Resolved Translation for běnwáng 本王 if the family name is Wang

Discussion in 'Translator's Corner' started by Tsubaki -, Aug 2, 2022.

  1. Tsubaki -

    Tsubaki - Unknown Member

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    Hi everyone, one of the characters in the novel I'm translating has the family name Wang. He is a very ambitious person but also a follower of Confucianism (think Wang Mang). I don't think he is a king/prince, but he is an imperial-in-law. The problem is that sometimes he refers to himself as běnwáng 本王.
    How do I translate this?
    - this Wang
    - this King/Prince
    - sth. else entirely
    Example sentence: 如今他却背叛本王,实在令我心寒。
     
  2. ragingphoenix

    ragingphoenix Well-Known Member

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    本王 is a royal pronoun referring to oneself, and specifically applies to men (mostly of the royal family, but sometimes also includes non-royal vassal kings) who have been granted a 王 title. 王 translates roughly to prince or king and is a different type of title than 皇子 which refers to male children of the current emperor who most likely have not yet been conferred a proper title. 皇子 is still appropriate for use but 王 indicates an actual title has been conferred.

    Anyone who is not a titled 王 cannot use the self pronoun 本王. This is similar to how 本宫 (generally) is a self-pronoun used to refer to residents appointed proper quarters in the imperial palace. (本宫 is also used in wulin settings as a self-pronoun referring to leaders of certain sects, but 本王 does not have a similar jianghu correlation... well, unless you want to count self-appointed bandit kings.)

    Although 本王 translates to 'this prince' or 'this king', speaking of oneself in the third person is not common in English, unlike in Chinese, so you could potentially translate this as "I". Otherwise "this prince" or "this king" would be a decent translation based on what that character's political standing is. I would personally reserve the use of 'king' for someone who runs their own territory and has their own armed forces.
     
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  3. nonononononono

    nonononononono NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO

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    yo bro, do you use discord? Would you be interested in joining our discord? We often discuss CN translation questions there.
     
  4. Tsubaki -

    Tsubaki - Unknown Member

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    Thank you for your detailed and definitive reply!
    I wasn't sure if the term can also be used in the same way as 某.
     
  5. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

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    It's largely a play on words, and those don't translate. You can try to keep the joke, but then you'd have to explain it. Otherwise, the character calling himself "Old Wang" or something like that might work.

    To be fair, people who self-aggrandize themselves can do exactly that kind of thing. It can be risky as hell in Imperial China, but there were absolutely people who did that kind of thing. There are even cases of people calling themselves "emperor" - it tended to generate very negative consequences though.
     
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  6. ragingphoenix

    ragingphoenix Well-Known Member

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    某 is a way of saying "I" or "me" which is used more by normal citizens, or by someone who is referring to themselves without dragging rank into the conversation. Chinese has a lot of these types of pronouns, a bit like how 俺 is a dialect self-pronoun that also means "I" or "me".

    @ToastedRossi is right, in this case 如今他却背叛本王,实在令我心寒 is a play on words. This person is likely saying such a thing in a private setting since claiming to be a king in public (... especially as a royal in-law, oof) is cause for trouble. I got so involved in my rant I forgot to actually answer the question. Also if it'd been a quote from an actual prince, the second half probably would have been 实在令本王心寒 since usually someone using this type of pronoun is trying to exert some social pressure and wouldn't switch pronouns in the middle or use the normal 我 at all. It's definitely dependent on context.

    Yeah, enforcement on these things is definitely relevant, lots of stories are set in chaotic eras so it's not that unusual to see people claiming to be someone they're not acknowledged to be by the current ruling government I guess. A bit like sumptuary laws in that regard, except speech tends to be more noticeable in written format as a way of identifying someone's social rank.

    So yeah, basically, you can say what you want, but in an imperial setting this might cost you your head.

    I... guess? I prefer the forum format, but you can link it if you want.
     
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