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In "The Grapes of Wrath" there's a scene where they're talking about toilets. When the water in the toilet is discussed, in the translation ("Las Uvas de la Ira"), the word is not translated (to "agua" as would be expected), but it remains "water"

Why would that be?


Here it is:

"Lady come in las' week, an' she got in here 'fore the committee got to her, an' she had her ol' man's pants in the toilet,..."


"Una senora llego la semana pasada y entro aqui antes de que la visitara el comite y habia metido los pantalones de su marido en el water,..."

So it wasn't water:water after all, it's toilet:water, but still it seems an odd translation to me...

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Well, wáter (also spelled váter) is just a name for toilet. What's the whole sentence? –  guifa Jul 29 '14 at 15:54
I don't have it with me at the moment, but the water itself (in the toilet) was being referred to. If anybody has the Centenniel editions of the paperbacks, it's on p. 316 or so in the English, and 352 or so in the Spanish. –  B. Clay Shannon Jul 29 '14 at 16:02
guifa already answered: water [Pronounced Váter; remember ther's no "v" just "b"] is the way Spaniards name the toilet. –  Jaime Jul 30 '14 at 3:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is a derivation of the English term "Water-closet" which has been incorporated into Spanish.

Although the correct accepted word is váter (so the correct translation would be váter), the common usage on the date the book was translated was water.

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As you point out in your update, it's actually the word toilet that's being translated as wáter. Trust me when I say it doesn't sound weird to natives (unless they use inodoro or some other term instead). It's been fully incorporated into the language and so beyond perhaps connecting it to the British term watercloset, I can promise you no native speaker is thinking agua when they see wáter/váter

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It is an odd translation, I grew up in Mexico and reside in the US and had never heard or read this word until now, tho as @guifa indicates if I where reading the book (in spanish) I would question it's meaning but wouldn't think of "agua". So my guess is the edition you are reading is meant for distribution in certain countries. What I found is that "Wáter" meaning toilet is used in Chile, Perú, Uruguay, Paraguay, some parts of Argentina and also in Spain where the alternative spelling is "Váter" but they also use "Inodoro" which i think would've been a more general translation. In Latin America you will also run into "WC" but it means the space (restroom) And here are some variations if you ever need to find a toilette. Sanitario, Escusado, Poceta, Servicio (Costa Rica, Honduras & Panama) & also "Retrete" (small place to retire to) :) Cheers.

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It was translated!

In much of the Spanish-speaking world, "Water Closet" (often abbreviated as 'W.C') is borrowed from English, and can mean the same as the American terms toilet (the actual porcelain fixture) or bathroom (the room which contains the porcelain fixture).

In Mexico I recently saw a sign advising patrons not to throw trash in the W.C., for instance.

So what you saw was a translation from "toilet" to the short version of the Anglicanism "water closet".

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