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I'm currently reading through 「のだ」の機能 by 野田・春美 and I'm having trouble translating one of her examples of のだ usage.

「こんな時に限って電車は揺れる。居眠りするのもわざとらしい。仕方ないから新聞を広げて読むのだが、活字がすんなり頭に入らない。こんなことなら立つんだった。」

  • 活字がすんなり頭に入らない I've translated this as "but the words didn't fit into my head", but this doesn't sound very natural in English. Is there a more "native" or fluent sounding phrase that would fit this better while retaining the meaning?

  • 居眠りするのもわざとらしい I'm not able to translate the わざとらしい at all. DeepL (translation app) gives me "Dozing off is also intentional.", which sounds very unnatural. How would this construction be translated into English?

Any feedback would be appreciated!

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  • Hello, and welcome to the Japanese SE. Can you please be more specific about your question? Where are you currently in the translation process, i.e. what did you translate already? What seems to be the problem for you in this sentence? Mar 28 at 19:10
  • The real problem lies with translating 居眠りするのもわざとらしい. I also wonder what the best way of translating 活字がすんなり頭に入らない would be. I just did a direct translation to "but the words didn't fit into my head" but that does sounds rather odd in English.
    – Shringar
    Mar 28 at 19:21
  • So this isn't a question about the use of のだ? Please add the details to the question itself.
    – Leebo
    Mar 28 at 19:26
  • Please provide what you've come up with for your own translation. Without seeing what you've attempted already, it is more difficult for us to guide you.
    – A.Ellett
    Mar 28 at 19:32
  • My bad for not being specific. I need help translating the わざとらしい and I'm also looking for a more natural way of translating 頭に入らない as I think my translation, "but the words didn't fit into my head", sounds strange in English.
    – Shringar
    Mar 28 at 19:32

2 Answers 2

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わざとらしい means something is "evidently intentional" (and thus unnatural). For example, わざとらしい咳 is a type of "Ahem!" used to signal "I'm here" without using words. わざとらしい嘘 refers to a lie so obviously false that even the person telling it knows it cannot be believed, such as flattery like "I thought you were a movie star!" わざとらしい笑顔 is a forced smile.

Likewise, わざとらしい居眠り usually refers to obviously feigned sleep, such as pretending to sleep while literally saying グーグー. But I'm not sure how this applies to this situation. This person seems to be thinking doing 居眠り would look somehow unnatural or "forced" (i.e., others might notice it's feigned) in this train, but it's unclear why he's thinking so. If the shaking is mild enough to read a newspaper, it should also be possible to sleep, so I feel like there must be some situation other than the shaking.

Regarding 活字がすんなり頭に入らない, it essentially means his eyes are looking at the text but his brain isn't smoothly absorbing the letters as meaningful content.

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  • 活字がすんなり頭に入らない

頭に入{はい}る is a figurative way of saying "understand" or "interpret". 活字{かつじ} is a type of font used for printed media like newspaper or books, and is often used to refer to reading something formal, in contrast to reading something from a social media (i.e. Facebook or Twitter), an advertisement, a video game, etc; so the author is most probably saying that this character is too mentally exhausted to read the newspaper, maybe because e.g. the words are too technical or the topic is too complex.

I would try to adapt that nuance into the translation this way:

(...), but my mind doesn't process those words form the newspaper smoothly.

  • わざとらしい

From Jisho.org:

I-adjective (keiyoushi)
unnatural; affected; studied; forced

But I don't like the description above much, because it is a more complex idea: わざとらしい is an adjective that is used to describe that something looks like it's forcedly faked or simulated, or that someone is unnaturally pretending or acting to do something.

In the context, it means that the character doesn't want to (pretend to?) sleep, because it will look like (s)he is faking it.

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  • Could you please explain how 居眠りするのもわざとらしい fits into the context here? "Even dozing is unnatural" doesn't seem to make much sense in this context. Mar 28 at 21:57
  • @user3856370 To be honest, I will try to but I don't know if I can adequately express it in English. Mar 28 at 23:35
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    @user3856370 Updated. Mar 28 at 23:42
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    @user3856370 - From this sentence I imagine a scene where the person sitting is faking sleep when an elderly person is standing in front of them. But we need more context.
    – aguijonazo
    Mar 29 at 0:43
  • @aguijonazo A plausible scenario, but I don't know how reading the paper would help him/her. That would explain why the train shaking would be inconvenient though. Mar 29 at 1:55

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