Language help please

Another friend of mine, a professional translator translating from English to Chinese has asked me for help with her latest project: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”. There are two questions which I have problems explaining, the first because it’s an American colloquialism, I presume.

The second, may not be so much trouble from a translation point of view, but it’s a matter of understanding.

I understand complete/incomplete/interception; what I don’t understand “minus two hundred”, “plus a hundred and fifty” and “plus a thousand”. How do they relate to normal (to us) way of expressing odds, “5 to 4 on”, “3 to 2” or “100 to 1”? If one made a $100 bet, what would one expect to receive if each of those results came up.

So, could anyone explain for me, please?

Mr X

Not sure, but sounds to me like some sort of card counting algorithm … :confused:

If the context does not provide a better way to understand their meaning, I’d just translate them literally.

I’d ask the author.

I suspect that “scrooge” might be a typo by the author, proofreader, or typesetter. “Scrooch” means “crouch” or “bend”, which would fit with pretty well with the sense of “spiralling”. That, or a very singular use by the writer.

Actually it’s laying bets on an American Football match, betting on what will happen to Drew Henson’s first pass: will it be caught successfully by his team-mate; will his team mate fail to catch it; will a member of the opposing team catch it. I have no problem with that; and betting on plays within a game is common in football, cricket — leading to match-fixing scandals as betting syndicates bribe players. But if someone bets $100 dollars on Henson’s first pass being ‘complete’ and that’s what happens, how much does s/he win, that’s what I don’t understand … even if the final answer is just to translate them literally.

Mr X

Thanks Briar. I actually came to that conclusion myself, … I don’t think it’s a typo, but more likely a singular use by the author, or a Texan dialect or military slang usage. I don’t know if Joy, with whom I’ve collaborated on a number of translations, is in a position to contact the author (Ben Fountain). She is only translating the first chapter it seems, others will do the rest of the book. Furthermore, I believe this translation is not for publication as such, but is intended as a reference translation for Ang Lee who is turning the book into a film.

All-in-all, I don’t envy her one bit with this translation; it will be really difficult.

Mr X

Me neither. And further down the page the thing becomes even more complicated… There seems to be a different number depending on the outcome of the pass. Its like if it would operate under a subtraction/addition logic instead of the more familiar multiplication/division odds betting language.

weird bet language.PNG

I’ve never heard of this. Neither have the neighbors. We are all Americans but not gamblers.

No freaking clue, here, either.

My guess for “scrooge” would be something like “climb”. It doesn’t seem to be normal military slang (USAF or RAF), so my assumption is that the author was going for fake aviation slang to sound authentic.

A C130 is a Hercules, so not exactly built for acrobatics, hence my guess being that only spiral that thing is doing is a few circles to gain height over relatively safe ground before it bugs out.

The odds quoted are a ‘moneyline’ bet.

Complete -200
Means for every $2 risked you can win $1

Incomplete +150
For every $1 risked you win $1.50

Interception +1000
for every $1 risked you win $10

Climbing quickly to a safe height, “screw” would also make sense, and certainly fit with the imagery of a “hard spiralling” screw thread:

“They were hustled onto a C-130 in the middle of night and took off from Baghdad in a hard spiralling screw.”

I’m still sold on the typo of “scrooch” (though that’s not usually a noun) or a personal idiosyncrasy. has it has a variant spelling of scrouge meaning to squeeze or crowd. The OED only has scrooge as a head word for anything related to or metaphorical usage of Scrooge.

If you want more background on how moneyline bets work (or simply prefer to trust a referenced source): … ylines.htm
or you can check out wikipedia which includes a table comparing moneyline odds to those used in other systems.

in short…
-200 = 1/2
+150 = 3/2
+1000 = 10/1

Thanks all. Sorry not to have responded individually and earlier, this has been a couple of weeks full of incident and complications.

I’ve passed on Pigfender’s explanations to Joy, since they make complete sense to me, and will expand on that basis to her if necessary. So special thanks to him.

I must say that, having read the first couple of pages of the novel, I am not tempted to read on — not apparently my type of reading — but, of course, if she comes back with any more questions, I will do my best to help.


Mr X