L’Uomo Pipistrello (Italian-Language Thoughts)

A quick update: you’ve probably been on the edge of your seat the last week or so, wondering if I’d find out if there’s an Italian equivalent of calling Batman The Bat or The Batman.

Well, I’ve been slowly making my through Batman: Anno Uno, and finally, close to the end, I’ve discovered the answer. As Gilles correctly indicated in the comments in the previous post, it’s L’Uomo Pipistrello. 

It’s not the most classical Italian, following the more Germanic pattern of pushing two nouns together to form a compound noun, but it works.

It’s hard to translate into English, precisely. Word for word, it’s The…Man…Bat, but of course that wouldn’t work in English, because that would suggest he’s a bat, with a prominent element of a man somehow, and not the other way round (and yes, if you’re a big Batman fan, you’re probably crying out for me to mention that there is a Batman villian called Man-Bat, who’s a scientist who transforms into a monstrous bat-like creature: a werebat, basically).

Quite simply, the best translation for L’Uomo Pipistrello is The Batman. Not Batman without The, because that’s different. Saying The Batman, for me, emphasises the link with bats, and maybe is a way for the characters saying it to emphasise the absurdity of someone dressing up as a bat to fight crime. The fact that L’Uomo Pipistrello draws the attention of Italian readers to the fact that Batman dresses up like an actual bat, by using the Italian word for bat, probably has a similar effect.

It’s a triumph of logic over grammar, and reminds us that the primary point of language is to get your message across. Of course I can never saw for sure that L’Uomo Pipistrello for an Italian speaker is identical to The Batman for an English speaker. I can be reasonably certain though, that they have a similar effect.

So there you have it, one of the great mysteries of our time solved. Now what’s the Italian for Caped Crusader?

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