows humor. As such, they have coined a word for the dreaded everyday reality of the job: they call it “scârbici“, which blends “servici” (job) with “scârbă” (abhorrence, disgust, loathing). This informal term often pops up in conversation or, as was recently the case, even in newspaper articles.

So, how does one translate it? Is there an English equivalent? What would you call this in Britain, or in America? What about a similar term in German, where the work environment is particularly strict and rather humorless?

Since we are living in an age of automated solutions and the apostles of machine translation are everywhere, let’s see what some of the world’s most famous translation engines have to say about this:

Google Translate simply translates scârbici as: disgusting (EN) and widerlich (DE).

Microsoft Translate has grumpy (EN) and grob (DE).

ModernMT has gross (EN) and brutto (DE), as does DeepL.

None of them hit upon the right meaning or have the slightest clue that it’s connected to work.

Okay, not fair, you might say, the word is not in the dictionary. But this is where you’d be wrong. Because this word is so common in Romanian, that it actually does appear in the Romanian Dictionary of Slang (2007).

So, how would you translate it to obtain a similar meaning and effect? Would you spell it out: “sickening job”, “work nausea”, “hellhole of a career” or would you get creative with things like “yuckupation”, “encloyment”, or “vométier”?

In either case, for texts like this, you’d need a human translator, that’s for sure. You’d need a passionate and creative linguist, with cross-cultural expertise, who can consider target group, age, demographics, education levels, as well as genre, purpose and goal of communication.

#english #romanian #slang #creativity #journalistic #literary #transcreation