Circumlocution: A Way Of Talking Around Something

Among the things I am kicking around today are future possibilities for the Word-of-the-Day feature. I’ve got some interesting ones in the form of words which have distinct values implied – say, “greed” – which necessarily require multiple translations – “ambition”, for example, or “compromise” – or whose closest equivalent have very different nuances and whose literal meaning can only be expressed by rather awkward circumlocution – such as our “professional”.

And then I thought of one real fun job to translate into their language. How, exactly, would one translate “social justice” into Eldraeic?

(Bearing in mind that the literal gloss, tramoníë saráv, lit. “a society-kind-of-justice”, would actually mean “international arbitration”.)

So let’s have a little informal competition, here. The best circumlocution, using only the sorts of concept which are native to the language, is an awkward phrase that comes out as, roughly, “the coercive enforcement of a sophont-owner’s preferred group-level outcomes upon the involuntarily coadunated”.

Think you can do better? Offer your best circumlocution in the comments, and we’ll see if it passes the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology.

(But remember, and this is important now: the aim here is to provide the translation that a charitable translator working around the constraints of a language that doesn’t have a background tradition of compressed euphemisms would come up with. We’re not going for “the Worlds’ snarkiest value judgement”, nor are we going all-out to offend people in the real world, here, especially any who might find squeezing the concept into an unhelpful vocabulary an interesting game; it’s supposed to be a fun little conlanging exercise. Don’t let me down here, folks.)

14 thoughts on “Circumlocution: A Way Of Talking Around Something

    • Only the latter can be called “rights”, because the corresponding obligations they impose are on you, symmetrically, to refrain from things.

      Rights to things are – depending on how polite you’re being – called something like “entitlements”, or “privileges”, or “some kind of slaver-cultist bullshit”, cause it’s not like whatever they’re to is going to exist without making someone produce it, and they’re not so fond of that notion.

  1. Well, the first thing to come to mind is a dismissive gloss as “a particularly pernicious form of mutual-slaving”, but that’s probably a bit too snarktacular.

    More generously, perhaps “the forcible imposition of the presumed preferences of the speaker’s social clique upon involuntarily coadunated groups which the speaker perceives as acting coercively toward them and their social clique”. Though that’s even wordier than your version.

  2. I think it may also depend on what parts of the internet you hang out with, and therefore the sort of flavour of ‘social justice’ you usually see. I mostly see positive applications with a few “please tell me that is either a joke or an overly-enthusiastic but ignorant teen who is trying Too Hard” outliers; the dialogue I’ve seen from others suggests they mostly encounter the extremists and only a few naive optimists swept along in their wake.

    I’d gloss it as “attempts to rewrite perceived coercive aspects of culture via applied amateur memetics”.

    • Hm. I’m not sure you could torture the Eldraeic equivalent to “coercion” enough (acts which violate the Principle of Consent) to make that work, but I’ll fiddle with it a bit.

      • Hm, that’s a good point. It’s coercion for us because humans are pack-social with strong peer norming instincts that can be used to drag others ‘into line’, but eldrae are immune to that. “Attempts to rewrite perceived discriminatory biases within cultures via applied amateur memetics”, maybe?

  3. I’m going for something (relatively) simple: “Seeking-to-make-the-purpose-of-one-the-purpose-of-all.”

  4. I think I’d gloss ‘social justice’, as a theory, as ‘the doctrine that moral responsibility rests in groups rather than individuals’. This then logically implies the necessity for group-level outcomes to be enforced, as groups are the relevant moral actors under the theory. It seems rather less awkward than your formulation, while still fitting the source material.

  5. Another thought: ‘social justice’ in literal translation means something like ‘international arbitration’? I’m honestly surprised that the literal translation isn’t something more like ‘the justice of institutional design’, i.e. the way to ensure a society of consent, rather than a slave state, as contrasted with ‘the justice of individual action’, which ensures you act correctly in dealing with others in everyday life. Underlying principles may be the same, but those who are in the position to design insitutions may well have some more difficult problems to deal with in ensuring they act correctly than those who simply must ensure they act honorably and discharge their personal debts.

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