1

I cannot understand the meaning of the word Arm in the sentence:

... die Sonne...bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden source, p. 241

Der Arm, according to the dictionary, can be arm as a body limb, or a branch of a tree or of a river. All these meanings fit here badly, even if taken metaphorically. For the text has no thoughts or references to possibly branched structure of the sea. And why is it infinite?

I could accept the meaning on the great bosom of the Ocean here. But Arm could have such metaphoric meaning due to two reasons: It has similar non-metaphorical meaning or a ready expression with this or very close metaphoric meaning exists. But I couldn't find neither the similar meaning nor a similar phrase.

In the very modern and experimental or specially funny text there could be a third reason: creation of the new metaphor and meaning in site, but such tricks are very hard for understanding, and the source is a children book, so I consider this variant improbable.

In the Duden, I had found yet another meaning of the word Arm: Arsch (ass). And that meaning does fit the context ideally.

The sun sinking in the endless ass of the Southern Sea

is very nice and funny and controverse and romantic-expectations-breaking sentence. But in a children’s book?

So either I didn’t understand the use of the word in this context, or hadn’t found the correct dictionary, or greatly underestimated the bravery of Astrid Lindgren and Cäcilie Heinig – her translator to German.

Please, how should I understand the sentence?

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    Why do you think that the sea in question - obviously the South Pacific here - does not have Arme? There are islands in the South Pacific, as far as I am told, and consequently between them you have bodies of water that can comfortably be called Arme. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 20 '18 at 15:19
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    I have never heard of arse as the meaning of Arm in German, except if someone tries to "defuse" a saying containing Arsch, e.g. "Du kannst mich am Arm lecken" or "das geht mir am Arm vorbei", where Arm takes the place of the vulgar Arsch. – Rudy Velthuis Aug 18 '18 at 8:51
  • Why was this downvoted? The OP did some research and has provided some good reasoning. – Robert Aug 18 '18 at 13:47
  • The defusing use of "Arm" instead of "Arsch" for me mostly appeared in the phrase "Am Arm der Welt", instead of "Am Arsch der Welt", which is a vulgar phrase referring to a place that is very isolated (e.g. maybe a town that is far away from larger cities) – Marco13 Aug 19 '18 at 11:49
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My subjective but confident reading, very much provoked by the presence of unendlich and versinken is that the passage tries to evoke an idyllic feeling and uses Arm in the sense of bosom. As in:

Die Mutter hielt den Säugling im Arm.

I would translate:

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden…/ when the sun started descending and was about to set in the infinite bosom of the South Sea…

I don’t understand, why you disqualified this meaning, which you already mentioned. In my view this metaphor is perfectly relatable to Germans. Furthermore we have to consider the frequency of the metaphor in Swedish besides German. Even when a metaphor is not commonplace, translators often translate it quite directly, as long as it’s relatable.

The translator (and perhaps the original Author too, whom I cannot read) may simultaneously be thinking of Meeresarm mentioned by others. This word play is probably too good to be an accident. Arm der See has certainly been used to denote Meeresarm (evidence, further evidence, which seems to misspell estuary ). In fact I think that in dem makes both interpretations problematic. You don’t use it in the fixed expression „in its bosom“ but you also don’t use it without prior reference to a Meeresarm.

As for the Arse this meaning is absolutely not intended, especially in a children’s book. I have traveled very much in the German speaking world and can’t remember Arm ever used for Arse in real life.

  • I didn't think about THAT metaphor. Foolish me. Now I think that your answer is the correct one. If A.L thought about the river-sort-bay Bjorn mentioned, she would SURELY make this piece of decoration to play its role. If she didn't, she meant pure metaphoric meaning. I trust in the best quality of her text. – Gangnus Aug 17 '18 at 21:16
  • Was sollen die unbegründeten Down votes? – Ludi Aug 18 '18 at 20:54
  • Es hatte damals etlicher Kommentare und schließlich eines Fotos des Meeresarms von Larantuka (dem Ort, der als Vorlage fürs Taka-Tuka-Land diente) bedurft, um den OP davon zu überzeugen, dass A. L. mit dem Arm der Südsee tatsächlich einen Meeresarm meint, und nicht etwa einen Meerbusen. Der OP hatte sich vehement gegen Meeresarm gewehrt, weil er der irrigen Meinung war, A. L. hätte diese vorher eingeführt, schließlich sei sie eine brillante Schriftstellerin, die keine Fehler mache ... – Björn Friedrich Aug 19 '18 at 6:00
  • @BjörnFriedrich aha. Das war mir nicht bewusst. Ich gehe bei einer solchen Nutzung im Umfeld von unendlich und verschwinden tatsächlich von einer Metapher aus, natürlich ohne anzuzweifeln, daß die See auch Arme haben kann. Früher oder später taucht bestimmt jemand auf, der Schwedisch spricht und mehr dazu sagen kann. – Ludi Aug 19 '18 at 6:14
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    @BjörnFriedrich Das klingt schade und lag nicht in meiner Absicht. Ich lese den Text wirklich wie dargelegt, aber nach längerem nachdenken finde ich die Präsenz von dem für beide Interpretationen problematisch. Ich werde nach Schweden Ausschau halten. Vielleicht war AL auch das Wortspiel wichtig! – Ludi Aug 19 '18 at 6:49
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Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden, riefen die Trommeln der Taka-Tuka-Bewohner alle Menschen zum Fest- und Regierungsplatz, der mitten im Ort lag.
(from PIPPI in Taka-Tuka-Land, p. 241)

You already noticed that rivers can have arms, but seas can have arms, too. See, for example, the entries of Meeresarm in the Duden, the DWDS, or the Wiktionary. Even dict.cc knows it.

Addendum:
I googled a bit and found out that the fictitious Taka-Tuka-Land is borrowed from the real place Larantuka on Flores Island, Indonesia. A picture, taken from a hotel building there, gives you an impression of the nearby Meeresarm:

https://goo.gl/maps/P8P4ubkop9D2
Picture on Google Maps supplied by user Bulan Sari.

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    Of course. A sea CAN have an arm. But the mentioned sea has not. And I had said about it in the question. – Gangnus Jan 20 '18 at 12:15
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    @Gagnus But you seem to accept the mentioned sea can have a bosom?? – tofro Jan 20 '18 at 12:37
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    @Gagnus As everybody has been trying to convince you (even if your question seems to ask something different) - yes, there is the same metaphoric phrase about arms in German. Meeresarm, der lange Arm des Gesetzes, ... – tofro Jan 20 '18 at 12:45
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    @Gangnus, in a fiction text unendlicher Arm can only be a hyperbole (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole) and have the meaning the arm looks very long rather than the geodesic length of the arm tends to infinity. Furthermore, in fiction, things do not need to be introduced before they are used. The rigor you expect from scientific texts is out of place in fiction. – Björn Friedrich Jan 20 '18 at 13:30
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    Oh! That is really a Meersarm. But it is a pity that that landscape detail is not described or mentioned elsewhere in the book. – Gangnus Jan 20 '18 at 23:52
5

You must have been mixing up something:

  • (Germ) Arm = (Engl) arm
  • (Germ) Arsch = (Engl) ass

This is the complete sentence (on page 241):

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden, riefen die Trommeln der Taka-Tuka-Bewohner alle Menschen zum Fest- und Regierungsplatz, der mitten im Ort lag.

In English:

When the sun began to sink and was ready to disappear in the infinite arm of the South Seas, the drums of the Taka Tuka dwellers called all people to the festival and government square, which lay in the middle of the village.

Obviousely the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren used the Swedish Word »arm« in a metaphoric way in her Swedish original. I think she wanted to express, that the South Seas embraced the sinking sun. The German translation of this Swedish word »arm« is »Arm«, and the English translation is »arm«.


addendum

About bosom (Reaction to comments):

The German word for bosom is »Busen«. There are two things to say about this word:

  1. The German word »Busen« has almost the same sexual connotation as the English word »titts«. It is not appropriate to use this word in a children's book.

  2. The term »Busen der See« or »Busen des Meeres« is as unusual in German as »Arm der See«.

There also is the word »Meerbusen«, but it has a meaning, that doesn't fit here. This is a geographic term that means gulf or bay:

Finnischer Meerbusen = Gulf of Finland
Bottnischer Meerbusen = Gulf of Bothnia
Rigaischer Meerbusen = Gulf of Riga, Bay of Riga

  • That the most direct understanding means a mediocre quality of text. Any metaphor should have a reason. And this one has no reason here. In other places I see the text of absolutely fantastic quality and I did not believe that here is so much worse. So, you think, there is a ready existing metaphor in Sweden and the translator translated it directly, without changing to a corresponding metaphor in German? – Gangnus Jan 20 '18 at 12:20
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    @Gangnus: This site is about German language. I have no idea, what metaphoric meanings Swedish words have. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 20 '18 at 12:23
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    @Gangnus I can't really see why you can accept "bosom of the sea" as proper metaphor and "Arm der Südsee" is non-acceptable. – tofro Jan 20 '18 at 12:35
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    @Gagnus You seem to be assuming that metaphors are language-independent. They aren't. In an answer and quite a number of comments you have already been told "Arm der See" is acceptable. The German metaphor not only looks at the reach out or reach in aspect of arms, but rather at the embracing aspect as well. Nobody has told you yet: That Duden reference to asses is extremely uncommon in German (I personally have never heard that). You're on the wrong track. – tofro Jan 20 '18 at 13:10
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    @Gangnus: We are not telling about English terms. We talk about German terms. 1. The German term »Busen der See« is as unusual as »Arm der See« (There is the German term »Meerbusen«, but this is a geographical term that means »gulf« in English). 2. The term »Busen« has a sexual connotation in German and therefore is not appropriate in a children's book. – Hubert Schölnast Jan 20 '18 at 15:40
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Given the context

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden, riefen die Trommeln der Taka-Tuka-Bewohner alle Menschen zum Fest- und Regierungsplatz, der mitten im Ort lag.

it is obvious (at least for me) that this is seen from the perspective of someone standing on the Island (Taka-Tuka is an island, as everybody knows who has read his Lindgren), and what do you see when standing on an island and looking out to the sea? You see a stretch of water, quite wide from from left to right, but very narrow from top to bottom. So this is clearly something lengthy, and thus can well be called an Arm.

But also more technically, as Taka-Tuka-Land is an island, even if you look at it from an airplane, you have a body of water between the island and the next piece of land, and this again can without any problem be called an Arm. Quite similar to the Ärmelkanal, although possibly wider.

I even wonder how else you could call a piece of water or section of an ocean that is lenghty in appearance, or devides two pieces of dry land?


Some experiments to check if there are alternatives

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Bein der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Bauch der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Ohr der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Strich der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in der unendlichen Fläche der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in der unendlichen Weite der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in der unendlichen Straße der Südsee zu verschwinden...

Only the Fläche, Weite seem possible, but then they do not express lengthiness.

I think Arm was a good decision.

2

By the use of »Arm« the author (at least the translator) tried to gain some extra benefit for the reader. This try has failed. The reader is misled since an »Arm« is longer than wide and the given landscape is no »Meeresarm« which is the most common association while reading »Arm der Südsee«. Sure, it's a clever idea to interprete the »Arm« like Christian Geiselmann did, but I doubt that many readers go this path. Utterly sufficient would therefore be:

Als die Sonne zu sinken begann und bereit war, in dem unendlichen Arm der Südsee zu verschwinden, riefen die Trommeln der Taka-Tuka-Bewohner alle Menschen zum Fest- und Regierungsplatz, der mitten im Ort lag.

  • @BjörnFriedrich: Wie die Taka-Tuka-Landschaft aussieht, weiß ich nicht, habe lediglich geschlussfolgert. Zum einen berufe ich mich auf den OP mit seinem Satz »For the text has no thoughts or references to possibly branched structure of the sea«, zum anderen glaube ich nicht, dass mit der Formulierung »... unendlichen Arm der Südsee ...« ein Meeresarm gemeint ist. – Pollitzer Jan 20 '18 at 19:31
  • All answers suppose really a style mistake in the translation. But only you named it so. +1 – Gangnus Jan 20 '18 at 23:55

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