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John D Salt

“Wilco, Comrade General”.

OK, colour me dubious on that bit of translation! 🙂

Mr. Picky is always open to suggestions for improvement.

This is an example of the considerable difficulty many languages pose in the translation of words meaning “yes” or “no” — I still recall a one-hour lecture on the topic of how to say “yes” and “no” in French, given by a member of the British Council who would have done well as a member of the Pythons, to an audience of students about to start their year as language assistants in France. Everyone therefore had something like nine years’ study of the language under their belts, having completed the first two years of a degree in it, and were under the (mistaken) impression that they had got “yes” and “no” pretty well weighed off.

In this case the original is:

Наступила пауза, после которой комбриг ответил совсем кратко:
[“A pause occurred, after which the Kombrig answered quite shortly:”]

— Есть, товарищ генерал

The word Есть [lit. “it is”] is given in dictionaries as a translation of (among other things) “Aye aye”, which would be right in British naval English, but not something a soldier would say. It carries a meaning that goes beyond mere affirmation, which would be так точно [lit “so exactly”] in military Russian (soldiers do not say just да to seniors giving them orders), or acknowledging receipt of an order, which would be понял [“I understand”]. I would translate these last two into British military English as “OK” and “Roger”, respectively. Есть seems to correspond quite naturally to “Wilco” here in meaning “the order will be carried out”, and as dictionaries date “Wilco” to circa 1938 such a rendering is not anachronistic.

The other translation I considered was “Very good, Comrade General”, with the understanding of customary British sarcasm that one only says “very good, sir” when things are obviously going horribly wrong but it’s above my pay-grade to tell you so.

All the best,


  • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by John D Salt.