Monday, February 8, 2010

Up in the Air

Somethings just don't translate.

On Friday, David and I went to go see "Up in the Air" German. I think the audience found the movie funny and entertaining...but a think several of the jokes didn't quite come through.

The best example is a brief dialouge between George Clooney and an airplane stewardess at the very beginning of the movie?

Stewardess: Do you want the can sir? ( Do you want cancer?)

*blank stare from Clooney*

Clooney: What?

Stewardess: Do you want the can....sir?

From the way that this scene is shot, there is a small pause that is supposed to let the audience know that this is just a bit of black humor.

I found myself chucking a bit, only to realize that I was apparently the only one who got the joke.

When I hear German, it is a natural thing for my mind to translate iItalict back to English. However, it German...the scene just isn't funny.

In German the word for can is Dose. So in German the stewardess says: "Wollen Sie die Dose?"

Just doesn't have the same ring to it...


  1. Haha, that's pretty funny, "Do you want the can, sir?" I got a good little chuckle.

  2. Sort of similar experience: I was watching Beauty and the Beast in French. Instead of "Be Our Guest," they sing "C'est la Fete." Which means, "It's a party!" Kinda weirded me out. Of course, they say that because it rhymes - but it bothered me a bit that the meaning was totally different. I suppose that's the trial of every translator: the spirit of the word vs. the letter of the word.

  3. Connotations -- inflection --- context -- so many ways to misunderstand -- and now, Amy, you can do it in two languages.