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Sunday, March 28, 2010

What is in a name?

As I have started off today focussing on the quirky I thought it was worth highighting an article in the film section of today's Observer looking at what happens to film titles when they are translated into other languages.

Translation is not an exact art of course especially when many of these film titles are idioms thus the latest Sandra Bullock film, The Blind Side, which refers to an obscure tactic in American football has become A Possible Dream in Portugal, The Awaking of a Champion in French Canada and Big Mike in Poland. It is a sad reflection on the Americanisation of British culture that we did not seek to rename it over here as well.

Some of the other title changes are a bit more entertaining. Stephen Spielberg's Jaws for example became La Dents de la Mer or The Teeth of the Sea in France, though the sequel La Dents de la Mer 2 is best not said out loud for fear that it might be heard as The Teeth of Shit.

There are also translations that inadvertently give away the plot, thus in Italy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind became If you leave me I delete you, whilst in Mexico Thelma and Louise was transcribed as An Unexpected End. In Germany the Austin Powers Sequel was marketed as The Spy in the Secret Missionary Position and in Japan Basic Instinct became Smirk of Ice and Being John Malkovitch was renamed as Malkovitch's Hole.

China however has the renaming of films down to a fine art. Their alternative title for Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights was His Great Device Makes Him Famous. That is not a change that can easily be surpassed.
Why should we rename "Blind Side"? We may not have the verb "to bindside" over here, but there are blind sides in rugby and association football, and a blind spot in cricket, as Mike Gatting will testify.
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