Half dead

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euriclea

Senior Member
Italian
Hi there,

Context: novel. Exasperated teacher weeping in the staff room and complaining about her students.
"They hum. When I ask who is humming, they look straight at me and say 'No one is humming'. You have to be half dead to work here".

"È tutto un brusio. E quando chiedo chi è mi guardano dritta in faccia e dicono 'Non c'è nessun brusio'. Bisogna essere mezzi morti / più morti che vivi per lavorare qui".

An apparently easy passage, but I don't understand why the author uses half dead. I think something like "crazy" or even "numb" would work better. Could half-dead here mean something like numb, tipo "anestetizzati"? (Meaning: per lavorare in un manicomio del genere bisogna essere anestetizzati). Any better ideas?

Grazie
 
  • Starless74

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Bisogna essere mezzi morti / più morti che vivi per lavorare qui
    Forse "you" non è generico ("bisogna") ma letterale, rivolto ai colleghi:
    «Dovete essere mezzi morti per lavorare qui» (= io ci sto da una sola settimana e sono già esausta).
    Attendi altri pareri.
     
    Last edited:

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Forse "you" non è generico ("bisogna") ma letterale, rivolto ai colleghi:
    «Dovete essere mezzi morti per lavorare qui» (= io ci sto da una sola settimana e sono già esausta).
    Attendi altri pareri.
    My guess is that it is the generic "you": a teacher weeping from frustration seems unlikely to be turning on her colleagues and saying they must be half-dead if they can stand it. And I think "half dead" (which is odd to me, too) does mean something like anestetizzati, with the idea being that you'd need to be half-insensible or only partially conscious to stand it.

    Also, a question about è tutto un brusio: can brusio be used as a synonym for the sound one makes canticchiando? I think what's going on here is that random students are humming tunes to drive the teacher nuts, and then lying about it. I don't think it's a general "hum" of noise, which is what I think of as un brusio.
     

    King Crimson

    Modus in fabula
    Italiano
    Also, a question about è tutto un brusio: can brusio be used as a synonym for the sound one makes canticchiando?
    I would say no, generally speaking; a "brusio" is more like indistinct, subdued chatter and / or low, continuous sound by a group of people, so I wouldn't use it to translate hum. But who knows? Looking at how half-dead is considered out of place here, maybe that's exactly what the author meant.
     

    euriclea

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Thank you very much, Artichoke and King Crimson. Unfortunately there is no more or better context to exactly understand the nature of the humming and the odd use of half-dead, so I'm trying to figure out a flat solution that makes sense and sounds nice in Italian without betraying the original meaning of the English sentence.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I would say no, generally speaking; a "brusio" is more like indistinct, subdued chatter and / or low, continuous sound by a group of people, so I wouldn't use it to translate hum. But who knows? Looking at how half-dead is considered out of place here, maybe that's exactly what the author meant.
    My guess about the humming is based on the statement "When I ask who is humming, they look straight at me and say 'No-one is humming.'" I can't imagine a teacher asking a class that's chattering or murmuring, "who's humming?" or the students replying "no-one's humming." The verb used in that case would surely be "talking." "Half-dead" aside, I'm 99.9% sure these kids are humming tunes and then denying it, for the express purpose of annoying the teacher.
     

    euriclea

    Senior Member
    Italian
    I think you're right. Thank you.

    My guess about the humming is based on the statement "When I ask who is humming, they look straight at me and say 'No-one is humming.'" I can't imagine a teacher asking a class that's chattering or murmuring, "who's humming?" or the students replying "no-one's humming." The verb used in that case would surely be "talking." "Half-dead" aside, I'm 99.9% sure these kids are humming tunes and then denying it, for the express purpose of annoying the teacher.
     

    King Crimson

    Modus in fabula
    Italiano
    My guess about the humming is based on the statement "When I ask who is humming, they look straight at me and say 'No-one is humming.'" I can't imagine a teacher asking a class that's chattering or murmuring, "who's humming?" or the students replying "no-one's humming." The verb used in that case would surely be "talking." "Half-dead" aside, I'm 99.9% sure these kids are humming tunes and then denying it, for the express purpose of annoying the teacher.
    I agree, and that's why I was suggesting that "brusio" ("è tutto un brusio" from the OP) won't work as a translation of "humming";)
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    The OP doesn’t include ‘she’d wept in the classroom’, which Google Books and the Penguin Books listings do. I don’t know if you accidentally left that out, euriclea, or whether that’s the script you’re working from. If it’s the latter then maybe other mistakes have been made in the copying of it, which gives me more reason to think that Starless might be right and that it’s a typo.
     

    euriclea

    Senior Member
    Italian
    The OP doesn’t include ‘she’d wept in the classroom’, which Google Books and the Penguin Books listings do. I don’t know if you accidentally left that out, euriclea, or whether that’s the script you’re working from. If it’s the latter then maybe other mistakes have been made in the copying of it, which gives me more reason to think that Starless might be right and that it’s a typo.
    Thanks Little Ripper. I did not leave it out accidentally, I just made the sentence shorter summing up the context in a few initial words (Exasperated teacher weeping in the staff room and complaining about her students). There are no mistakes, no typos.

    The Italian translation for humming is an Accademia della Crusca issue: Verbo per «emettere un suono con le labbra chiuse»
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I don't think they were humming a tune. I remember as a practical joke, when the teacher would turn on the lights, some students would start making a humming sound to drive the teacher crazy.
    You could be right: I had no idea this was a known method of harassing a teacher! If this is the case, perhaps it's ronzare, rather than fare un brusio, or canticchiare.

    The Italian translation for humming is an Accademia della Crusca issue: Verbo per «emettere un suono con le labbra chiuse»
    That discussion seems to be about yet another meaning of "hum," the brief "hmmm" sound of indecision one makes when one "hums and haws": "... i termini più vicini (mormorare, ronzare, canticchiare) non esprimono esattamente questo concetto, cioè, in pratica, di emettere un uhm. ....Mormorare implica già l'articolazione di suoni definiti, cioè il dire qualcosa. Hum è invece quel *hmmmmm sospeso che si dice per dare un segnale di vita senza ancora aver articolato un pensiero o pur avendolo, non vedendo ancora con precisione come esprimerlo."

    I hope we can at least rule out that the students are saying "hmmm." :)
     

    pepitoHorizonte

    Senior Member
    castellano LA
    Forse "you" non è generico ("bisogna") ma letterale, rivolto ai colleghi:
    «Dovete essere mezzi morti = zombies per lavorare qui» (= io ci sto da una sola settimana e sono già esausta :eek: ).
    Attendi altri pareri.
    "È tutto un brusio. E quando chiedo chi è mi guardano dritta in faccia e dicono 'Non c'è nessun brusio'. Bisogna essere zombies per lavorare qui".
     
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