When is a door not a door?

I’m translating a children’s book at the moment; for seven to nine-year-olds. And I’m constantly wondering whether I should choose easy words all the time. On the one hand, obviously I want children to be able to read the book easily (or understand it easily if it’s being read aloud to them) but on the other hand, some words are just so lovely that they’re worth learning when you’re young! At one point, one character is cleaning windows with one of those window wiper thingummybobs, like that thing you use to smooth out wallpaper or spread grout on tiles. The window wiper is called a squeegee in English. Although it sounds modern, written references date back as far as the mid-nineteenth century. Now you wouldn’t want to deprive children of such a delicious word, would you? Squeegee!

The title of this blog refers to an old joke and it came to mind when I had to decide whether to translate the Dutch sentence with ‘the door was slightly open’ or use the English word that replaces ‘slightly open’ which is ‘ajar’. The door is ajar means that it’s slightly open. A lid can also be ajar. In the end, I decided to use the word ‘ajar’. It might come in handy when the child is older.

The joke? When is a door not a door? Answer: when it’s a jar! Get it? 😊