Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0924-1884
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9986
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The present descriptive study considers different translation strategies adopted by Italian translators of Oscar Wilde’s The importance of being Earnest (1895). The focus of attention is on the phenomenon of the pun involving the speaking name Ernest, whose homophony with earnest is exploited in the play’s title. Italian translators of The importance have thus been faced with the bind of having to decide on whether to render the said wordplay, even though only unsatisfactorily, by replacing the transparent name Ernest with a target language ‘equivalent’, or safeguard the cultural-onomastic ‘reality’ of the play, i.e. leave the Victorian given name Ernest in its source text form. It turns out that the latter policy is generally compensated for — as part of the metatextual/metalinguistic discourse — within prefaces, glosses and, more significantly, via intratextual additions. The translators opting for substituting Ernest for an Italian counterpart, in turn, have, as a direct consequence of their basic choice, been able to enrich their versions of The importance with unprecedented puns, which underlines the ‘creative’ dimension involved in producing literary translations. Besides the two core translation policies described above, the translators have also opted for introducing the nativized form Ernesto, thus showing little concern with the questions of ‘cultural purity’ or punning, respectively. The present paper suggests that translators make very different demands on themselves and have very different ideas of what constitutes the ‘optimal’ strategy with regard to punning and the representation of the source cultural world.


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