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I'm trying to figure out the best way to translate this odd title:

「吊るされた少年,翼とまっすぐに歩けない理由」

If I'm understanding correctly, the comma after the subject (少年) signifies a pause and replaces the missing topic marker but I'm stumped by the remaining structure.

I thought it might be a list: "The Suspended Boy, Wings, and the Reason He Can't Walk Straight". However, I don't know if you can write lists in this format. I was under the impression you needed a と or や between each thing being listed, but I don't know if the comma can replace one of those as it does in English.

The other option is reading と as 'with': "Why the Suspended Boy Can't Walk Straight With Wings." This one doesn't make as much sense in context of the story though. Which then makes me wonder if it could be read as "Why the Suspended Boy with Wings Can't Walk Straight", which does work better in context.

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    I wanted to search for it myself and didn't get any results. What is this the title of?
    – Leebo
    Nov 10, 2021 at 23:38
  • It's an incredibly obscure short story I found in the back of a game magazine from the 90s. Nov 10, 2021 at 23:51

1 Answer 1

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This comma should be an apposition marker, and 翼 should be the boy's name.

吊るされた少年、翼とまっすぐに歩けない理由
Tsubasa the Hanged Boy and Why He Can't Walk Straight

You can find this appositive nickname/catchphrase + name pattern commonly in titles (e.g., 美少女戦士セーラームーン, アルプスの少女ハイジ, most titles of Super Sentai). The comma is technically not necessary as long as you can separate words, but in this case it would have been hard to parse the title without one. See also: What is the grammar for saying things like "Step A", "our friend Nozomi", or "the snowiest city in the world, Aomori"?

In general, you can use commas to list three or more things, but since 翼 is widely known as a common person name, I would say almost no one would read this as a list. (But please check if there is a character called Tsubasa in the story.)

EDIT: It turned out that the name of the boy is not 翼 (see comments). Then we may have to parse this as a three-item list. It's not something I come up with when I look at this without preconceptions, but it's not an impossible interpretation depending on the story (e.g., when everyone in the story has a name in katakana).

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  • Thanks for the info, the link was especially useful. However I can confirm that the boy's name is not Tsubasa. The 翼 refers to actual wings he has. Would this then mean that this is actually a list? Nov 11, 2021 at 0:28
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    @ascensionjello If that's really the case, your two interpretations have to be considered, but I'd say such readings are very unintuitive... Especially the "walk with wings" reading sounds almost impossible to me. If the three-item list were really intended, it'd be put as something like "吊された少年、翼、そして彼がまっすぐに歩けない理由" or "吊された少年と翼と彼がまっすぐ歩けない理由".
    – naruto
    Nov 11, 2021 at 0:33
  • This author does have a habit of writing incredibly convoluted titles, but this has got to be his worst one yet. What's really throwing me is that while the character has wings, they're not what's stopping him from walking straight in the story. That's something else entirely. Nov 11, 2021 at 0:34
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    @ascensionjello Hmm, I can't say anymore about this without seeing the actual text... I believe what's written in my answer is how almost all native speakers would read this title, but the author may have intentionally made an obscure title.
    – naruto
    Nov 11, 2021 at 0:40
  • Thanks so much for your help. I think I'm going with the list interpretation, as I agree that the "walk with wings" reading makes very little sense. I know it doesn't adhere to how it would normally be written, but again, that's kind of par for the course with this guy's work. Nov 11, 2021 at 0:49

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