Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Kamiccolo9 » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:18 am

Can someone here on the "mortal," "person," whatever side actually address the posts I brought up? It would be nice to have actual discussion, rather than "this is asinine," "CONTEXT!!!!!" and "this is stupid."
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by ZeroNeonix » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:23 am

Zillamon51 wrote:Try this: Leave "ningen" completely untranslated in a dub / sub. Then ask an average viewer what it means. Literally NO ONE will say "human," because it very obviously includes Saiyans, Namekians, Babarians, etc. Context wins. It is simple and practical.

I can understand arguments against translation changes that significantly alter meaning. "Mortal" does not alter the original intent. "Human" is unnecessarily confusing. If you want to debate that point regarding an academic masterwork, or a diplomatic treatise, then fine. But for a children's cartoon show, it's asinine.
Leave ningen unchanged in a dub, and most people watching will say, "What the hell is a ningen?" And then they'll either Google it, ask for a definition on a forum or something, or forget about it five minutes later.

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Luso Saiyan » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:47 pm

Kamiccolo9 wrote:Can someone here on the "mortal," "person," whatever side actually address the posts I brought up? It would be nice to have actual discussion, rather than "this is asinine," "CONTEXT!!!!!" and "this is stupid."
Which parts do you want people to address? They don't necessarily refute what has been said. Also, simply posting someone else's posts isn't much of a discussion either, nor is downplaying the perfectly valid argument of sticking to context, specially when the word in question can have a different connotation depending on it.

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Eternal Super Saiyan » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:58 am

It sounds badass when some characters use it. But logically it doesn't fit when even the people saying the word will still age and eventually die of natural causes. Referring to a lower being as a "mortal" might imply that you yourself are not a mortal, but you are.
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Baggie_Saiyan » Wed Apr 18, 2018 11:15 am

Don't really see what leaving it up to context is an issue, don't we already do that with a lot of Japanese words? Calling all non gods "humans" is kinda weird let's be honest (regardless if Toriyama intended to broaden the term it is still weird), sure gods calling them "mortals" implies that gods them selves aren't but it is just that an implication.

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Gaffer Tape » Wed Apr 18, 2018 12:19 pm

Baggie_Saiyan wrote:Don't really see what leaving it up to context is an issue, don't we already do that with a lot of Japanese words? Calling all non gods "humans" is kinda weird let's be honest (regardless if Toriyama intended to broaden the term it is still weird), sure gods calling them "mortals" implies that gods them selves aren't but it is just that an implication.
Don't mean to single you out specifically, but this entire post is comprised of every argument in this thread that just doesn't make a lick of sense to me. You bring up "context," but what does that even mean (wait for it) in this context? In what context are you arguing it wouldn't be mortal? Because we aren't just talking about what gods call non-gods, which is the only context you're mentioning. So does that mean using "human" in contexts where it's not referring to gods? So #17 can refer to Vegeta and Goku as humans? Raditz can refer to Goku as a human? Because I'm sure you can agree using "mortal" in those contexts is, as you say, weird. But at the same time, that really doesn't fix your issue, since it basically still ends up meaning all non-gods are humans. It's just gods aren't saying it. Humans are saying it about themselves. That's the thing. I see all these posts clamoring about "context" but then never actually coming up with a contextual solution, outside of just using a synonym for "human" or rewriting around it. Nor do they address any context where "mortal" actually works seamlessly.

Then, there's the off-handed idea of, "Who cares if Toriyama intended this in his story? It's just... weird. Unlike the dog king of the world. Or the dinosaurs. Or the kid with no nose. Or the guy with three eyes who can grow arms out of his back." Hey, I get it. Especially in recent years, Toriyama has had some, um, interesting ideas I'd rather forget, so I'm not without sympathy. But this isn't even one of those name romanization things where perhaps his English is a bit rusty, and you get things like "Red Ribon" and you just have to assume he spelled ribbon wrong. This is a word from his own language that he is, on good authority, using in uncommon ways even to people in Japan! What basis is there to say he's wrong here? Again, as I've brought up, Pokemon uses the word evolution to refer to something not even remotely close to what evolution is. Why don't you guys have a problem with that?

As an aside, I do feel this is a problem exacerbated by the late "Z" era and beyond. When the gang came back from outer space, Dragon Ball's earth was much more bland than it had been in the past. Suddenly, so many off the wall concepts were relegated to outer space, and Earthlings were just regular old nothings like they are here. Aside from established characters, animal people disappeared. Outlandish feats that were once mind-bogglingly impressive but accepted by the general populace were now just completely unbelievable and labeled as "tricks." And people like Yamcha, Kuririn, Tenshinhan, etc. were ridiculously strong because... reasons, I guess. But I do think that looking at the Dragon World like that makes it easier to associate their earth with our earth and to limit its potential closer in line with our own. That's just my guess. But if so, I guess Toriyama made his own bed on that one...

Finally, as for your claim that it's "just an implication" that gods are mortal, that could work, say, in the Boo Arc. But, no, it's not an implication in the Future Trunks Arc (which is what brought on this whole new wave of hemming and hawing). When you have a character saying, "I must become immortal so I can kill the mortals," that is no longer an implication. That is as explicit as you can get! He is not (or was not naturally) immortal, by his own admission. Therefore he is (or was naturally) mortal.
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by BrolyKale » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:29 pm

Neither of them sound good to me... it'd make more sense if it was translated as critters, creatures, beings, or even slaves.
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Gaffer Tape » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:39 pm

And now we're getting into the realm of channeling good ol' Barry Watson and the '90s FUNimation team. Let's not even translate things. Let's just change the words completely because I don't like them. I hereby submit we should render "ningen" as "sex nugget."

#17: I wouldn't expect this much from a flesh and blood sex nugget.

See? It sounds better already!
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Cure Dragon 255 » Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:58 pm

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Adrian Malacoda » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:40 pm

Gaffer Tape wrote:And now we're getting into the realm of channeling good ol' Barry Watson and the '90s FUNimation team. Let's not even translate things. Let's just change the words completely because I don't like them.
I feel like this might be part of the issue, actually. For the longest time Funimation insisted that the green man on the lookout was a "Guardian" named "Kami" (with his evil half just being some unspecified type of "King") and that his superiors were called "Kais." Only very recently did Funimation acknowledge that there are gods in this universe, and I found myself (especially very early on) arguing that, yes, Dende is God/God of Earth/a god, because that's what his title literally is. People coming from the Western understanding of a God as an all powerful, all knowing creator being can't reconcile that with the notion of what a god is in the Dragon Ball universe, so rather than accept that things are different in a strange fictional universe, they reject it outright. "Well, he might literally be called God, but he's not actually a god [as I understand the term] so 'Guardian' is a better term for him" (Never mind the fact that he really doesn't "guard" the planet either, so if you want a strictly "correct" term, "overseer" might be a better choice).
Gaffer Tape wrote:#17: I wouldn't expect this much from a flesh and blood sex nugget.
Speaking of androids... how about jinzouningen? It seems to be common fandom knowledge that this word is extremely broad and can refer to androids, machines, robots, cyborgs, computers, clones, and anything in between. However, according to Herms in this thread,
Herms wrote:"Artificial human" isn't any better though, because it implies that they're, well, artificial, which implies that they were made from scratch rather than simply modified. Even in Japanese, jinzou-ningen is an unusual word to use to refer to them; it should really be kaizou-ningen/"restructured human".
So is it appropriate to call a cyborg jinzouningen? Cell? He's neither mechanical nor "human" (per real world definition)! Was I wrong to insist that #17 is not actually an android? If cyborgs can be androids, can aliens can be human?

And, since people in the thread have mentioned context, does the definition of the word indeed change depending on the situation? Again, speaking of androids... obviously when #17 is on Earth he distinguishes himself from mere ningen, but as I recall, during the Tournament of Power each universe sent its top 10 ningen and for universe 7 this included #17, #18, and Boo. Are these characters now considered ningen when put up next to gods? Is the fact that these characters reside in the ningen world enough for them to "count" as ningen to the gods? Or is human/ningen just a mere snarl word meant to imply the subject is a lesser being? But then why would Ginyu call himself one, and in a non-derogatory manner at that?

Now I wonder what Japanese fans think about all this. "Huh, Ginyu said he's a human? That can't be right..."

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Cipher » Wed May 02, 2018 9:17 am

Pantalones wrote:"Ningen" can translate as the specific "human"... and also the more general "person/people." It doesn't necessarily have the connotations that the English word "human" has -- as in, referring to our species specifically. When someone says "humans" in English it means humans, Homo sapiens, those mostly hairless upright-walking ape things that live on the planet Earth. It's basically unheard of for anybody to use "humans" in English to mean anything else. When someone says "ningen" in Japanese, it can mean humans specifically, but it can also mean "people" in general -- in other words, any being with a degree of intelligence, capacity for understanding the feelings of others, and so on. It can be used to mean "anybody who's not a god or demon" -- the "human world" in Buddhism is the world we live in, the physical universe as we know it, as opposed to the various Hells, the realms of the gods and demons and ghosts, and so on. This should be sounding familiar to anyone who's familiar with Zamasu's usage of the word."
Not to be that guy, but uh ... it actually does have that connotation. One of its most common usages is drawing a distinction between regular old Earth humans and things that are humanoid but not of our species.

Dragon Ball's usage of the word is already a slight stretch from how it's used in real life. But then, Japanese doesn't, as far as I know, offer a horribly convenient word that can be brought into play while trying to simultaneous separate androids from humans, humans from aliens, and all of the above from a pantheon of gods. It picks something for the lexical gap and runs with it. I'm almost positive you can find examples in the series where "human" is used to separate Earthlings from aliens, on that note, so it's not horribly consistent even in the original, outside of always being used as the term for the Earth's standard inhabitants regardless of whether they're the kind of human we recognize or a pig-man.

In the same vein, English also lacks a perfect word for that distinction, at least when mortality and immortality don't offer any firm separation between beings in the lower-realm and the gods. "Human," "mortal"—either works in some cases and is a stretch in others. Use what you got.

EDIT -- I see Herms got to the "ningen pretty much means run-of-the-mill Earth human" common usage bit last page, while also addressing the element of subjective normalcy that makes it slightly less weird in Japanese than "human" in English, though still kind of weird.

But—to finally answer the thread, the fact that it's a little less weird in Japanese than in English is what has me preferring "mortal" for the lower-being/god divide specifically. You trade the weirdness of stretching "human" for stretching the literal definition of "mortal," but it's no different than the relatively minor stretch the Japanese version already affords "ningen."

"Mortal" goes down smoothly in this context, as it fits with at least one of our common understandings of the word—separating gods and lower beings—while "human" requires far more of a reevaluation in English in this context than either "mortal" does in the same language or "ningen" does in this case in Japanese.

Obviously there are other contexts in the series where rendering "ningen" as "human" makes far more sense. The slippery thing about languages as dissimilar as Japanese and English is that one word doesn't have to be translated as one thing all the time.

@Kamiccolo9: Like an arrow piercing the heart of a post, I have addressed them. I should note that I actually rather like "people" in any of Dragon Ball's contexts too, as I feel it's a pretty smooth usage match in English, without requiring any major terminology reevaluation on part of the audience. (Like "ningen," "people" contains an element of perspective normalcy. We wouldn't bat an eye talking about "people on Mars," "people in space," etc., even if it were stretched lightly to apply to more visually distinct aliens. It's a great species-free catch-all and you can still draw a divide between "people" and "gods.") But maybe it sounds silly to have Zamasu spouting off about his "Zero People Plan." I don't know.

I can say that, as another check in the "people" column, it's also amazingly a cultural fixation parallel. My students in Japan are as obsessed with saying the word "people" as all y'all are with "ningen," since you heard it in a show and it's fun to say.

EDIT EDIT -- Am I seriously suggesting "people" now? In some contexts, yeah, but probably not in this one, because in some cases ("Zero Person/People Plan"), it sounds bad. And that's also one of the slippery, nonscientific parts of translation.

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Kamiccolo9 » Wed May 02, 2018 1:45 pm

Cipher wrote: @Kamiccolo9: Like an arrow piercing the heart of a post, I have addressed them.
And that's all I ask. Thanks for the effort.
I'm fine with human, myself. We call the thing Ginyu switched bodies with a frog, despite it not being Lithobates catesbeianus, or whatever variant of frog you want to use. Not sure why we hold "human" to a different standard.

I don't like "mortal," if only because the various gods of DB are not immortal themselves, so the word doesn't really have any meaning in the context of the series. In DB, "mortal" means "everybody that's not Garlic Junior and Zamasu, some of the time."

"People/Person" works, although, I dunno, I feel like the gods are people too. "Human" in the series seems to be used more as "someone from a planet in the 'lower' worlds," rather than Homo Sapien, anyway. And even if someone is hardcore into the scientific naming, we still consider Neanderthals and other Homo groups to be "human."

So yeah, I see no problem with it.
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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Zephyr » Sat May 05, 2018 2:40 pm

Honestly, I think I'm with Attitudefan. It really feels like a class distinction more than anything else, and "human" and "mortal", when either is applied exhaustively to every instance of "ningen", seems to require that you squint your eyes in one way or the other. Distinctions like elites and commoners, rulers and subjects, plebeians and patricians, etc. make the most sense to me. Not that I'm really bothered by the alternatives.

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Re: Do you prefer “human” or “mortal” for the non-deities?

Post by Kamiccolo9 » Sat May 05, 2018 3:25 pm

Zephyr wrote:Honestly, I think I'm with Attitudefan. It really feels like a class distinction more than anything else, and "human" and "mortal", when either is applied exhaustively to every instance of "ningen", seems to require that you squint your eyes in one way or the other. Distinctions like elites and commoners, rulers and subjects, plebeians and patricians, etc. make the most sense to me. Not that I'm really bothered by the alternatives.
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