2 entries from October 2009
I made MTV Deutschland my German teacher. They subtitle their broadcasts, so I can compare the spoken English with its translation. But a little too often, the translation doesn't quite stretch far enough, and English creeps back in.
In Fine Academic Tradition, Further Research Conducted at Pub.
I was sitting in the pub the other day, watching Pimp My Ride. That's because Master Right bans MTV from our house. The network's many reality shows grate against his finely tuned Japanese sense of politeness.
We once watched Survivor on CBS in New York. "Why must they vote people off the island?" he asked. "Can't they all stay on the island and live in harmony? That's what we would do."
Nobody has been voted off, say, Honshu. I guess that's why Japan is so crowded.
Watching MTV Deutschland generates similar disgust in him. "Why must the New York lady act so mean? Why can't the Osbournes get along? Why are these people so cruel to each other?"
I explained it to him. "They're being cruel to each other because...um, that's the point."
You (familiar) need immediate therapy.
Piss at yourself, you dull-witted cow.
(from New York Goes to Hollywood, Episode 1)
That's why he sends me to the pub to watch MTV on their ogre-like far-seer. One day, it showed a young lady with a sad-looking Chevy S10, as she made her case for pimphood.
In German, she declares in that my truck is the same as my character. Literally, the verb suggests that her truck is very becoming.
But wait! What have we here? She tells us that when one over it rubs, one catches totally grey hands.
Now, why does she rubbeln her car when she could reiben it, würgeln it, nitscheln it, or use any one of a dozen perfectly good German words for rub?
It seems that the English word rub has crept into German through gambling. When instant lotteries were launched, marketers coined the phrase Rubbellos, or Rub-and-Go.
Perhaps an English speaker, when hearing the phrase rub-and-go, would think of other things.
Those other things came up in the next programme, a lie-detector dating show. You know, the one where an attractive girl asks questions of two horny suitors, and her friend puts their answers through a voice-stress analyser to see if they play loose with the truth.
OK, the girl wants to embarrass Horny Guy #1, named Josh. She asks him when did you first discover your dick?
Josh is taken aback. He asks for clarification: my dick?
Yes, replies his interrogator, your penis.
This is an outrage, for two reasons.
First, there's the double standard. Would a male get away with asking a woman when did you discover your twat?
Second, network subtitlers used the English word penis. That's right. P-E-N-I-S.
C'mon, MTV! You can't tell me that there's no German word for penis. In fact, if you count the German dialect known as Yiddish, there's a Reichtum of them.
According to Leo Rosten's indispensable tome, The Joys of Yiddish, the dialect seems to require as many words for penis as Eskimos require for snow. I especially like the Yiddish word schmuck, which we have borrowed into American English to mean...well, a schlemiel. Schmuck is the Yiddish word for the penis, derived from the German word for ornament or jewellery.
Josh replies that he discovered his dick at the age of seven. A blatant lie that the lie-detector missed. (Do you gentlemen out there not agree?)
And so with seven years did I meet my penis...
His foe Alex fared worse. The woman asked him if he'd ever dated twins. Now, I don't know about you, but I suspect that just thinking about it would make a fellow's voice tremble a bit. Sorry, Alex.
One of the maidens wanted more from me...
But I digress. Back to the business of language.
Host Xzibit signs off every episode of Pimp My Ride by wishing "Peace" to his audience. The subtitlers don't translate it.
Of course, there's a word for peace in German: Frieden. And Germans use it in many phrases you'd recognise: keep the peace, peace and quiet, two enemies making peace. So what makes wishing someone a peaceful life, untranslatable?
Would a native German speaker care to weigh in on the issue? Or Cliff, perhaps?
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