Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Some "Inside Baseball" on Three-Line Rifle

In part 11 Bronia says syet, which is the Bogatyr distress code for attempted psychic domination or possession. It means "net", which is short for "network".

(Personally, I think that's pretty cool. It's a one-syllable word so it's quick to say, which is great for distress codes, and if someone is trying to take over your mind or your body then they're kind of trying to form a network, right?)

The problem with this is that syet isn't a proper transcription of the word. That would be set', with an apostrophe at the end. According to professional translator Yuri Mikhailovich, the ' is a palatization, which is when one moves one's tongue to the roof of the mouth when pronouncing a consonant. In Russia this is called "softening" a consonant, and to English speakers it often sounds like a very short e sound.

This was a dilemma for me. Having an accessible pronunciation is important because I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and if this story is ever read aloud I want it done properly.  Readers can muddle their way through spasiba and tovarisch, but will they know how to pronounce a Russian ' ? They'll just think it's "set" with a typographical error.

Using the Cyrillic spelling isn't any better; that would be сеть. English speakers aren't going to know how the hell to say that.

So what I did was settle on a compromise spelling. Syet is accessible to regular readers -- it's like nyet only with an S instead of an N -- and it sounds enough like set' that only the fluent will know it's not correct and only the purists will be offended.

And now you know.

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