Translating the Iroha Karuta 2: Show, Don’t Tell

This is the second Japanese proverb in the “Iroha” Karuta series. It consists of three words in Japanese:

論 より 証拠

Ron yori shouko. [Discourse/Debate / rather than / proof/evidence]

We need to switch the word order to get to the intended meaning in English:

“Proof rather than debate,”

Like a lot of proverbs and sayings, it is not actually a sentence as there is no verb, but I feel that you can get a more dynamic sense of the proverb if your English translation employs a verb. That’s why I went for this:

“Proof beats debate.”

Less literal but more to the point.

However, I think the most cavalier translation is the best of all,

“Show, don’t tell.”

It is not literal, but it is a good example of “dynamic equivalence” – rendering the original into words or images that are familiar to and resonate with the reader of the translation.

The Illustrations

The cheap Daiso (dime store) cartoon illustration of “Ro” depicts a rather smug adult – the boy’s father, or teacher perhaps – showing the “results” of a test or something to the shocked boy. I think it is probably a father showing off his perfect score or something and thereby “shocking” his son. In Japan “O” is used where we would use a check to show a correct answer.

“Ro” from the Daiso karuta deck.

As for the more traditional illustration, it appears that the samurai warrior is illustrating the proverb by brandishing a “wara ningyo” – a Japanese voodoo doll – though why on earth he is doing that and to whom he is brandishing it and what his brandishing of it portends I have no idea.

Perhaps that is why “show, don’t tell” seems such an apt translation.

It seems I have spent far to much time and effort attempting to tell you about this proverb with nothing to show for it after all.

Such is life.

Cheers for now.

David Hurley
#InspiredFocus (?)
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