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I just saw a friend's profile saying: Not a geek, but like a geek.

Somehow I immediately translated it as 不是geek胜似geek. But it seems not right since

I feel that 不是geek胜似geek is much semantically richer than the original English version.

Thus, I wonder how to translate 不是geek胜似geek into English so that it makes more sense.

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1  
Not a geek, but better than a geek? –  杨以轩 Dec 9 '12 at 6:58
    
@QuestionOverflow Come on, can't we be a little more poetic or at least idiomatic :) –  Terry Li Dec 9 '12 at 7:17
    
I don't see how your request is relevant to the title of your question. Would it be more appropriate to post this question on English SE since the English translation of the phrase is quite straight forward? @Huang's answer would have been very relevant to your question title and the objective of Chinese SE though :) –  杨以轩 Dec 10 '12 at 3:35

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I prefer "Not a geek, but more than a geek"

Example, This man has profound knowledge of ancient China. he is not a professor, but I think he is more than a professor.

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John Siu makes an excellent point about not translating word for word. Still, it's hard to avoid the parallel clauses in the structure. A liberal translation, probably a bit too liberal, might take advantage of the thing being compared in the 不是......胜似 context. In this case, the comparison is of geeks, so perhaps a geek phrase for "beyond compare" could work, so that

他不是极客胜似极客

could be expressed as

He's not just a geek, he's a level ω geek

Obviously that is not literal and only works in this context. But any translation that expresses "transcending comparison" is already at the edge.

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Would you like "not a geek, but beyond a geek"?

Here are something more that I have referred to:

prep. 超过; 越过; 那一边; 在…较远的一边
adv. 在远处; 在更远处
n. 远处

Here is what it comes.

  1. PREP 影响;涵盖;包括 If something extends beyond a particular thing, it affects or includes other things.

His interests extended beyond the fine arts to international politics and philosophy.
他兴趣广泛,涵盖了从美术到国际政治乃至哲学的各个领域。

Back to the question, though it is said, I still care about if "beyond a geek" will be ambiguous... Would someone like to tell me how you comprehend if you are natively speaking English?


added on 12Y12M16D

What I want to note you all is, "不是"(pronounced bu2 shi4, means "be not") is absolutely different from "不似"(pronounced bu2 si4, means "not familiar to","be not like")
And the non-poetic translation of the sentence "不是geek胜似geek" can be "(He who) is not a geek is better than a geek" Make attention that in fact the man/woman is not a geek, so @QuestionOverflow and @Jun1st is quite right...

As the same reason what @Huang said:
Both of them are correct to me, and the difference comes from the difference between "是"(to be) and "似"(to be like, similar to), so let's focus on the "胜似"。
can be regarded as fault.

And what @JohnSiu said:
First half of the sentence A Better geek, is still referring to a geek. But when you combine with the second half of the sentence than Geek, which use geek in a more general sense, give you a feeling of Better Geek is something other than a geek. That seems to reflect the Chinese meaning better.
is doubtful.
(btw: I likes your translation of Chairman Mao's poem ^ω^)

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"beyond a geek" would not be ambiguous. It's not the most natural thing to say, but it makes perfect sense in this situation. –  Stumpy Joe Pete Dec 14 '12 at 16:37
    
@StumpyJoePete Oh, thanks. This will help me improves my ENG. –  cuter44 Dec 16 '12 at 8:10

When we try to translate between different languages, we should not try to go word by word. Though sometimes it is possible, correct, or even the only way. But usually only for short senstance.

OP friend's profile

Not a geek, but like a geek

is very close to, or very acceptable translation of

不是geek胜似geek

I will also try follow

A Better Geek than Geek

First half of the sentence A Better geek, is still referring to a geek. But when you combine with the second half of the sentence than Geek, which use geek in a more general sense, give you a feeling of Better Geek is something other than a geek. That seems to reflect the Chinese meaning better.

Referring to cuter44 post, I will try translating

不似春光,胜似春光,寥廓江天万里霜

to

A Better Spring than Spring
  Lonely Fortress
    Shiny River
      A Frozen World
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I propose "not merely a geek" or perhaps "not just a geek..." (the implication being that 胜似geek in the context the OP cites suggests transcending the status of geek, not opposition to it).

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First, there are two versions related to this pattern.

  1. 不是X,胜似X
  2. 不似X,胜似X

Both of them are correct to me, and the difference comes from the difference between "是"(to be) and "似"(to be like, similar to), so let's focus on the "胜似"。

胜 means "to be better than"

In general, you use this pattern in a context with comparison, to express

something isn't(or isn't like) X, but better(bigger, more,etc. depending on the context) than X.

Examples:

不似春光,胜似春光,寥廓江天万里霜。 A famous verse from 《采桑子·重阳》by Mao Zedong

It(the scene) isn't like the scene in Spring(that poem was written in Autumn),but more beautiful than that; Sorry that I can't come up with the translation of the last sentence... 他们不是亲人,胜似亲人。 They are not related by blood, but they are more intimate than people related by blood.

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