Elyse Sewell (elysesewell) wrote,
Elyse Sewell

all your base are belong to us

In Hong Kong, I bought a pirated box set of Arrested Development. You can watch it with Chinese or English subtitles.

Imagine you're a poor sap working at the pirate DVD factory writing the Chinese subtitles for this show. There's no Chinese alphabet, only ideograms, so when you have to subtitle a word like "Michael," or "Lindsay," or "Buster," or "Warden Gentles," the only thing you can do is pick out a couple of ideograms whose pronunciation roughly approximates the sound of the name.

So, you might pick the character "mai" and the character "ko." It wouldn't matter what the ideograms meant in Chinese as long as they sounded pretty much like "Michael" when read aloud.


But this is a pirated DVD- whoever made it didn't have access to the faithful English subtitles that would accompany a legitimate Arrested Development DVD. So they had to write their own at the pirate factory. And for some reason, they didn't make the English subtitles using the audio from the show. They back-translated the Chinese subtitles.

With hilarious results!

It took me forever to figure out why certain nonsense phrases kept popping up in the subtitles-- it's because someone was translating the meaning of the ideograms that had been selected for their phonetic similarity to the characters' names.

So, in the English subtitles, "Michael" is back-translated to "exceeds the gram" or "exceed a gram." "Lindsay" is "the virtuous west." "Warden Gentles" is "five bodies." Buster is either "BA SI," "BU SI," or "BA SI DA." "Gob" is "George" and "Bluth" is "Bruce."

Example: The narrator says, "And Michael raced to warn his mother about Warden Gentles' intentions."

Oscar says, "You haven't seen a little white box with a turtle on it, have you?" (Note: "Oh you gain flesh" seems like something Oscar might say when hugging BA SI, but he doesn't).

"I'm afraid I'm with Michael on this."

"But he wasn't relieved."

"The Bluths had a hard time agreeing on a cause for their foundation's first fundraiser."

Lucille: "What is wrong with you?"

Gob: "What is wrong with you?"
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