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Dear Reader,

due to insufficient participation and traffic I have decided to discontinue this blog for the time being. Please visit my latest blog instead. Thanks for your interest and for stopping by.


Business Proposal (SPAM)

Would you trust this business partner...? Forwarded via e-mail by a colleague:


Zuerst muß ich um Ihre Zuversicht in dieser verhandlung bitten. Das ist
auf Grund seiner lage, als das sein total VERTRAULICH und Geheimnisvoll. Aber ich weiss, dass eine verhandlung dieses Ausmaßes irgendeinen
Ängstlich und besorgt machen wird,aber ich versichre Ihnen, dass alles am Ende des tages in ordnung sein wird. Wir haben uns entschieden Sie durch eine E-mail sendung,wegen der
Dringlichkeit diese verhandlung zu erreichen, als wir davon zuverlassig
von seiner schnelligkeit und vertraulichkeit Überzeugt worden sind. Ich möchte mich nun vorstellen. Ich bin Herr Jones Iloba (Rechnungprüfer
bei der Imperial Bank von Süd Afrika).

And it continues in much the same way ... Are all SPAMmers relying on bablefish for translation?


Grosse Pointe Blank

This blog may have left you with the impression that there are ONLY poor examples of English-to-German translation - far from it! Occasionally, albeit rarely, we get to see true brilliance: I'd rate Grosse Pointe Blank one of those 'lucky accidents' that display real language savvy in terms of getting not only words, but meaning across. For example, we hear Alan Arkin alias Dr. Oatman, John Cusack's alias Martin Blank's psychiatrist, saying 'Don't kill anybody for a few days. See, what it feels like' with Cusack replying 'All right, I'll give it a shot'. Apart from this being an excellent (and thoroughly entertaining ;-)) usage of words with regard to the pun herein, the German translation reads "OK, ich leg's mal darauf an". Dr. Oatman parries 'No, no, don't give it a shot, don't shoot anything', which translation made into "Nein, legen Sie nicht an, legen Sie auf keinen an."

This whole movie is packed with idioms and excellent translation, where translators were eventually being given the freedom to move away from a literal conversion to the extent that they exchanged a quote from a British punk rock song into an entirely different line taken from a German pop song, which is characteristic of the German music era Neue Deutsche Welle of the early eighties. I'm referring to "Keine Atempause. Geschichte wird gemacht. Es geht voran" by the German band Fehlfarben, whereas the English soundtrack has 'Armagideon Time' of The Clash, who were most likely better known then to American audiences and of whom John Cusack has been a confessing fan.

Apart from excellent translation this movie also sports an intelligent and entertaining plot, great cast and outstanding performances. I'd rate it a 9 out of 10 (it would be a ten, if I liked the soundtrack better, but I must admit that I was neither much of a fan of Neue Deutsche Welle nor punk rock).


Carrie Doolittle

A very amusing title for today's King of Queens-episode: It 's an allusion to the classic My Fair Lady, where Audrey Hepburn stars as Eliza Doolittle, who is educated by Professor Higgins, a language teacher. He takes a bet that he will succeed in turning 'commoner' Eliza, a flower girl, into a distinguished upper class lady.

Key to this 'metamorphosis' according to Prof. Higgins is a refined way of socializing and communicating. This main theme is gently modified in today's KoQ's episode: Since Carrie prepares herself for a promotion, her supervisor recommends she work on her pronunciation in order to leave a better impression on the board members. In that very camera take her supervisor informs Carrie of her less than brilliant choice of words, in fact critizing her strong language and frequent use of swear words. Later on this is somehow being mixed up with pronunciation or rather a matter of accent.

In brief, this episode transports and modifies the classic's original idea that both register as well as the absence of an accent are markers for social status. This would be an interesting thesis in its own right, however, as we're mainly concerned with language issues here, I particularly liked the way how this was translated to German. With regard to strong language, this was a fairly easy task to accomplish, as most English words found their way into German as well (and won't get translated).

The bigger challenge was on the accent side of things and here, synch editors and translators found interesting solutions. E.g. they had Doug's Mom Janet pronounce "Kaffee" as something like "'Ka-ffä", attempting to make her speak carelessly with sloppy pronunciation. I was itching to hear the original version at this point, for it would have been interesting to know, whether they had speak Carrie with an Italo-American accent, where 'coffee' becomes 'cawffie' with a long vowel sound in the middle, even more so since we know that Carrie's character is performed by Leah Remini, who is indeed of Italo-American descent (half Italian, half Russian according to imdb.com.) Later into the episode, virtually every main character of the TV show is giving proof of their poor use of language.

On the other hand, a British accent is always considered a sign of good education and this part must have gone to character Spence this time, as he teaches Carrie proper pronunciation. Again, German synchronization transported this nicely by overdoing articulation to a silly degree.

Those guys - in contrast to many of our below examples - really know their jobs!


Deppenapostroph continued

Deppenapostroph continued

An unexpected sequel to Deppenleerzeichen:

This noon, I was lining up at the traffic light and came to halt behind another MINI Cooper. I let my eyes wander over its rear, checking out, which model it was, trying to determine, whether steered by a lady or a male person. Suddenly a little bumper sticker caught my attention: "Mini's dürfen das!" Dürfen was? What are they allowed to do? Be driven around with a silly sticker on their backs diminishing their natural charm by a stupid driver?


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In Her Shoes

Another example of a movie title as unaptly translated as possible: "In den Schuhen meiner Schwester", originally 'In Her Shoes'. What's THAT supposed to say?

The original meaning reads "sich in jmds. Lage versetzen". And I'd have to add that this makes perfect sense to me with regard to the plot. Translators could have come up with something at least remotely related to the idea of someone putting themselves into s.o. else's - well - shoes. We have expressions in German that would have - in my view - captured that idea nicely. How about "in jemandes Haut stecken" or "nicht aus seiner Haut können". Even the idea of dressing in someone else's clothes would have been closer to the original idea.

Aaaaarrrghh! I'm afraid, translation looked up the dictionary and - again - simply chose a literal conversion without keeping the story in mind. OK, I have to admit it on the other hand: It's not too well paid a job, so they may have wanted to take things as easy as possible.


Celebrity or 'VIP'?

05/11/06: Boinx company meeting. We're trying to figure out criteria for defining a key account customer. The boss goes 'any VIP, of course'. A VIP then? And carefully, but tenaciously asking back soon reveals, he's actually talking about 'celebrities': Persons, who - through their careers - have acquired an amount of recognition that you might call 'fame' with some businesses. Famous directors, for example, or actors, who may have taken an interest in creating their own little movies. So any single person, whose name or face has become public domain.

So, where's the difference? I remember some actors being referred to as 'VIP'. However, could it be that 'VIP' depends on the context it's used in? Such like a charity party, social events, donation parties, parties in general. It appears to me you can't generally refer to a person or a group of persons as 'VIPs'. You call them that when you intend to distinguish them from any other, apparently less significant group of people. Agreed? For example, I don't think you could say 'Michael Jackson is a VIP' as a general statement. You'd rather call him a 'celebrity', wouldn't you? By contrast, you could actually call him that when being mentioned along with the event he appears at: 'Michael Jackson is one of our VIPs tonight'.

What's your take on this?

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Comment blocker removed


since this blog - thanks to Schockwellenreiter and Philipps support - seems to be picking up some traffic, I decided to remove the comment blocking for now. Let's hope, the Spammers won't take over...