Translatable But Debatable פינוק Pinuk

Maybe one of you got the translation job I’m talking about.  It’s a children’s book, and the narrator is Yuval’s father.  Finding himself with a bit of spare time, he welcomes it as an opportunity לפנק את יובל.

Nobody in Israel wants to raise a child who is מפונק, meaning pampered, coddled, cosseted, or — as English scathingly puts it — spoiled.  But as the Hebrew advertisements said back in the 1980s:

"מי לא זקוק לטיפה של פינוק?"

I suppose only a sociologist could do justice to the contrast between that universalist Hebrew slogan and the suggestions often made in English-language advertising that the readers, and the women in particular, should pamper themselves because they are special individuals, and that such indulgence is a form of devilish rebellion.

Luckily it’s not my job to explain why a society considers worldly pleasures a gift from God, a temptation from Satan, or both in one, but unluckily a guy can get called upon to translate this stuff across the culture gap between the Puritan heritage and the Pinukian. 

“I decided to pamper Yuval”?  In English it sounds like a bad decision, and it sounds like adopting a practice rather than performing a single action.  Maybe a variation would work — “I decided to pamper Yuval a little.”

Okay, what’s next?  (I had a sample page to translate in hopes of landing the book job.)

שאלתי אותו איך הוא רוצה שאני אפנק אותו.

How he wanted to be pampered?  Indulged?  No, certainly not “indulged” in a children’s book.  I looked ahead to see what else needed to be translated consistently.  It seems that a glass of cola is חלק מהפינוק — part of the pamperation?  Maybe in a children’s book an invented word is okay?

Finally I went for an inexact translation, “treat.”  That is, “I decided I’d treat Yuval to something,” “I asked him if I could treat him to something or other,” and a glass of cola was “part of the treat.”  Although I didn’t get the job (whether for that reason or for another), the client kindly allowed me to quote the book here, and I’d certainly be interested in hearing what other people do about translating פינוק, לפנק, and even להתפנק when the meaning is relatively benign.   You are encouraged to comment on that word family in the space below.  No site membership is necessary.  Suggestions for other words worthy of discussion are welcome at (not in the comment space below, please), and suggestions that are used will be credited

Mark L. Levinson

Born 1948 a few trolley stops from Boston, Massachusetts. Bachelor's degree from Harvard College. Moved to Israel in 1970. Worked and learned Hebrew on Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet. Moved to Haifa and worked teaching English to adults. Did similar work in the army. After discharge, turned to technical writing, initially for Elbit. Then promotional writing for Scitex, and more technical (and occasionally promotional) writing for Edunetics, Daisy Systems (later named Dazix, SEE Technologies, and Summit Design), Memco, and Gilian. Also translated from Hebrew to English, everything from business articles to fiction, filmscripts, and poetry. Served as local chapter president for the Society for Technical Communication, editor of several issues of local literary journals, occasional political columnist and book reviewer for the Jerusalem Post, and husband & father.