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I'm currently translating an article of Joel Spolsky's which is called Thanks or No thanks and I'm a bit confused about the meaning of the title.

The only two possible meanings that I could guess are the following:

  • "Thanks!" or "No, thanks", referring to whether the character of the article will accept the offer, or he will reject it.
  • Deciding whether or not we should thank the character

Which one is correct?

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Having read the article, it seems to me that both the interpretations you suggest are correct - that is, @Joel Spolsky is playing with words to make the title interesting. He has been known to answer questions on this site, so if you're lucky he may even drop by to confirm or deny :) – psmears Feb 6 '11 at 11:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I would relate "Thanks" to the extrinsic motivation, and "no thanks" to the intrinsic motivation ("what drives you to do something regardless of whether you will receive a reward") Joel mentions in his article.

In that regard, your second interpretation is closer to the point of the article.

I don't know the target language for your translation, but you need to consider the multiple meanings of "Thank" (gratitude, help from, because of, ...), all of them having some sense in the context of Joel's paper.
But a literal translation of "Thanks" might not have those same definitions, so you will need to rephrase and simplify this title.

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Joel Spolsky is a good writer with a playful sense of humor who likes plays on words. It is entirely possible that he could have used the title Thanks or No Thanks as an echoic reference to the phrase "Thanks but no thanks" (which one says to express gratitude at having been offered something while at the same time declining to accept it).

It is also possible, since he was writing for a professional publication (Inc. magazine), that the headline was added or altered by an editor. Editors (especially of print publications, and Inc. was originally and remains also a print publication) love punny healines (or heds, as the journalistic community refers to them). Only Joel and the editor would know for sure, and they may have forgotten.

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Yes, in one of his articles Joel mentions that all his articles published in the Inc magazine undergo some mofifications by the site editors. – Sam Feb 9 '11 at 18:28
"Thanks but no thanks" as I also pointed out in an earlier post – mplungjan Feb 10 '11 at 8:43

I think you could match the phrase "Thanks, but no thanks" since that is what the person in the story ended up "saying" by not accepting the conditioned offer.

But I would think you can just go Спасибо или нет Спасибо

Actually, thinking more - you can use the Hamlet format: To thank or not to thank - with a bit of help from google translate and from the standard translation of Hamlet, would this work? благодарить иль не благодарить

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It is: ""Спасибо - нет" ("Спасибо или нет Спасибо" is unclear and can't be told). Also, more casually, one can comment "Да нет" where "Да"(would-be Yes in other situations) is "strengthening" affirmative to "Нет" ("No") or it, in this context, means "that is" – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 9 '11 at 15:18
Thank you for the idea! However, as far as I can tell, using this reference to Hamlet (that is, rephrasing the line "To be or not to be") is considered banal and non-original in Russian writing culture. Moreover, the resemblance to the original line («Быть или не быть») can be preserved only by using one-syllable verbs; otherwise, the rhythm will be lost, and the new phrase won't look like the original. Just an example: a common school joke sounds like «Пить или не пить» ("To drink or not to drink"). Longer verbs just don't fit as a joke. – Sam Feb 9 '11 at 18:31
No problem, I do not speak Russian so it was just a thought :) – mplungjan Feb 10 '11 at 8:45
Anyway, be careful to invent your own expressions b/c, as I understood, it the case of auto-antonyms in Russian and even Russians themselves do not understand what and why exactly they tell. Though, surely they understand when something is not understandable and gibberish for them – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 11 '11 at 8:04
@Sam, I recalled, after reading your comment, about prescription on medicines: "Перед приёмом пищи" what can be understood as: "Use before eating" or "Squeak before using" – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 11 '11 at 8:13

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