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In Chinese, there are rich vocabularies for humble and boasting addresses for oneself, by 'address' I mean way to call oneself with an elevated or devalued status, kind of like 'your humble servant' in English. I wonder how to translate the following examples into English:

Humble address:

这是敝司的标书。

Literal translation: These are the bidding documents from my shabby employer.

When Chinese say it, it's the representative from one company presenting the documents to another company. "My shabby employer" is a way to call "the company I represent" with a degraded status in order to show respect to the other company. There is no disparagement or sarcasm in it.

Boasting address:

哥只是个传说。

It literally means '(Your) elder brother is just a legend'.

The real message is 'I, who you should look up to like an elder brother, is nothing special but a legend.' By calling oneself 'brother', the speaker is making an arrogant expression, or taunting the listener.

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closed as not a real question by tchrist, Marthaª, Kristina Lopez, simchona Mar 19 '13 at 19:53

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I think that 这是敝司的标书。and 哥只是个传说。come as close as one can get in English. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 19 '13 at 9:05
    
It's hard to understand what it is that you are looking for. What is your actual question? –  SmokerAtStadium Mar 19 '13 at 9:52
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There isn't a way to express them in English. English doesn't do this. That's what @EdwinAshworth was saying: the closest you will get is actually the Chinese. –  St John of the Cross Mar 19 '13 at 9:55
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@NS.X. Why do the Chinese use these addresses; in what contexts? –  Jez Mar 19 '13 at 11:19
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I've read your question twice, and I have come to the conclusion that, nevermind the "humble" and "boasting" bits: I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "address". Your translation of the first bit of Chinese sounds like an attempt to disparage your employer, while the second one makes zero sense. I mean, absolutely none. English words, not an English sentence. To fix this, I think you need to, first of all, ask it at ell.stackexchange.com, and second of all, get a more competent English speaker to help you translate the Chinese. –  Marthaª Mar 19 '13 at 14:02

1 Answer 1

While English has lost much of its class distinctions, one can express both self-abasing and prideful expressions.

If the employer on your CV were large and well known, then my shabby employer has a sense of irony. I think a bidding document would be called an offer letter in the US. (May I assume that the salary described is considered large and that the Chinese is again expressing irony?)

In translating into English, the irony would be lost. Unless it's a company that the reader would immediately recognize, it's better to state this without irony.

Here is the offer letter from my Fortune 500 employer.

IBM employed me right out of college.

It is better in English-speaking circles to not mention your salary. You would be giving up a valuable negotiation point. (Probably better to discuss this issue at http://workplace.stackexchange.com .)

The boasting address is much more direct in English. We lose the elder brother intermediary (because elder brother does not convey the same status in English.)

Your exploits are legendary.

You are a rock star.

Superman ain't got nothin' on you.

You are my hero. (If you say this with a sing-song or high-pitched voice, it will mean the opposite.)

I would only use the first in more formal settings. They are all idiomatic.


EDIT: Thank you for updating the boastful address. Something was lost in translation.

I'm rewriting your interpretation to:

'I, whom you should look up to as a superior elder brother, am extraordinary and a legend.'

(Please improve on the translation.)

A parallel English idiom is:

Who's your daddy?

This Wikipedia page says "It is commonly used as a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener." An added parallel with the Chinese idiom is the use of the familial relationship (Chinese=elder brother, English=father).

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Thanks for the answer. Sorry my question wasn't clear, I've updated it. –  NS.X. Mar 19 '13 at 18:22
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These are all semantically close translations, even though the register is very different (these are very informal and the OPs examples are very formal I think.) But culturally, in most (all?) English speaking cultures -nowadays-, one never says anything like this. If you used any of these, you'd come across as socially inept (outright boasts or defacement are avoided, but there is some leeway for subtle methods). –  Mitch Mar 19 '13 at 23:06
    
@Mitch Thanks! What you said is the key information I am missing and it actually answers the question. –  NS.X. Mar 20 '13 at 3:16
    
+1 Great comment about register and culture, @Mitch. I don't think OP would use the boast in business settings. Similarly, I don't think English speakers would use "Who's your daddy" in business settings. –  rajah9 Mar 20 '13 at 17:25

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