The Least Worst Translation

The idea of  “The Least Worst Translation,” {LWT} was introduced to me by a philosophy professor my junior year in college. Prof V, was teaching an aesthetics class and choice to focus on the aesthetic traditions of China and the concept of  “dan,” which for the purpose of the book we were reading was translated to “Blandness.” The discussion that followed was mostly about how some words, are so conceptually and contextually integral to a culture that unless you are a part of, or have lived in for an extended period of time you just don’t get it. Translation is the art of doing your damnedest to translate, most reasonably words like this.

Later during my own meditations and reflections of the English language, it’s dialects and the intersections of my cultures. This concept applies to the larger discussion on systematic racism, appropriation, and our particular distaste for dialects spoken by POC (i.e. Spanglish, AAVE, and etc). However, another issue is that the culture of marginalized people is expected to comply with the language and tolerance of whatever colonizing entity restricts them. Often times when a marginalized community takes a concept from their culture and does their best to translate it, in this case to English, settlers, as they often do, settle and take the word or phrase back and bastardize it’s actual meaning.

For Example:

Words/concepts like: big chop, natural hair, smudging, two spirit, &spirit animal. These belong to Black and Indigenous because even in English they are our culture.

Words for these concepts. However due to permanent displacement & mass genocide, we lost some stuff& weren’t allowed to use our own culture. Therefore, in order to explain these things we use our colonially forced languages to best describe& stream line these practices/concepts it doesn’t often even describe things well, just in a way so that an idea can be generally “gotten”. As best as possible. Also some concepts and cultures are closed so these are brief filler words to get ya’ll to mind your own damn business. They are also laden with historical context, political background and so forth. Big Chop & natural hair are less about going product free & more about a public display of Blackness the white folk literally kill us for. Two Spirit is a cultural role held by some First Nations people they fall so far out of European binary and conceptualization/ceremony/responsibility that we all had to find one phrase to conform to. Same with Spirit Animal, could be family, could be clan, could be awarded, could be a rite of passage, could be a deity. W/ nearly 600 nations. You bet your ass you are missing some specific and important context.If you don’t belong to that Nation, it ain’t ya business; so we use these LWTs cause we gotta communicate, cause we are forced to plead our humanity& conform to languages not our own.

Basically if you are handed the crap hand that is to exist as a marginalized culture in a colonized world. We work with what we got and still manage to have our innovations taken and bastardized. Don’t be that guy.



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