Would it be jarring if in an original (non-translated) story, the characters, who don't speak English in-universe, use "untranslatable" wordplay/puns that are specific to English?
By "untranslatable" I mean that if a pun is translated literally into another language, it's not apparent why it's funny, and you need to explain why it's funny in the original language: see here (archived version) for some examples.
Arguments against non-English speakers using English-specific wordplay:
- Lack of realism can hurt fiction: granted, this applies more to fiction that tries to be realistic, or to the specific readers know more about a technical field than you do, and in my case, I'm not writing for an audience of linguists.
- I can't shake off the gut feeling that it just feels gimmicky: it's almost an "added" in translation, because there is no equivalent in the foreign language, the characters don't know English, and I'm not trying to adapt existing wordplay into English because it's not a translation. There is no logical justification, so to speak, for that English-specific pun to exist, if not for the sake of it.
Arguments in favor of poetic licenses:
- Storytelling is about telling a logically coherent story, not realism: this is probably the most compelling argument.
- The audience doesn't care: the average layperson doesn't know or care about the minutiae of translating wordplay, they care more about a good story.
- It's restrictive otherwise: taken to the logical extreme, it would mean that original stories can only be written in the language that is spoken by the characters, because there are many words that have a deeper meaning to them, that just cannot be reproduced in other languages. For example, Greek has four words for "love", and while you can translate "eros" as "lust", it's not the same.
The audience probably doesn't care, but I definitely do...