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From S02E03 of the anime adaptation of the manga The Quintessential Quintuplets:

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Is 'Koi no Summer Vacation' better translated as 'Love of Summer Vacation' instead of 'Summer Vacation of Love' or even 'Love's Summer Vacation' ?

Afaik, 'の' in 'X の Y' is usually translated as

  1. possession like 'X's Y'. Eg from Yu-Gi-Oh! (RIP Kazuki Takahashi!) 'My turn' is 'Ore の taan/turn'.

  2. reversing X and Y and connecting them with 'of' like 'Y of X'. Eg 'Teacher of the Japanese language' is 'nihongo の sensei'. Or idk...'Game of Thrones' is 'Thrones の Game'.

  3. Or some adjective thing. Eg from Kaguya-sama 'Secretary Chika' or 'Chika the Secretary' is 'Shoki の Chika' or 'The Attack Titan' is 'Shingeki の Kyojin'.

Ok, #3 (and possibly onwards) is a whole other story, but I believe it should be #2.

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    It looks like what happened was the Japanese version already had a clumsy English translation and the subtitler felt obliged to stick to it - I myself would not have
    – Angelos
    Jul 19 at 20:16
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    That's 和製英語 for you.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 19 at 20:25
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    @BCLC You get a feel for this kind of thing when you've got a special interest in translation
    – Angelos
    Jul 19 at 23:56
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    Can I ask, which is the better, catchier title when seen purely as an English title, "Love of Summer Vacation" or "Summer Vacation of Love"? (If both are clumsy, which is realtively more acceptable?) I'm wondering if this is intentional or just a mistake.
    – naruto
    Jul 20 at 0:51
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    @naruto Love of Summer Vacation would basically mean 「夏休みへの好ましさ」, it sounds as if it's describing somebody's love for their summer holidays. A 'Summer Vacation of Love' makes perfect sense, and it would be summer holidays filled with romantic events. And yeah, the first sounds very awkward while the second is just fine
    – Angelos
    Jul 20 at 1:20

3 Answers 3

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The Japanese possessive / genitive particle [の]{no} works kinda "backwards" from the English preposition of.

  • A of B
    A belongs to B → B owns A.
  • A [の]{no} B
    A owns B → B belongs to A.

It might help to think of the [の]{no} as a little bit like the English possessive -'s ending. A [の]{no} B = A's B.

I think this is partly the reason why Japanese full names and English full names have opposite ordering.

  • In English, the personal name is followed by the family name: "Personal" belongs to "Family".
  • In Japanese, the family name comes first, then the personal name: "Family" owns "Personal".
    (In olden times, the family name was often followed by the particle [の]{no}.)

When translating then, we have to swap the ordering.

  • A of B → B [の]{no} A.
  • A [の]{no} B → B of A.

Update

Folding in some additional content from the comments.

The OP commented, "it's possible the story is talking about love of summer vacations like it's a movie about a series of summer vacations showing the good things that happen" -- it's certainly possible, but in that case, the title and the story wouldn't have much to do with each other. Considering the meaning of the terms and the grammar, the title 「[恋]{Koi} [の]{no}[サマーバケーション]{Samā Bakēshon}」 cannot accurately describe any story about how someone loves summer vacations.

It could be about the summer vacations of someone named "Koi", but in that case, "love" really isn't the correct translation: names are names, best left as-is. By way of example, the Japanese feminine given name Megumi derives from verb megumu, and literally means "a blessing" -- but when we talk about someone named "Megumi" in English, we don't call her "Blessing", we call her "Megumi". :)

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  • Thanks Eiríkr Útlendi. Good lesson, but I guess I'll accept the other answer because it explained the case specifically. I'll consider accepting yours if you have a similar explanation.
    – BCLC
    Jul 20 at 9:57
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    @BCLC, I'd argue that "Love of Summer Vacation" doesn't just "feel awkward and clunky", as casualreader put it -- in translation terms, it's flat-out wrong: it's a meaning error, because that's not what the Japanese says. That's what I tried to explain in my post here, using a generalized case to better explain how the particle [の]{no} functions, both syntactically (ordering of words) and semantically (meaning of words). Jul 20 at 16:16
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    @BCLC, you commented, "it's possible the story is talking about love of summer vacations like it's a movie about a series of summer vacations showing the good things that happen" -- it's certainly possible, but in that case, the title and the story wouldn't have much to do with each other. The title 「[恋]{Koi} [の]{ no}[サマーバケーション]{Samā Bakēshon}」 cannot accurately describe any story about how someone loves summer vacations. It could be about the summer vacations of someone named "Koi", but in that case, "love" isn't the correct translation: names are names, best left as-is. Jul 20 at 16:18
  • Thanks Eiríkr Útlendi Please consider adding that in your answer.
    – BCLC
    Jul 21 at 13:11
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    @BCLC, good suggestion, I'll update the post! Jul 21 at 16:52
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It's "The Summer Vacation of Love"

"Love of Summer Vacation" feels awkward and clunky.

Like "BCLC-san no Inu" means "The dog of BCLC-san" /"BCLC-san's Dog"

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(cw answer only, so please don't take this too seriously.)

Angelos answer:

It looks like what happened was the Japanese version already had a clumsy English translation and the subtitler felt obliged to stick to it - I myself would not have

After I inspected:

Angelos is right. (You can guess from the font how the ff would turn out though. Lol.) I turned off the subtitles, and then: the blue text on the upper left is gone, but the pink text is still there. The 'Love of Summer Vacation' is really the official English title of the movie. It's not necessarily an incorrect official English translation. It could just be an official English title that happens to mean a different thing from the original Japanese title. Of course it's 94.9% likely it's just an incorrect official English translation.


I'm going to put the next part in spoiler text because this is gonna be insanely opinionated but not that it really spoils anything about the series or anything really.


Based on the comment discussion with naruto and Angelos: Actually just now I came up with this new insane theory based on another insane theory I have about the series. The series' English title is The Quintessential Quintuplets. The series' Japanese title is The 5 Equal Brides (or The 5 Equally Divided Brides or whatever 五等分の花嫁 means).

and

Some people complain that either title is wrong based on the events of the series. (eg some of the characters were not really 'brides' or 'quintessential' or 'equal'). In re these complaints, I have an insane theory about the Japanese vs English title of the series. So now based on this comment discussion, now I have this new insane theory that maybe the mistranslation of the fictional movie title is a nod about the impact of the different English vs Japanese titles of the original series.

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