- Posted by Stephen Whiteley
- On 31/10/2016
- Halloween, traducción, truco o trato
The end of October is approaching and with it comes an expression you’re bound to hear over and over again: trick-or-treat! The Halloween tradition of dressing up and going door to door to give your neighbors an ultimatum (“Give me candy or suffer the consequences!”) would be nothing without the infamous phrase ringing through the night. Halloween and trick-or-treating are no longer celebrated in the US only, and here in Spain, like it or not, it’s becoming more and more common. And with the importation of traditions necessarily comes the translation of their terminology.
The most widespread Spanish translation of the phrase is truco-o-trato, which, when you stop and think about it, doesn’t seem to be a very precise translation. While truco can be a good equivalent for trick on some occasions, such as when talking about magic, in this case the meaning of the English word is something more along the lines of prank, or joke, which in Spanish would more likely be travesura, susto, broma or trastada. The second part of the phrase, treat doesn’t quite mean trato (in English this would be deal) but premio, dulces or chuches.
What does seem to be spot on about this translation, however, is that it mimics the phonetic play of the original quite well. In the English, you have two monosyllabic words that both begin with the consonant cluster /tr/. This sound is perfectly maintained at the beginning of both halves of the Spanish translation. Additionally, both of the Spanish words have two syllables, thus maintaining the rhythm and balance of the original.
In reality, trick-or-treat is kind of like a little poem, and so it’s translation more closely resembles the literary sort than anything else. Unlike other types of translation, there is often more at stake than just precision in transferring the meaning, and a translator often must decide what takes priority.
So what do you think? Knowing that truco-o-trato maintains some of the phonic devices of the original, do you think it’s a good option? Or is too much of the meaning lost in translation? Can you find a way to play with the sounds of Spanish and still preserve the original meaning? We invite you to try, in any language for that matter! Let us know what you come up with!
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