la lettre épouse l'esprit

English translation: every detail reflects the intention

19:56 Jul 3, 2013
French to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Music
French term or phrase: la lettre épouse l'esprit
Help! I'm translating a piece about the singer Gianmaria Testa's work from the point of view of a writer who likes to use lots of long and complicated flowery phrases to say what he thinks about him!! I am really struggling to render this phrase in decent English. Any ideas?? Thanks in advance!

"Comme toujours chez Gianmaria Testa, *la lettre épouse l’esprit* dans ses plus infimes replis. La formule de son Quartet, qui autorise à la fois densité et légèreté, prolonge la vive dynamique sonore qui parcourait son dernier album studio"
Lorna Coing
France
Local time: 17:54
English translation:every detail reflects the intention
Explanation:
la lettre refers to specifics, usually in contrast with something more vague
Selected response from:

David Vaughn
Local time: 17:54
Grading comment
Thanks again, David! I chose your answer since I felt it was the only one where a real translation took place. Merci beaucoup!!
3 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +8the letter and the spirit are in harmony
B D Finch
4 +1every detail reflects the intention
David Vaughn
3 +2the letter and the spirit are as one
polyglot45
4the letter bonds with the spirit
Josephine Cassar
4the word and the spirit are joined together
Kévin Bernier
4the letter matches the spirit
Wolf Draeger
3whose word reflets the spirit
Nikki Scott-Despaigne


Discussion entries: 1





  

Answers


17 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
the word and the spirit are joined together


Explanation:
"As it is always the case with Gianmaria Tesla, the word and the spirit are joined together in every corner"...

Kévin Bernier
France
Local time: 17:54
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 4
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38 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
every detail reflects the intention


Explanation:
la lettre refers to specifics, usually in contrast with something more vague

David Vaughn
Local time: 17:54
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 201
Grading comment
Thanks again, David! I chose your answer since I felt it was the only one where a real translation took place. Merci beaucoup!!
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thank you, David, I'm definitely looking for something along these lines which avoids sticking too close to the French (I don't think a native speaker would use 'letter' or 'spirit' in this context).


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Helen Shiner: Yes, or 'detail reflects intention' or 'detail reflects his nature' or many other variants. But whatever, I think this is the way to go.
1 hr
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +8
the letter and the spirit are in harmony


Explanation:
This retains the idea of the letter and the spirit of things often being presented as in opposition to each other, but that this is not the case in Gianmaria Testa's work. Plus a musical reference.

B D Finch
France
Local time: 17:54
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Jean-Claude Gouin: Very good Ms. Finch ...
1 hr
  -> Thanks!

agree  Wolf Draeger
1 hr
  -> Thanks Wolf

agree  Daryo
1 hr
  -> Thanks Daryo

agree  Colin Morley (X): Eloquently expressed
10 hrs
  -> Thanks Colin

agree  Yvonne Gallagher
12 hrs
  -> Thanks gallagy

agree  claude-andrew: I'd remove the 2 articles "letter and spirit are in harmony"
13 hrs
  -> Thanks Claude-Andrew. That would sound better, but the usual phrase that this is meant to evoke is "the letter of the law", which always keeps its articles.

neutral  Nikki Scott-Despaigne: Better without the articles, but I have reservations, about this being OTT for English. Without dumbing it down, flowery English sounds insincere if the rest is wordy too. However, if you add "total" and scrap "dans ses plus infimes replis", it works.
16 hrs
  -> Yes, agree about omitting the article as, on second thoughts, I think the reference to "the letter of the law" still probably comes through. I think a bit of floweriness is OK here and one should reflect the author's style even if toning it down a little

agree  katsy: absolutely - to quote St Paul (I think) - "for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life"
19 hrs
  -> Thanks katsy. (2 Corinthians, but it is a rather dodgy epistle as the condemnation of Moses and the commandments can easily be taken out of its historical context and misused by antisemites.)

agree  gkshenaut: perhaps “form and substance are in harmony”
2 days 21 hrs
  -> Thanks GKS. However, I don't think "form and substance" can be used that way as they generally ARE in harmony, while letter and spirit frequently are not. Also, I don't think it correctly translates the source text.
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8 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
whose word reflets the spirit


Explanation:
A number of solutions are possible of course, depending on how you turn the rest of the sentence.

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Note added at 11 mins (2013-07-03 20:08:39 GMT)
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I think you might find it helps to consider the French word order another way round.
You could place "comme toujours" elsewhere.
Idem the "dans ses plus infimes replis" which is essentially emphatic and linked to "l'esprit", which means you can have "esprit" at the end of the sentence. Changing the word order might lead to other turns of phrase.


"Comme toujours, chez Gianmaria Testa, la lettre épouse l'esprit."

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Note added at 12 mins (2013-07-03 20:09:16 GMT)
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Oops, sorry. That last sentence should not be there!


--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 hrs (2013-07-03 22:40:56 GMT)
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I think you need to bear in mind that over flowery construction, not just words, tend to lack sincerity in English. Simplicity rhymes with elegance and you need elegance here.

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Note added at 2 hrs (2013-07-03 22:41:29 GMT)
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And my "refleCt" should have that "c" in there!

Nikki Scott-Despaigne
Local time: 17:54
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 7
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3 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
the letter matches the spirit


Explanation:
Match might be a useful synonym for marry.

Variant: "...are perfectly matched", though the adjective does not appear in the Fr. HT to Corpse Bride :-)

Example sentence(s):
  • As always with Gianmaria Testa, the letter matches the spirit down to the very last note.
  • As always with Gianmaria Testa, the letter and the spirit are perfectly matched down to the very last note.
Wolf Draeger
South Africa
Local time: 17:54
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
the letter bonds with the spirit


Explanation:
or- the letter is in harmony with the spirit

Josephine Cassar
Local time: 17:54
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in MalteseMaltese
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12 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +2
the letter and the spirit are as one


Explanation:
if you want to remain poetical

polyglot45
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 6

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  writeaway: yes, this translates the French without introducing new notions
55 mins

agree  Yolanda Broad
4 days
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