Illustration: Daniel Baxter; illustration reference: “Quomodo invidiosulus nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem abrogaverit” (“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in Latin), translated by Jennifer Tunberg

How do you say “Grinch” in Chinese? Although midterms were coming up, Jonathan Kent ’10 was busy translating a stanza from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas into Tang Dynasty poetic style. He settled on “lugui,” which means “green ghost or goblin.” “It’s an ambiguous term that can be both good and evil,” said Kent.

Kent’s translation was part of a campuswide contest organized by the Princeton University Language Project (PULP). PULP harnesses Princeton’s diversity to translate documents for nonprofit organizations around the globe. PULP co-vice president Jun Xiang ’10 dreamed up the translation contest as a way to spread awareness of the group on campus, and to highlight the creative side of translation.  

Xiang hoped for 30 submissions. In two weeks, 67 entries in a total of 31 languages flooded his e-mail inbox. Hebrew, Hindi, and Hungarian. Russian, Turkish, Korean, and Japanese. French, German, Nepali, Polish, Swedish, Spanish, Swahili — to name a few.

Anton Fleissner ’12 was inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid to set the Seussian classic in dactylic hexameter: Christi Natalem tempestatem oderat Erxus! To the annoyance of his homework partner, Faaez Ul Haq ’11 put off a problem set in order to translate the Grinch into four languages: Norwegian, Arabic, Punjabi, and Urdu. Originally from Pakistan, Haq was unfamiliar with Dr. Seuss — though he remembers watching Sesame Street in his native Urdu as a kid.  

Two submissions arrived in pig Latin, which were problematic to judge because they are identical. But surprisingly for Xiang, there were no entries in either Klingon or Elvish.  

With such a range of submissions, Xiang had to scour the campus for professors proficient in each language to act as judges. Xiang admitted he was having trouble finding a professor who speaks Danish, Malay, Sesotho, or Singlish — a Creole language spoken in Singapore. But he secured renowned philosophy professor Kwame Appiah to judge the entry written in Twi, a native language of Ghana.

Come Christmas, students might have a new take on Dr. Seuss’ poem, as sample submissions are posted around campus. Gone will be the familiar “The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!” Rather, students might be reciting phrases more at home in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: “Grinchi Alichukia Krismasi! Alichukia majira yote ya Krismasi!”

By Catherine Mevs ’09

On a warm Friday morning in October, 12 Princeton students dragged themselves out of bed at sunrise to take a trip from FitzRandolph Gate to the gates of Northern State Prison in Newark.

It was the first of six visits by students in POL 319, “Law, Politics, and Violence,” to area correctional facilities. “Students in POL 319 read what social scientists, lawyers, and judges say about prisons,” course instructor Beth Jamieson, a lecturer in politics, said in an e-mail. “I want students to see the problems for themselves.”  

Sasha-Anais Sharif ’09 was surprised at her initial nervousness upon arriving at the prison: “Even in the lobby, it was a different mentality of being aware of your surroundings — and tense.”  

As the students toured the recreational yard, the prisoners yelled out at them — an unnerving experience, Sharif said.

“[The prisoners] were kind of encaged, and we were these students from Princeton just walking and looking in, and I did sort of wonder what we were doing there,” she said.  

But she added that “there was a value in seeing that firsthand, no matter how uncomfortable it is.”  

Sitting down to talk with about 10 inmates was the most intense part of the visit, students said. “Most people would probably be scared sitting next to a murderer,” Elizabeth Ingriselli ’11 said. But once the group started talking, she said, “I definitely felt comfortable.” Sharif added that the discussion was “like one you’d have in a precept.”

One inmate said he was an Ivy League graduate. “It kind of hit home that someone I could relate to more was in some place that I could never imagine myself,” Stephanie Stern ’11 said.

Grayson Barber *80, a preceptor for POL 319 and a practicing lawyer, led the Northern State trip. She described the visit as a “powerful experience,” but said she felt that the students were “taking it in stride.”

“I don’t know if I was there for enough time to really know how hard it is for the prisoners,” Ingriselli said. “It’s a terrible thing, but you get back to school and ... you don’t think about it as much.”