Erika Fuchs, A Master of Words
By Sabina Wrightsman
Erika Fuchs, PhD, began translating Micky Mouse and Donald Duck comic strips into German in 1951, especially Carl Bark’s stories about Duckburg (Entenhausen) and its inhabitants. She was often referred to as an acrobat of words.
What made her so famous is that she did not just translate word for word, but she localized each comic book story and even created a new verb form in German that is still used today. The new form shortened the verb after their stem imitating sounds, such as klimper, schluck, stöhn, (jingle, gulp, groan), and also to represent soundless events like staun, grübel, zitter (goggle, ponder, tremble).
By shortening such verbs, she was often able to translate a complete sentence with only one word, which was important as German is such a long language and room for text is limited in comic books. These forms influenced the German language. To this day, all Germans still use these abbreviated verb forms in everyday conversations, in all sms, email and text messages.
There is even a name for these ‘sound-words’ in German: it is called an Erikativ, adding to genetive, dative, accusative, etc.
Her translations were also more creative than the original ones. Unlike the English originals, her translations included many hidden quotes and literary allusions. As Erica Fuchs once said, “You can’t be educated enough to translate comic books”.
This could be a reason why adult Germans are more interested in Donald Duck than adult Americans.
A comic museum named after Erika Fuchs, opened on August 1, 2015 in her hometown of Schwarzenbach and der Saale.
Her German website can be found here: http://www.erika-fuchs.de/