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I am translating a story about a cursed piece of jewelry. One of the phrases I had especially difficult time with (translated literally) goes like this:"It did that, and silently, with arrogance inherent to it, continued to shine." I chose to translate it as a sentence fragment:

"And carried on with its silent and arrogant brilliance."

I am having doubts on whether this sentence is grammatically (other than it is a sentence fragment) and stylistically correct. Can you carry on with "brilliance"? Do I have to use a verb here, i.e. "carried on gleaming silently and arrogantly"? Unfortunately, clumsy constructions such as this, tend to destroy the dramatic effect and brevity that I need for this particular phrase.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

  • "It did that, and silently, with arrogance inherent to it, continued to shine." You should retain this. – moonstar Nov 27 '17 at 13:42
  • It sounds highly unidiomatic. There is an anthropomorphism which, even if intended, seems inappropriate. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 27 '17 at 15:05
  • You could give the phrase a more appealing periodicity, I think, if you worded it as "continued to shine, mutely and arrogantly." To my ear, "carried on" is less formal than "continued"—which breaks with the tone of the other words you use—and mutely would save you an unstressed syllable as a replacement for silently. But as a matter of grammaticality, there is nothing wrong with the wording you ask about. Any word choice recommendations beyond that are matters of personal preference and amount to writing advice, which is off topic at this site. – Sven Yargs Nov 27 '17 at 18:31
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I prefer "...continued in its..."

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I'm not going to argue the figure of speech here, as you're translating instead of composing.

A bit of surrounding context can be helpful here, because there may be a more idiomatic alternative depending on what "it" is.

And carried on with its silent and arrogant brilliance.

This is a good translation, which sounds idiomatic in English.

It's a bit weird to have "it" carry on with something (as "it" implies that it's an inanimate object), but this issue might be easily resolved by observing the surrounding context. By itself, it sounds a bit awkward, but it might sound better in context.

I'll offer a few pedantic tweaks that I thought of. However, due to the poetic nature of your phrase, these tweaks are not really necessary. Poetic phrasing is often exempt from literal correctness.

1. The silence is inherent to "carrying on", not to "brilliant".

At least, that's what I infer from your literal translation.

But your actual translation instead uses "silent" as a modifier to "brilliance", which is different. In order to stay true to the original meaning, I would opt for something like:

And silently carried on with its arrogant brilliance.

Or

And carried on with its arrogant brilliance in silence.

2. Brilliance is ambiguous

I'm not sure if you want there to be an ambiguity/double entendre between the two meanings of brilliance. For reference, it can mean:

  1. Intense brightness of light.
  2. Exceptional talent or intelligence.

Reference link

Because you say "arrogant brilliance"; I'm inclined to interpret "brilliance" as referring to intelligence. This is because arrogance and intelligence are both qualities of someone's character.

The surrounding context may change this. If "it" is known to be e.g. a sentient diamond, then "brilliance" clearly refers to both meanings, as diamonds are known to be shiny and brilliant.

As I'm not sure if the ambiguity is wanted, and whether it's applicable, I can't really offer a solution here. It's a consideration for you.

3. Is the arrogance inherent to it, or its brilliance?

In your literal translation you mention:

with arrogance inherent to it

Does "it" refer to the object (that carries on), or does it refer to the way in which it carries on?

Looking at your translation:

And carried on with its silent and arrogant brilliance.

You seem to have opted for the second option, where the "it" in "with arrogance inherent to it" refers to the brilliance of the object, as opposed to the object itself.

However, if you intend to say that the object is inherently arrogant, then I'd change the translation to reflect that:

And arrogantly carried on with its brilliance.

You can also combine this with the changes from (1):

And arrogantly yet silently carried on with its brilliance.
And arrogantly and silently carried on with its brilliance.
And arrogantly carried on with its brilliance in silence.
And carried on with its brilliance in arrogant silence.
And carried on with its brilliance in silent arrogance.

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    Brilliance in no way is ambiguous here. It refers to an inanimate object. Also, the adverbial silently modifies the shining in the original phrasing. – Jason P Sallinger Nov 27 '17 at 14:56
  • @JasonPSallinger: (1) If "it" is capable of being arrogant, then it's equally likely that "it" is capable of being intelligent. (2) Even inanimate devices can be described as brilliant (meaning intelligent), e.g. "the iPhone is a brilliant device". (3) Keep in mind that OP's example is poetic in nature, so "brilliance" (intelligence) can be anthropomorphized for an inanimate object. (4) Silently modifies the continuation of the shining, not the shining itself. It silently continued to shine. Therefore, it modifies "continued" and "carried on", not "shine" or "brilliance". – Flater Nov 27 '17 at 16:13
  • I agree in that a flashy piece of jewelry can be characterized as being arrogant, especially poetically; you are daft in thinking anything inanimate is intelligent. I would say that statement is unintelligent. – Jason P Sallinger Nov 27 '17 at 16:22
  • Flater, your detailed answer was very helpful, thank you. Here are clarifications: (1) Indeed, the silence is related to the object "carrying on"; (2) Brilliance refers to the brightness only; (3) Arrogance refers to the object, not the way in which it carries on. – miku Nov 28 '17 at 10:58

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