Posted By: callithump "cosmic joke"? - 10/09/06 06:15 AM
I'm translating a book, in which there is one sentence:
Here is the cosmic joke:there is usually very little difference in talent between the person who earns $50,000 per year and the one who earns $100,000 per year. The only difference is that one has settled at a lower level while the other has refused to settle for less than $100,000.

Here, what does "cosmic joke" mean?

I first thought it's a slip of the pen and should be taken as comic joke, or facetious remarks. But when I searched in Google the phrase "cosmic joke", it returned many results. So I think there might be such phrases.

Is there such a usage? And if yes, what does it mean?

Thanks very much.
Posted By: Bingley Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/09/06 08:17 AM
When they look at the world or the universe many people think God must have a (rather strange) sense of humour. Anything that ties in with this is called a 'cosmic joke'.
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/09/06 04:22 PM
Could one say that "the cosmic joke" is equivalent to the "cosmic law"?
Posted By: themilum Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/09/06 05:45 PM
AP: 10/9/06 12:48 AM

"The President will receive some advice to the effect that it is better not to wait, that there will not be a clearer trigger point than what we have now," said Dr Huisken, senior fellow at the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

Uh...is that us?

And is Faldage the senior fellow "Doctor Huisken"?

Posted By: Faldage Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/09/06 08:17 PM
Why we won't attack DPRK:

A) They really do have WMD


2) They ain' got no oil.
Posted By: Buffalo Shrdlu Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 02:16 AM
point to Faldage.
Posted By: callithump Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 03:18 AM
So, could I understand it as the law of nature?

That might make the translation lose the "joke" feeling. I once tried to keep the humorous tone.

We here mention much less "God" than you do, you know. And when speaking of God, we do in full awe; never dare think the God is humorous or can joke with us. So we have no such saying as "cosmic joke", a joke played by God.
Posted By: tsuwm Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 04:00 AM
well, I really hate to bring irony into this discussion (he said, bringing irony into the discussion); but then you have the Great Cosmic Ironies of Kurt Vonnegut.
Posted By: themilum Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 09:03 AM
Such is the nature of irony that entire religions followed by millions have been established on less substance than the whimsical great cosmic ironies of Kurt Vonnegut.

Two come to mind as I massage my two feet.
Posted By: AnnaStrophic Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 09:39 AM
Calli, where are you from? What language are you working in?
Posted By: Jackie Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 11:57 AM
China, I think, Anna.

Calli, we do have a joke (I don't know if it's a cosmic joke--I'm not familiar with that term) that says that the duck-billed platypus is proof that God has a sense of humor; no disrespect to God intended.
Posted By: FNAWrite Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 04:36 PM
As much as another hated bringing irony into this, that is essentially what anything described as a "cosmic joke" is - irony (granted maybe weak irony). maybe it is just unfairness, but like irony, "cosmic joke" generally wants something more than merely unfairness or incongruity.

The irony/unfairness in the passage you describe being simply that of two workers where one commands a salary of twice as much as the other, there is no difference in their abilities..
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/10/06 07:25 PM
No, not the same, Callit. It was a question and I made my own aswer : no. It 's really a matter of what laguage you are translating this in. It could, maybe, be translated litterally into your own language. "cosmic joke" would translate quite directly into my language and give the exact same meaning and feeling.

This 'law of nature 'answer was referring to Bingly's answer, I mean, I wanted to get rid of God playing jokes and look for a more neutral universal idea.
Posted By: callithump Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/11/06 12:36 AM

The target language of this translation is Chinese. So far I failed to find a term to translate this into my mother tongue. Maybe there is. But so far I haven't found it.

On Chinese term came to my mind is Tianda de Xiaohua(A joke as big as the sky). It's often used. But I puzzle about whether it means the same as the source does.

For now I just translated it as "facetious joke".

I wonder before I can find a better term, which one should I use best? The law of nature? Or just a funny remark?
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/11/06 06:48 AM
Maybe Callithump, you could also translate this as "a wold wide joke" if there an equal to "world wide" in Chinese. Because this settling for less with the same personal capacities is a world wide phenomenen.

Maybe the "cosmic joke" in the end is on the one whe grabs the dubble income. Those who settle for less can do so for a purpose and have different reasons for it.
Quality of life, staying level with and loyal to the social circle they were born to. (or to explore life rather than their bank account).

There are many people who do not have the urge to be richer than their neighbours.Who want to share.(That's what allows the very rich to become so grabbish).) (The law of nature occured to me only because I thought of the inevitable connection: where people settle for less other's can settle for more)

The "cosmic" problem ( or just another and cruel "cosmic joke"? ) is that the larger part of the world does not have the choice to settle for less , because it's quite impossible to settle for less than nothing if you want to stay alive.

Is "world wide" another option?
Posted By: Jackie Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/11/06 12:15 PM
Calli, here are a couple of partial quotes (I couldn't access the one article that sounded like it was going to actually define cosmic joke--it was restricted). So these are phrases taken from Google listings.
the human condition, if faced squarely, can be viewed as a cosmic joke
The innate joy of discovering the Cosmic Joke of life

I wish I had a real understanding of what it meant (though I thank you, FNA; you helped me along quite nicely). But it sounds as though it means that we might as well be resigned to the fact that we have little control over what happens to us, and that the "joke" aspect is, as FNA said, an ironic term. Perhaps (somebody please correct me if I'm wrong) an example might be that someone who has used his hands to make a living (a violinist, a bricklayer) loses the use of them.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you, calli, have a good understanding of the concept, then perhaps you can find Chinese words or phrases that convey the same thing, without doing a literal translation.

I don't envy anybody the job of translating. Just think, for ex., of how off-putting it would be to most native English speakers if we got a literal translation of an Italian recipe for "little worms"!

EDIT: I just tried to look up another phrase, and I'll be danged if I didn't get the same site as the one above that wouldn't let me in! Is that a cosmic joke?
Posted By: Aramis Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/11/06 01:45 PM
Easier by example:

Keanau Reeve was going to an island. He got a flat tire on the way, and so missed the ferry, which sank and drowned everyone on it. Upon hearing the news, he said, "Whoa... cosmic."
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/11/06 03:34 PM


EDIT: I just tried to look up another phrase, and I'll be danged if I didn't get the same site as the one above that wouldn't let me in! Is that a cosmic joke?

Ah, Jackie , you see? We only have to discuss "cosmic"and the high powers are moving in at once.
Posted By: Zed Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/12/06 10:36 PM
I think the misleading word is joke. It isn't necessarily something that is funny in the way that riddles and funny stories are. More like a practical joke played by the universe on someone. Like many practical jokes it is often not funny for those it is played on but often carries an element of "poetic justice" (see below). By definition the event has to be coincidental not the deliberate act of another person.
Does that make sense to others?

Poetic justice is when the punishment is particularely well fitted to the misdeed or the misdoer. e.g. the arsonist who dies in an accidental fire.
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/13/06 08:23 AM
Hello, Zed. Your defintion of 'practical joke' sounds pretty good to me alright. But it does not solve the problem of "cosmic joke" imo.
Cosmic jokes, (if we come to the right understanding of the word at all), are fickle. Touching 'good' and 'bad' equally.
Maybe the problem is caused by the way the writer of the original sentence
(translated by Callitthump) uses these words. Maybe if he had just used the simple words 'the ironic thing' it would have not posed this problem to translators. For that's what it finally is. Ironic. This income business. "Cosmic Joke " makes it look more than it is.
To use "cosmic joke" it would need a special setting, context. Like that example above of someone missing the boat that goes down. I think there should be a shocking surprise element in it. Practicle jokes maybe are man- made? Cosmic jokes are made by fate. Anyway,I did my best (big effort to cross the line from dreaming to thinking )
I like the subject.
Posted By: Faldage Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/13/06 09:52 AM
My notion of a cosmic joke would be more like giving a carnivore's digestive system to an animal that eats mostly bamboo shoots.
Posted By: BranShea Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/13/06 03:08 PM
But, positive side: in a short while the bamboos would not mind a little break.
Posted By: callithump Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/16/06 06:46 AM
I "managed" to find one corresponding Chinese expression, though it's some traditional Chinese. The expression is:

天意弄人(hope it will not turn out to be displayed greek).

Literally it means "Heaven means to taunt human".

Is this closer? The overall sentence would look like this if translated using this: What heaven means to taunt human here is:...

Does this sound fine? Though in Chinese it might be some formal, or not colloquial enough as expected.

Thanks all you guys for helping me. I was grateful to all the posts.
Posted By: Zed Re: "cosmic joke"? - 10/20/06 11:50 PM
How about " One way in which heaven taunts humans is that there is very little difference in talent between ..."
or " Heaven's way of tarnting humans in theis field (or area) is that there is usually very little difference in talent between the person who earns $50,000 per year and the one who earns $100,000 per year. The only difference is that one has settled at a lower level while the other has refused to settle for less than $100,000."
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