Translating Allusions: When Minimum Change Is Not Enough

Ritva Leppihalme


This paper presents a systematization of translation strategies for key-phrase allusions, in the form of a hierarchical decision process. Actual translatorial practice in Finland, judging by seven translations of novels, favours the strategy of minimum change. This low-effort strategy is useful when allusions are transcultural, but will often lead to flat translations and loss of connotations in the case of unfamiliar allusions, even resulting in a failure to convey the message, as evidenced by reader responses. Adoption of a more creative and reader-oriented translatorial role would offer a wider variety of translation strategies and lead to a decrease of "culture bumps" in translations.

Table of contents

In a recent novel, David Lodge has a character musing on the achievements of the British motor-car industry:

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