Nighttime Parenting in Translation

When it comes to parenting, some things are apparently universal- including the desire for your sweet little bundle of joy to JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!

American author Adam Mansbach tapped into that perennial source of parental frustration with his 2011 book “Go the F— to the Sleep”, which became a viral internet sensation before it was even published.

The popular “bedtime story for adults” has been translated into over 30 languages, most recently Jamaican patois. Spoken by 3.2 million people, Jamaican Patois is an English creole with West African influences. Here is an example of how the original text translates.

Original:

The owls fly forth from the treetops.
Through the air, they soar and they sweep.
A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love.
Come on, shut the f** up and sleep.

Jamaican Patois translation (via the Washington Post):

Patoo a-fly from over de tree dem,
An a-dilly an dally an a-leap.
A piece a fire a-burn inna mi heart, babes.
Me naah lie, shut de r— up an sleep.

While the frustration of trying to get your wee one off to bed may be universal, the Washington Post points out some interesting cultural differences in how this frustration is managed.

American parents are supposed to keep it under wraps. You might be THINKING “Go the F— to sleep,” but that doesn’t mean you’re actually supposed to say that to your child, even playfully.  (Though I might *cough* know someone *cough* who once sat down with her teething six-month old in front of the YouTube video of the Samuel L. Jackson version of this story.)

Jamaican parents are much more inclined to let it all hang out, according to Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes, one of the translators who worked on the book.  He told The Washington Post,

“The spirit of the book does not seem odd in the context of Jamaican or Caribbean child-rearing ethos. There are so many folk songs that sweetly threaten babies who won’t sleep in our tradition. So it is actually quite perfectly suited for Jamaican humor. Indeed, it may be a little mild.”

In fact, Dawes and co-translator Kellie Magnus think that in Jamaica, this book will be used an actual bedtime story for children, “because their parents will read it to them, happily. And no one will be the worse for it.”

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Lisa Rosario Photography

 

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