I am currently translating Eliezer's "The Sword of Good" in French, and hit a rather thorny problem:

How do I translate the words Equilibrium and Balance, given that both words are present in this fiction?

Those two words are rather synonymous, and I can find but one French translation: équilibre. I need a second one, which would convey about the same ideas and sound as solemn as "equilibrium". Or some trick…

For the majority of you who don't speak French, other English words that could have replaced either "equilibrium" and "balance" may also give me valuable cues.

(By the way, translation work is way harder that I anticipated. It strains my mastery of both English and French way beyond what I'm used to.)

Second question, of less importance: which translation do you think suits The Lord of Dark best? "Le Seigneur de la Noirceur" ? Or "Le Seigneur des Ténèbres"? Or even something else?


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I suggest Parité for Equilibrium.

(ETA: Also useful would be Symétrie. Both are allusions to CP Symmetry, which may have the kind of grandeur you're looking for.)

(ETA2: "Seigneur des Ténébres" would be kind of conventional for "Lord of Dark". But this is a Yudkowsky piece; you must not merely translate it, your job is to write what Eliezer would have written had he been a native French speaker. (You may want to read Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot at some point if you're interested in translation and its specific challenges and rewards.) That entails straying from convention where appropriate. If you go with a physics-themed interpretation of some terminology, "Seigneur du Sombre" might have a nice ring to it and recall the "Energie sombre" translation of "Dark Energy".)

Oh yes, those are the kind of words I was looking for. Parité seems especially suitable as an explanation for how Good and Evil, somehow should be equally represented (like men and women in our democracies). Symétrie however sounds even more formal, and I like it.

Anyway, I think they both are much better that what I originally thought of (Stabilité).

@ETA2: Yes, I thought it was indeed too conventional, so I have opted for the captain-obvious emphatic "Noirceur" for now. "Seigneur du Sombre" sounds rather good, but somehow the grammatical "mistake" (using an adjective (Sombre/Dark) instead of a name (Noirceur/Darkness)) works less well in French than it does in English. But that may be because I'm not a native English speaker. Does "Lord of Dark" sounds disturbingly grammatically incorrect to native English speakers?

As for what Eliezer would have written… ouch, that's a hell of a challenge. But I get the idea. Originally, I thought of trying to give to my French readers the same impressions Eliezer gave me. I hope that will be a good enough proxy.

Hofastadter's book looks very interesting, thanks.

Does "Lord of Dark" sounds disturbingly grammatically incorrect to native English speakers?

"Lord of Darkness" would be the standard epithet in extruded fantasy product. But this piece is a parody of that genre, and "Lord of Dark" matches "Sword of Good" in its deliberately plonking manner (i.e. what you called "captain-obvious"). It draws attention to its own banality, which is the point.


Does "Lord of Dark" sounds disturbingly grammatically incorrect to native English speakers?

Not particularly so. Dark is also a noun in English; "I was sitting in the dark."

But then it would have to be "Lord of the Dark". "I was sitting in dark" doesn't make sense.


The issue of whether or not "dark" needs an article differs between dialects. A swift Googling (e.g., "I was in dark") brings up several examples.

But of course. Noted, thanks.

but somehow the grammatical "mistake" (using an adjective (Sombre/Dark) instead of a name (Noirceur/Darkness)) works less well in French than it does in English

"Dark" can be used as a noun in English, it's not strictly an adjective - e.g. "I'm in the dark". "I looked into the dark".

"Scales" with a capital S, maybe? Les Échelles?

Although according to google translate and wiktionary, the word "balance" exists identically in French.

"Balance" is the first obvious word I thought about. Alas, I cannot use it because of its much more widespread other meaning : a weight measurement device. It could evoke the Scales of Justice, which is good, but only (I think) on a second tought. Let my readers' minds stumble like this would disrupt the flow of the story, and I want to avoid that.

The link is probably supposed to point to: http://yudkowsky.net/other/fiction/the-sword-of-good

Corrected, thanks.

'Poise' for Balance, perhaps, which would be... grâce?

Pseudo steady state? #engineer

Stasis? Means the same thing as equilibrium, except with the connotation of unchanging or stuck, which probably isn't ideal.

(Juste) milieu?

Egalite, possibly?

Close, but no : Sorcerers use "Balance" and "Equilibrium" to justify inequalities (filling their own bellies while letting others starve and such).

But they could equally well use the second-order argument of equality: Certainly, I could help this beggar, but is that fair to the one on the next street over, who didn't have the luck that I walked down his patch? Anyway, the word has ironic resonance. But you're the native speaker. :)