How many Jedi?

(There’s no technical content in this post… but you may get a bit of a giggle from it. When I get the second edition web site notes together I’ll include this as well… but I thought it was fun enough to deserve a blog post too.)

The second edition of C# in Depth is nearing the end of its technical review cycle, as performed by the great Eric Lippert. Yesterday I received the comments for chapter 13, which includes this section heading:

The revenge of optional parameters and named arguments

Now, my copy editor (Ben) wasn’t too keen on this. He suggested an alternative form:

I think "have their revenge" has more of a ring to it than "the revenge of"

Personally I’m quite fond of the original, but Eric suggested another alternative, with customary flair:

I’m not buying it Ben. Your way vs Jon’s way:
"The Clones Attack"       / "Attack of the Clones"
"The Sith Have Revenge"   / "The Revenge of the Sith"
"The Empire Strikes Back" / "The Counter-attack of the Empire"
"The Jedi Return"         / "The Return of the Jedi"

I would argue – I have before and I will again – that the proper title for episode two is not the passive, wimpy "Attack of the Clones" but rather the aggressive, dynamic, active "The Clones Attack", preferably with an exclamation point, "The Clones Attack!"

"The Sith Have Revenge" has that awkward verb form. "The Counter-attack of the Empire" is too wordy. And "The Jedi Return" is just… wrong.  So I would score these as the winners being Ben / Jon / Ben / Jon.

I say "the revenge of" is superior to "have their revenge", but that the best would be "Optional and named parameters strike back".

Also, NOOOOOO! You’re not my father!

This intrigued me mightily, so I dashed off an email to Eric:

Hi Eric,

I’m just going through your notes for chapter 13, and they’ve brought up an issue which I think would bother me if I didn’t consult you about it.

You suggested that the alternative to "Return of the Jedi" (1) would be "The Jedi Return." That implies multiple Jedi returning – does this include Anakin returning from the Dark Side? Leia’s nascent ability being revealed? I had always imagine it to only refer to Luke’s return, suggesting "The Jedi Returns" as the parallel title. This could change everything.



(1) There’s no leading "The" in the English title, as far as I can tell – although in French it’s "Le retour du Jedi." Does this alter your argument at all?

Eric’s reply was as prompt as ever:

First off, you’re right, there’s no leading “The”. I had not realized that.

I had always assumed that the “Jedi” of the title “Return of the Jedi” referred to the beginning of the restoration of the Jedi as an institution. With the downfall of the Emperor and Lord Vader, the Jedi are back. Even though technically there’s only one of them alive in the club right now, there will be more.

However, I must admit that in light of episodes one through three, it now seems plausible that in fact the Jedi referred to in the title is neither the Jedi as a class nor Luke as an individual, but rather the redemption of Anakin.

Beyond the dialogue…

So, that’s the end of that, right? We can’t really tell what Lucas was thinking… except that when I relayed all of this at the office over breakfast, someone suggested that we have a look at some other translations – and that we pay more attention to the French than just the inclusion of "Le" to start with.

The fact that the French version uses "du" suggests it’s the return of a singular Jedi rather than many individual Jedi knights… but apparently the singular form can also be used for a collective institution, in line with Eric’s "Jedi as a class" theory.

The German version is still ambiguous, as far as I can tell interesting: "Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter" – a colleague suggested that this implies knights plural, but "the return of the knight" and "the return of the knights" translate the same way in Google Translate. The fact that "ritter" is both plural and singular (like sheep in English) looks like it foils us. EDIT: As noted in comments, the genetive form would be "des" for a singular knight. So it really is "knights". I was misled by automated translation – I should have trusted my colleague 🙂 But does this mean "the return of several individual Jedi knights" or "the return of an institution of Jedi knights"? Without knowing the subtleties of the German language, I certainly can’t tell for sure.

There’s a whole host of titles of course – if any reader gifted in languages wishes to analyse some more of them, I’d be very grateful. One thing I will point out is the alternative US working title: "Revenge of the Jedi." Who really had their revenge in episode VI? Arguably Luke avenged Han by killing Jabba… and perhaps Anakin himself took revenge on the Emperor? Given that Obi Wan effectively started Luke on the crusade against Vader, perhaps it’s his revenge from beyond the grave?

These are serious matters which I lament I am unable to explore adequately in this post – but comments are more welcome than ever.


So what happened to the heading in the end? Well, for the moment I’ve left it as it is. It may yet change before printing though – we’ll see. Possibly I should take this opportunity to make Eric’s dream change apply in a different context… how about "Attack of the optional parameters and named arguments!" Perhaps not.

Anyway, I’m sure you will all be glad to see that such weighty technical matters are being given the thorough attention they deserve. Yes, the book really will come out sometime reasonably soon.

25 thoughts on “How many Jedi?

  1. Interesting. 😀

    However, Google Translate messed up your German translation: “of the knight” requires the genitive form in German and thus the correctly translated version of “The return of the Jedi” (singular) is “Die Rückkehr des Jedi-Ritters”. In fact, similarly, the comic book “Batman – The Dark Knight returns” is titled “Die Rückkehr des dunklen Ritters” in German.

    Therefore, the title definitely uses the plural form. Eric’s interpretation about the restoration of the Jedi as an institution appears to me to be the correct one…

  2. Sorry, Jon, the German version is NOT ambiguous. In “Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter”, “Ritter” may be both singular or plural, but as a masculine noun, the singular “return of” would be “Die Rückkehr des Jedi-Ritters”. So the actual title is definitely plural.

  3. Good article and I like all of your points. There is another option though to George Lucas’ choice of the title “Return of the Jedi”. It could mean everything you just said.

    Good literature is often ambiguous because that leaves it open to the readers interpretation which ties them more closely to the piece.

    To me the title Return of the Jedi may mean one thing on the surface but its complexity in meanings creates a deeper connection to the underlying story as I try subconsciously to try and connect the many meanings to the plot.

    Just my 2 cents!

  4. “Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter” is plural. The phrase requires a genitive, so the singular form would be “Die Rückkehr des Jedi-Ritters”.
    Google Translate is wrong here, though it produces the correct result if you use genitive in English (“the knight’s return”).

  5. Haha, Jon, You’re mad!

    I’ve been on the lookout for people with as crazy though processes as myself for some time.

    Glad to know you’re out there in all your mad glory.

    Great piece.

  6. In Spanish, the translation is “El Retorno del Jedi”, which is singular (plural would be “El Retorno de los Jedis”).

  7. Was too late. Exactly as Clark mentioned. The title is plural in German and actually I also always perceived it to be the Jedi as an institution/group.

    (Btw, it seems as if there is a problem with the captcha on your comments in Chrome. The image doesn’t load. Don’t know whether this happens just to me.)

  8. @Juri: Unfortunately I don’t have any control over the captcha side of things. Still, your comment clearly got through 🙂 (Although all comments wait for moderation, except my own.)

  9. The German title is definitely plural, singular would be “Die Rückkehr des Jedi-Ritters”. I wouldn’t make much of it, though. German titles are mostly stupid, sometimes they even use a fake English title. Here are a few good ones:
    In this case, why did they have to add the “Ritter” (plural or not)?

  10. It is extremely ambiguous. Even when you consider ‘Revenge of the Jedi’, that’s either Anakin taking revenge or the Jedi Institution taking revenge. (I don’t buy the Jabba bit at all, that’s not central to the plot.) I definitely think it’s either Anakin’s Return/Revenge or the Jedi Institution’s Return/Revenge. I think Luke gets all the attention in the EU and most people’s minds, but Star Wars (in Lucas’s mind) is more about Anakin.

    As a bit of a tangent, since some language enthusiasts are assembling – is there a German version of The Dark Knight movie poster? Or other awesome movie posters with ‘Ritter’ in them? I am, of course, drawn to them – I own the German ROTJ poster already.

  11. In italian is “Il ritorno dello Jedi”, which is explicity singular (plural would be “Il ritorno degli Jedi”).

  12. In Hebrew, שובו של הג’די, means Return of the (single) Jedi. Of course, Hebrew movie names are generally crap and not to be relied upon.

  13. The Norwegian title “Jediridderen vender tilbake” is explicitly singular.

  14. One thing I think needs to be addressed here is not only plural vs. singular, knight vs. institution etc., but the fact that Lucas according to something I seem to remember reading actually abandoned “Revenge of the Jedi” (and left that title for the Sith) because he thought the Jedi should be “above” such a petty thing as revenge. They are the good guys, with a very specific philosophy, passive, worried above anger and passion etc. So revenge would not be their thing, thus “Return” instead.

    The Sith, however, were all about anger and passion and revenge. It gave them their strength. An easy path to bigger power. Maul says something in the Phantom Menace like this (from memory): “At least we will reveal ourself to the jedi. At least we will have our revenge”. What that revenge is FOR is never really explored in the movies. I am not an expert on Star Wars history (although I have read two books on Darth Bane and the rule of two), and everything always refers to stuff that happened thousands of years ago (which again refers to other stuff, even further back), so I’m not sure what the revenge would be about.

    What I AM sure about, though, is that revenge – in the Star Wars universe – is a concept better suited to the Sith than the Jedi. I won’t use bad vs. good right here – since I am of the opinion that you can be good and passionate about something. I’m in line with Luke Skywalker here – apparently his new jedi order was more of a mixture of the old jedi and sith traditions, allowing things such as passion into the equation. Because he secretly wanted to have a go at his sister? I hope I’ll never know.

    But anyway, this fairly long ramble is there to point out a single thing, remotely relevant to the subject, and which I hope we will get an answer to: Does Jon (and Eric) consider named arguments and optional parameters to be evil!?

    I wish I had known about this at NDC 2010 so I could have asked about it in the C# session. 😀

  15. The swedish, Danish and Norwegian titles are all singular.
    it’s possible however unlikely that the singular form supports Eric’s class theory. Other groups of knights you knights in plural. It is however possible to use the singular form in the meaning of a vaguely defined group of in this case Jediknights but that would translate back to “Return of Jedi” and not “Return of _the_ Jedi” so that rules out the plural for those three languages

  16. “Die Rückkehr der Jedi-Ritter” can also be thought of as the return of the institution. A comparison would be the templers, which in German are called “die Tempelritter”. This is also plural. If an institution is more formal it would be named (e.g. “der Templerorden”).

    But as others stated: I doubt that George Lucas had anything to do with the German naming, the translations are usually quite bad.

  17. Lucas could have avoided the whole issue by making “Jedi” the plural of “Jedus”.

    Count me among the ignorami.

  18. In Portuguese it’s singular “O Regresso de Jedi” as opposed to the plural “O Regresso dos Jedi”. However, using the genderless “de” instead of the male gender form “do” means it’s not referring to a particular individual but probably to the Jedi as an institution. Unless we’re in Brazil, where it could be referring to an individual… In any case, to a Portuguese speaker of Portuguese, “O Regresso de Jedi” doesn’t sound quite right, because, even though it is valid to use the genderless singular, we *always* use the plural when referring to the institution, kind of referring to it by its members: “O Regresso dos Jedi”, or use the instution’s proper name, something akin to what in English would be “Return of the Jedi Order”. But even in that case, we would use a gender form and say “O Regresso da Ordem Jedi”. So, as a conclusion to this way to long rambling that is nothing but a product of my sleeplessness, the Portuguese title, is not only ambiguous, but also close to nonsensical. Not sure how that helps.
    Oh, it seems the CAPTCHA’s not working for me either (I’m also using Chrome). It does load if I open the image alone in a new tab… weird.

  19. In Romanian the form is also definitely singular, and ‘jedi’ is not capitalized, which also implies person rather than institution; interestingly, this goes against what I thought as well (I pay no attention whatsoever to title translations because they’re consistently atrocious). However, this may be because the implication of multiple Jedis or the Jedi institution would probably be decidedly more difficult to translate both correctly and pleasantly, at least into Romanian. That’s why I like the original title, because it leaves some room for one’s guesses.

  20. I gotta say I am of the camp that believes he meant the Jedi as an institution. All the events (the revenge of Luke, the revenge of Anakin, the revenge of everyone) all get drawn together leading up to one large event. The return of the Jedi order into the universe. The revenge of the Sith is the “removal” of the jedi from the universe so the return of the jedi only logically points to THEIR return. as for the language thing, the German title refers to multiple, but that could be in the sense of multiple individuals or a group. So in effect it could be the return of Luke and Anakin as Jedi or the return of the Jedi Order. No help at all.

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