"That is a great deal of meaning to put into such a short name."
to Tirk, whose name apparently means "Don't touch me, I'm not having another child after this ever again", The Legend of the Rangers
While we commonly expect short phrases in one language to be equally short in another, sometimes short phrases are translated into surprisingly long ones: however, many shows parody this completely by having a single word in Tropese become a long phrase in English, or a ridiculously long phrase in Tropese translate to a single English word, often the word 'Yes'. The former case is mild Truth in Television
, as there are words in other languages for highly specific cases which take some explaining in English, such as Zugzwang
which means "a situation [in a game, especially Chess
] where one player is put at a disadvantage because he has to make a move when he would prefer to pass and make no move" (from The Other Wiki
). If this is actually happening in the story being presented when a conversation is being held through a translator, it may be because the translator is doing a Tactful Translation
and thus editing and carefully rephrasing some of what is being said.
open/close all folders
- An advert for a Japanese brand of air-conditioning units shown in Greece and possibly other western countries showed two (Japanese) actors dressed as cowboys having a fight. One of them kills the other and then starts speaking for several seconds, stopping to take breaths a few times. The subtitle shows "I got you, worm!"
- The tagline was "We may not be known for our westerns, but we are known for our AC units".
Anime and Manga
- Lampshaded in the English dub of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo after an obviously wordy title is described in no more than two words. "It says a lot more than that in Japanese!"
- In Eyeshield 21, Komusubi communicates solely in "power-speak", which consists largely of grunts and one-word sentences. His power-speak tends to be rather verbose, even eloquent, when translated, and usually prompts a reaction along the lines of "He said all that?!"
- A similar case was shown in one of the PairPuri fanbooks of The Prince of Tennis, where Kabaji Munehiro answered questions with only "Usu" (basically, "Yes"), and the other "power players" understood his answers as complex statements, while the reporter interviewing them all was clueless as to what was being said.
- Pokemon Ranger: Vatonage roughly translates into "to bring light to that which is shrouded in darkness."
- Lobo's name means "one who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it." More than one character has thought it meant "wolf" like one would expect.
Films — Animated
- A variant occurs near the end of the Lilo & Stitch: movie, where Stitch is trying to convince Jumba and Pleakley to help him rescue Lilo from Captain Gantu.
Jumba: What?! After all you put me through, you expect me to help you just like that? Just like that?!
Pleakley: "Fine"? You're doing what he says?
Jumba: He's very persuasive.
- Inverted in the Veggie Tales parody of The Lord of the Rings, where a six-or-so character inscription above a door turns out to be a really long riddle.
Leg 'O Lamb: It said all that?
Randolf: It's a highly efficient tongue. You can fit a whole book on a napkin.
- Balto: Muk's translations of Luk's whimpering are usually longer than the sounds Luk makes. But taking the cake is when Luk makes one, short whimper, which Muk translates as: "Oh, the shame of the polar bear who fears the water! No wonder we are shunned by our fellow bear. Woe is us!"
- Saludos Amigos: Jose speaks a long array of Portuguese language, which causes Donald to be up to his neck in translation dictionaries trying to keep up with him. Jose finishes by saying "Or as they say in America, let's go see the town!".
Films — Live-Action
- Occurs in Wayne's World, when Wayne and Cassandra are talking in Cantonese: at one point they have to stop talking to let the subtitles catch up.
- In Lost in Translation, the director gives Bill Murray's character long, rambling instructions in Japanese, which the studio translator shortens considerably. Murray notices, asking, "Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that."
- Krippendorf's Tribe has a scene where the titular fake tribe's chief (the titular Krippendorf, the researcher who has made up this tribe, in disguise) is on a talk show with Krippendorf's wife. The host asks him what he thinks of America, and he makes three syllables, which translate somewhat longer. The host is bewildered that it would be the case, but the almost-girlfriend says the tribe's language is succinct.
- Kung Pow! Enter the Fist did it as part of its Gag Dub. There are a few parts where the actor's mouths move for a very long time, but the dub says something really short.
- A variant shows up in The Court Jester, with sign language. Danny Kaye pays very close attention to a drawn-out and complicated series of signs, only to explain to the interrogating soldier, "She says no." It's promptly lampshaded:
Captain: What took her so long?!
- Charlie Chaplin did this twice in his 1940 film The Great Dictator.
- One example uses dictation instead of translation — his Hitler parody, Adenoid Hynkel, would say a long sentence, and his secretary would transcribe it in a couple keystrokes. Another sentence, and again a couple keystrokes. A single word, and suddenly the secretary is typing something that might be the original manuscript of Order of the Phoenix.
- Earlier in the movie, Hynkel is delivering a speech, commented on by an English speaking narrator. Some passages are translated word by word (like 'liberty is abolished'), while others — like Hynkel's rambling about the beauty of the Tomanian women — are paraphrased with a lot of details. Then, one very long passage of Hynkel screaming, shaking his fists and growling is paraphrased only as: 'His excellency has just referred to the Jewish population'.
- The Three Stooges do this... from English to English. Moe started out dictating a message to Larry to type on a typewriter, and started with "Dear Sir"... leading to Larry typing for a considerable amount of time. Moe eventually asked him about this, whereupon Larry told him that he did not know how to spell "Sir".
- Inverted in Alien vs. Predator. Lex asks Sebastian how to say "Scared shitless," in Italian. His response: "Non vedo l'ora di uscire da questa piramide con te, perché mi sto cagando adosso." Which translates to "I can't wait to get out of this pyramid with you, because I'm shitting myself."
- In the 2003 Universal Studios version of Peter Pan, Hook asks the captive Tiger Lily if she knows where Peter is. Her response is to hurl a stream of insults at him in her native tongue and finish by spitting at his feet. Smee then translates: "She says, 'Sorry, but no.'"
- From Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:
Kahmunrah: They didn't call me Kahmunrah the Trustworthy for nothing, all right? They didn't call me Kahmunrah the Trustworthy! They called me Kahmunrah the Bloodthirsty who kills whoever doesn't give Kahmunrah exactly what he wants in the moment that he wants it, which is right now when I had also better get the combination and the tablet!
Larry: That's what they called you?
Kahmunrah: It was shorter in Egyptian.
- In Battlefield Earth, Terl tells Johnny that he's an expert marksman who graduated top of his class at the academy and that if any of the rat-brain man-animals try to escape he'll gun them down. Johnny summarizes it as "Try to run, he'll kill us." Terl asks, "That's it?"
- The Danish subtitles for The Sound of Music did this in the scene where the Mother Superior tells Maria "Don't worry. Sometimes when God closes a door, he opens a window." The Danish read "Don't worry."
- Played straight in Meteor (1979). A Russian scientist is meeting with a U.S. General Ripper to begin politically sensitive negotiations to aim nuclear missiles at the oncoming Death from Above. Each side has their "English voice" and "Russian voice", both speaking at the same time to avoid accusations of duplicity. Eventually Sean Connery gets tired of the babble and just has them speaking English with the pretty female Russian translating — at the end the general turns to his Russian voice and demands, "Is that what I said?" The translator just says, "Yes."
- Early in Seven Samurai, one of the peasants expresses his uncertainty about what Kambei is planning with a fairly long sentence. The subtitle boils it down to, "I'm confused."
- A Communist functionary from the Soviet Union travels to Red China to a give a speech. After he has spoken for several minutes, he remembers to let the translator do his job. To his surprise, the Chinese guy says but one word: "Ping!" But nobody seems to mind, so he continues his speech. When he stops again, the translator says "Ling ping!" He wonders again, but finishes his speech, after which the translator says "Ling ping ching!" Later, back in the Soviet Union, he asks a professor for Chinese what these three sentences could mean. The professor says: "I am not sure whether you are pronouncing it right, but it could well mean 'Bullshit', 'big bullshit' and 'big bullshit over'..."
- A sheriff catches a crook who only speaks some foreign language, and so the sheriff says to the translator "Tell him that unless he tells us where he hid all the money he stole, we're going to execute him." The translator relays this message, and the criminal sobs and gives the translator a detailed description of the exact location where he buried the loot. The translator turns to the sheriff and says "He says 'Over my dead body.'".
- Used in A Series of Unfortunate Events: Judging by the translations in-text, almost everything Sunny says carries a lot of meaning per sound. Complete sentences aren't more than two syllables long until she starts learning a little English in the later books, and she seems to get a lot more across with her babytalk.
- Both versions are used a lot in Discworld novels. In Jingo, "Aagragaah" in troll literally means "der time when you see dem little pebbles and you jus' know dere's gonna be a great big landslide on toppa you and it already too late to run", but is more usefully translated as "forebodings".
- Trollish does a good deal of this. Granny Weatherwax has a Trollish nickname approximately translating as "she who should be avoided"
- Dwarfish tends to go in more for bad puns, or purely incomprehensible. "Sh'rt'atz" is Littlebottom's family name. "Littlebottom" is by way of being a Tactful Translation.
- The Nac Mac Feegles' "Crivens!" can be translated as anything from "My goodness!" to "I've just lost my temper and there is going to be trouble (for you)," depending on usage.
- The Librarian of Unseen University is a wizard who was transformed into an orangutan. He manages to get a lot of mileage out of the word "Ook".
- A Borogravian song mentioned in Monstrous Regiment is titled "Plogviehze!", which means "The Sun Has Risen, Let's Make War!" According to Vimes, "You need a very special history to get all that into one word."
- Equal Rites features the word "p'ch'zarni'chiwkov" used by the small tribe of the K'turni, which means: "the nasty little sound of a sword being unsheathed right behind one at just the point when one thought one had disposed of one's enemies".
- Happens a lot with the Agatean language in Interesting Times, as it's mostly an inflectional language. In the same book, it's mentioned that in various regions of the Disc "Aargh" can mean anything from "highly enjoyable" to "your wife is a big hippo". Also, one of the Silver Horde members uses the battle cry "P'charnkov!" which means "Your feet shall be cut off and buried several yards from your body so your ghost won't walk".
- Umnian is an entirely contextual language, meaning that there isn't a single word that won't have a different meaning when used in a different sentence. Thusly the "Ten Gold Golems" that the Golem trust had excavated and directed to Ankh Morpork turned out to be "Ten Thousand Golems"..
- An interesting English to English translation, quite a bit of time in Unseen Academicals is devoted to an extremely long, flowery love poem from Trev to Juliet — both of whom are somewhat ... less-than-literate. The message is translated, with the help of Nutt, from Trev's original, "I think you're really fit. I really fancy you. Can we have a date? No hanky panky, I promise" to said long poem. Of course, once Juliet gets it, Glenda has to translate the poem back for her. Naturally, she translates it as, "He really fancies you, thinks you're really fit, how about a date, no hanky panky, he promises."
- In the Malloreon, Toth, a mute Gentle Giant, can communicate elaborately with Durnik using nothing more than a vague gesture or two. As it turns out, the sign language is only a pretense: the real communication is via a form of telepathy.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Ford gained the nickname "Ix" in his school years, which translates from Betelgeusian as "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."
- In Dave Barry Slept Here, a "convenient interpreter" helps Columbus introduce himself to the Native Americans:
Columbus: You guys are Indians, right?
Tribal Chief: K'ham anonoda jawe. ("No. We came over from Asia about twenty thousand years ago via the Land Bridge.")
- Dave Barry also likes to claim that German is like this; the German translation of "Go Brits!" in Dave Barry Slept Here is "Wannfahrtdersugab ein Umwievieluhrkommteran!"
- Pretty much everything in the Entish language in Lord of the Rings falls into this. Every tree, hill, rock, Ent, and everything else has an enormously long name, which seems to incorporate describing its location, its entire history, and how they feel about it. Mary and Pippin speculated that they must take several hours just to say "Good Morning." Ents in turn call every other language "hasty" for using such short words to describe the world, though they can learn such languages to communicate with "hasty folk."
- From The Meaning of Liff :
Welsh word which literally translates as 'leaking-biro-by-the-glass-hole-of-the-clerk-of-the-bank-has-been-taken-to-another-place-leaving-only-the-special-inkwell-and-three-inches-of-tin-chain'.
- Inverted in Molière's play The Bourgeois Gentleman. The title character is duped by people pretending to be Turks. They speak in a combination of nonsense and the original ''linga franca''- a combination of French, Spanish, Italian, and some Arabic and their speech is "translated" to him. Several times, there will be a short phrase which is "translated" into something much longer, and he comments on his amazement that so much can be contained in so few words.
- Cryptonomicon has Qwghlmian, a language so concise that "Gxnn bhldh sqrd m!" means "I was at the pub, asking for a job as a rat hunter, and my neighbor's dog had rabies". Or, depending on the dialect, it could also mean "You look beautiful", or maybe "While I was at the mill to file a complaint for a sack with a weak seam that ripped apart on Thursday, the owner's way of speaking made me understand that Mary's grand-aunt, an old single woman with a questionable reputation when she was younger, had a fungal infection in her toenails".
- Also shows up in The Baroque Cycle, where a character sends off a letter composed of 40 000 Qwghlmian runes to be translated and receives a 400 000-words text in return.
- In 1984, part of the function of New Speak is to fit complex concepts into single words. For example, the sentence "Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc" roughly translates as "Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism".
- In Agaton Sax we have Graelic (which seems to be a No Celebrities Were Harmed of Gaelic), which can say lots in just a few words, and Brosnian (supposedly a Slavic language) which is the exact opposite. This becomes a Running Gag because the hero is an omniglot, and several villains speak these languages - Diabolical Mastermind professor Julius Mosca uses Graelic as a secret language in his organisation because it is so rare, and his colleague doctor Anaxagoras Frank uses Brosnian in his organisation because he is Brosnian, and so are his chief henchmen.
- The Rod Albright Alien Adventures series features the alien Old Master Tar Gibbons, whose first name is actually an honorific commonly translated as "wise and beloved master who could kill me with his little finger if he so wished."
- The gnomes of Krynn speak Common, but their names for people, places, and things are absurdly long and tend to be interrupted. Sometimes the interruption becomes the new name. Hence, Mount Nevermind.
- Inspired by the human race's gift for brevity, they began to shorten their proverbs (usually long enough to require several hours to quote one) to much shorter form, such as "A gear" or "hydrodynamics." This practice is said to bring tears of joy to the gnomish elders, awestruck by such skill in verbal shortform.
- The Translator Microbes in Illegal Aliens by Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio seem to have this as a built in function. When humans ask the Alien Engineer questions about his ship, his lengthy and highly detailed answers all tend to get translated as "yellow paint makes it go faster" or "you push the button and it starts". The Engineer in question is highly impressed as he assumes human language is so nuanced that his dissertation on hyperspace physics can be condensed into a short phrase.
- In Black Powder Warnote , William Laurence finds himself on the receiving end of this.
(after an Ottoman Captain
bellows at length towards them via speaking trumpet) "He says to land," Tharkay
translated, with improbable brevity; at Lawrence's frowning look he added, "and he calls us a great many impolite names; do you wish them all translated
- In Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein we are told that the Free Traders can state a relationship such as "my maternal foster half-stepuncle by marriage, once removed and now deceased" in one word, which means that relationship and no other.
- Star Bores has the minor alien Suburbia's speech rendered as a series of circular symbols. The first of his two lines, a greeting to Jello Knight Bing-Bong Gin, is translated in a footnote as "You hairy Jello nonce." Bing-Bong Gin offers to buy his Podracer, to which he replies with an entire paragraph, translated in the footnotes as "No." Interestingly, each letter of Suburbia's speech does correspond to one English letter, so by starting with the letters from the accurately-translated first line, you can find out what Suburbia really thought of Bing-Bong.
- Used in a serious way in Stanislaw Lem's Imaginary Magnitude, with the future science of "prognolinguistics" which tries to reconstruct future languages. The more advanced a language is, the higher is its information density. In a "level 2" language, a short sentence is the equivalent of a long encyclopedia article, while a similarly short sentence in a "level 3" language would take 140 years to read aloud when translated to a modern-day language.
- X-Wing Series: According to Tal'dira, the name Wedge Antilles sounds a lot like "one so foul as to induce vomiting in a rancor" in Twi'leki. He pronounces it Wedgan'tilles instead.
- In Craig Shaw Gardner's Bride of the Slime Monster the main character ends up in a foreign film universe where the inhabitants speak gibberish. At one point the woman he's following says "Snucksen vorden merkna valarie" and the subtitle reads:
Subtitle: I am glad you are so happy. However, we must see my sister before dark. She is expecting us, after all, and the distance, while not great, can be tiring, especially if you have to walk into the wind.
Live Action TV
- In an episode of 30 Rock, Jack discovers that Liz can speak German. When he asks her in German whether Jenna was trying to hit on the last in the Hanover royal line, her really long answer is translated in subtitles to "Yeah."
- On M*A*S*H, Father Mulcahy attempted to calm down a POW repeating the phrase "Bung chao", which he believed to mean "peace and friendship". According to Radar, however, those two syllables meant "your daughter's pregnancy brings joy to our entire village".
- This used to be a Running Gag on the Australian TV comedy series Fast Forward (later Full Frontal) whenever they'd spoof the multicultural TV channel SBS. Either a long stream of gibberish that went on and on would be translated as "Yes", or a single word in the made-up foreign language would lead to an endless stream of subtitles.
- In She Spies, a show that likes dragging jokes out, D.D. is teaching English to Icelandic workers. One of them offers her some flowers, and says "D'boi". The translation is an awfully long sentence expressing his love and gratitude towards her for teaching him, and later develops into a hint of romantic feelings for her, ending on a sad note about how she would never love him back. She explains that she just wants to be friends, and asks if he can't understand that. He answers in a long sentence, the translation of which is "no".
- Bonus points for a few dirty-sounding words in that long answer that strongly imply that he'd like nothing more than to bone her right then and there.
- In an episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy voices the suspicion that translators of arthouse-style foreign films intentionally do this as a prank on Americans.
- A frequent running gag in I Love Lucy is how Ricki will rant in Spanish when especially angry, which is most of the time. On on occasion, he says "Este mujer está loca. Hemos estado casados por veinte años y mira lo que ha hecho a mí." While the straight translation is "This lady is crazy. We've been married for twenty years and look what she's done to me", the sub says succinctly: "She's nuts"
- The popular game "Foreign Film Dub" on Whose Line Is It Anyway? features one contestant vaguely imitating a foreign language, while the other "dubs" the dialogue into English. Frequent use is made of this trope.
- Including a literal Translation: Yes where, upon being asked to dance, Stephen Frost answered with a drawn-out and very loud "NEIN!"...which of course was helpfully translated as a polite "Yes."
- In the classic Doctor Who story "The Two Doctors," which was filmed and took place in Spain. A British man notices a sign reading "PROHIBIDA LA ENTRADA A PERSONAS NO AUTORIZADAS," which his Spanish girlfriend helpfully translates for him as "keep out."
- In case you're wondering, the sign literally says "Entry forbidden to persons not authorized", or more idiomatically, "Unauthorized personnel prohibited"/"Authorized personnel only."
- It IS a valid translation, though.
- Have I Got News for You has a variant on this trope- in the Missing Words round, where a headline has some words blanked out for the contestants to guess, jokes are often made by giving an answer significantly too long or short for the given space.
- A funny variation on Barney Miller: an attractive deaf woman is a witness to a crime, requiring Officer Levitt, who can sign (to the surprise of all), to translate for her. She and Dietrich hit it off, so he asks her out to dinner. In reply, she signs very rapidly and animatedly, finishing off with a flourish of hand gestures around her open mouth. Levitt turns to Dietrich and says: "I take it she prefers Szechuan."
- A Bit of Fry and Laurie featured a business meeting sketch with Stephen Fry acting as translator for Hugh Laurie and his opposite number from a fictional vaguely eastern European country, and opened with both variations on this gag: a short phrase translated into a much longer one, and a long phrase translated with a single word. It then went on to mine the other common language barrier gags, such as a mundane word in English ("price" in this case) which has no direct or even approximate translation into the other language, another mundane phrase in English which happens to be identical to a childish vulgarity in the other language, and yet another mundane phrase which turns out to be identical to a much more offensive vulgarity (leading the meeting - and the sketch - to break down).
- In the language spoken on Chanel 9, "chinky chinky chinkenta chinkenta cancho canta canta chinkenta pentos" is the word for five.
- One MADtv sketch parodying a badly-translated Korean soap opera had a character utter a single syllable, while the subtitles for the one-syllable sentence filled up the whole screen.
- Chespirito did this in an early sketch, with a secretary reading while he typed on a typewriter.
- An episode of Home Improvement has Tim and his hired "granite man" communicating using short grunts with very long subtitles.
- Yes, Minister manages to do this English (theoretically) to English, thanks to Sir Humphrey and Bernard's inevitable waves of Bureaucratese (which inevitably translate to a short sentence of words of no more than two syllable, and sometimes literally "yes").
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister I must strongly protest in the strongest possible terms, my profound opposition to a newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions upon the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and which will in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a constriction of the channels of communication and culminate in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis which will render effectively impossible the coherent and coordinated discharge of the function of government within Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
: You mean you've lost your key?
- Or more accurately, "I want my key back!"
Sir Humphrey: "I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice in government service as we approach the terminal period of the year — calendar, of course, not financial — in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One — and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation — indeed confidence — indeed one might go so far as to say hope — that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average."
Jim Hacker: "Are you trying to say "Happy Christmas," Humphrey?"
Sir Humphrey: "Yes, Minister."
- During the latter days of the Attitude Era, Japanese tag-team Kaientai were given a push as a comedic Heel Tag Team whose entrances were badly dubbed English, with everything Funaki said and did translated, after several seconds of talking and gesticulation, into one long "In-DEEEEEEEED."
- Happens in Only Fools and Horses from English to English when the trio meet Anna, a German girl who has just been fired from her job as au pair because she's pregnant. As the slightly more educated one in the family, Rodney is forced to translate for Del Boy and Albert. The exchange goes something like this:
Anna: Mr Wainwright said that my disruptive influence on Spencer makes it inexpedient for me to remain.
Del Boy and Albert: *looking at Rodney for a translation* Please?
Rodney: He said, "On yer bike."
Del Boy: *grins, nodding sudden understanding* Oh, on yer bike!
- On Sesame Street, one Bert and Ernie sketch has them playing cavemen, with Bert as a father and Ernie as his son. They'd say "Ooga" or "Mooga," then translate it into an English sentence. After going back and forth for a while, Ernie says, "Oogaoogamoogamoogamoogaoogamoogaoogaoogamoogamoogaoogamooga!" and translates it to, "Thanks, dad!"
- Played for laughs in Blackadder II, when Queenie — swept up in the national fervour over the return of Sir Walter Raleigh — greets him with 'traditional' sea-faring lingo:
Splice me timbers, Sir Walter, it's bucko to see you, old matey! Sir Walter Raleigh:
... I'm sorry? Blackadder
: She says 'hello'.
- Better Off Ted: As part of a complicated lie, Ted tells his date Danielle that he's an Indian and given her "translations" of various words in his invented native language. Linda finds out and uses this to force him to confess to the lie. At the end of the episode, she apologizes:
Linda: Hey Ted—pillomaya. That means "I'm sorry I messed things up for you with Danielle, but I was pissed you dated someone from that stupid list when we had a deal we wouldn't, but ruining your love life was a douchey thing to do." Pillomaya: a simple word for a complex idea.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is helping Raj communicate with a deaf girl with whom he is on a date, Howard knowing sign language. Raj gives increadibly longwinded Purple Prose descriptions he wants Howard to translate, which Howard stares at Raj, and signs stuff like "You look very pretty".
- The tag team Kaientai used this during the late 90s and early 2000s. Taka Michinoku would give a hammy promo into a microphone, though no one would hear what he was actually saying. It would come out sounding like a bad Godzilla translation and would be villainous scenery chewing, usually with Taka claiming that the team is "EVIL!" He would then hand the microphone to Funaki, who would speak for a few seconds to a minute, once again without any words being heard. No matter how long he went on or what he seemed to be saying, it would always be translated as "Indeed!"
- Once when they had a woman with them that Taka referred to as his girlfriend, instead of handing the microphone to Funaki at the end of his part, he handed it to her. It was the same voice as Funaki's translation, but with a higher pitch, still only saying "Indeed!"
- Les Luthiers do it in "Cartas de Color", where an African tribesman dictates a letter that is sent with drum beats. The word "but" requires more than ten beats, while the sentence "you must be very careful and pronounce the magical words exactly as I taught them to you" is conveyed in just two beats. This is explained as "tachygraphy".
- Flanders and Swann did this in one of their comic songs in the 1950s...
''Oh its hard to say, olimakityluchachichichi, but in Tonga that means "no",
If I ever have the money, 'tis to Tonga I shall go...
For each lovely Tongan maiden there, will gladly make a date,
and by the time she's said olimakityluchachichichi,
It is usually too late!''
- Guy Lombardo's "Managua Nicaragua:"
Managua, Nicaragua is a heavenly place
You ask a senorita for a 'leetle' embrace
She answers you, "Caramba! scram-ba bambarito"
In Managua, Nicaragua, that's "No"
- In an early stand-up routine, Robin Williams did this gag, imitating a Soviet (this was 1978) ballet dancer being interviewed on American TV about being in New York for a performance. As the host, he asks "Did you like your time in New York?" He then goes into a 2-minute bout of the dancer speaking rapidly in Russian while pantomiming drinking, drug use, and random sexual encounters (complete with graphic pelvic thrusting motions). He then has the Soviet translator begin arguing with her, getting into a shouting match, then hitting her, both of them settling down, and finally telling the host "She say 'Yes!'" with a broad smile as if nothing were amiss. At the time it was as much a commentary on the ludicrous degree to which the Soviets would whitewash events to present themselves as morally superior to the West, while everyone else knew the truth.
- For Kevin Johnson, ventriloquist from Legoland, CA, one of his acts is called "Godzilla Theater" where he and his friends Clyde (a vulture) and Matilda (a cockatoo) all move their mouths like in the Godzilla/Gojira movies, but they speak in English. After being told that they have to get out near the end of the act, Clyde rapidly moves his beak (confusing the other two) before saying simply, "No!"
- In Ar tonelico, the Con Lang Hymmnos puts a lot of emphasis on communicating the emotions of the speaker. Because they have special rules for this, it means that a relatively short phrase can end up much longer in English.
- Taken Up to Eleven with Pastalie dialect, which is even less verbose and connotes even more meaning. As an example, hEmYEmArI can be roughly translated as, "I will gladly do my best to sing for your happiness, even though I'm a little nervous."
- In Knights of the Old Republic II, most of Visquis's dialogue is like this, including a string of dialogue that lasts for several seconds and translates simply as "Mira". It's also unskippable without mods, which is quite frustrating.
- Happens a few times in Katawa Shoujo, when a complex set of sign language from the deaf/mute Shizune gets translated by her friend Misha as something extremely short and simple. Hisao suspects the girls are inserting private asides about him in between segments of conversation, and he's probably right.
- Lilo & Stitch: The Series
Shibito! igota! Ih. if you do that, bebu. Jumba:
Ah, 626 has offered a deal. If 513 proves he can take of things by fixing crack in planet, Stitch will give him precious citrus ball. *Beat
* Stitch's language is very efficient.note
- In the South Park episode "Goobacks", Mr Garrison is obliged to teach Futurespeak (a guttural merger of every current language). The English phrase "The 11:15 bus from Denver arrived twelve hours late" becomes a single-syllable grunt in Futurespeak.
- The Merrie Melodies short "Wackiki Wabbit" uses this: A really long stretch of Polynesian nonsense translates to "What's up, doc?" while a shorter one becomes "Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of his party." Then, One of the sailors says: "Gee, thanks!", which is subtitled back into the language Bugs was speaking, and is two lines long. His companion points to the subtitle and asks: "Did you say all that?"
- According to The Simpsons, "Shimatta bakame!" is Japanese for "D'oh!" It's not a real phrase, technically. "Shimatta" literally means "done, but to a negative effect," and has the meaning of "drat!" or "dammit!". "Bakame" carries the meaning of "the damned fool" or "that moron!"
- It is not, however, an inaccurate translation. He's calling himself a screw up (spoken Japanese often drops the subject), which is actually pretty close to what "D'oh" implies anyway.
- A rough translation might be "now you've done it, you moron!"
- Family Guy has an Imagine Spot where Quagmire is dreaming himself in Lord of the Rings, as Arwen's husband. He says a long, long phrase in Elvish. Subtitles: "Giggity".
- Peter recounts the family's history in a different episode, and tells them of one of his ancestors, silent film actor Black-Eye Griffin. A clip is shown of Black-Eye noticing some pie and visibly speaking for several seconds; the intertitle simply reads "That's pie".
- An episode of Rugrats has a parody of Godzilla ostensibly dubbed from Japanese. At one point a character moves his mouth quite a bit but the dubbed version only says "Yeah"
- Used in a Tom and Jerry short, "Little Runaway". A runaway seal befriends Jerry and informs him of his plight in "seal-speak", which is translated at the bottom of the screen so that the viewers can understand what he's saying. When Jerry agrees to take care of him, the baby seal enthusiastically barks for several seconds with a short 'thanks' appearing on the screen.
- Arnold's Parents' wedding ceremony in Hey Arnold! was done in the local language. It takes several hours to get through "Do you Miles take Stella to be your lawfully wedded wife", several more to get through "Do you Stella take Miles to be your lawfully wedded husband", but only a short phrase for "And by the power vested in me... ...I now pronounce you man and wife".
- The "West Side Pigeons" Goodfeathers sketch in Animaniacs has one scene in which the Godpigeon talks to Squit, who completely misunderstands him. The last of the Godpigeon's lines takes seven seconds to utter. It's subtitled as "See ya."
- There's also an episode where Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were abducted by aliens. The alien gives his leader a long response to his leader's command which subtitles to "Okay."
- Happens in an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball. The title character, when inquiring about Darwin's job skills, asks if Darwin can speak Chinese. He responds in a long Chinese sentence which is subtitled "No."
- Inverted in the "Shoyu Weenie" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, where a Japanese character's exclamation "Oi!" is subtitled as "They stole our song!"
Real life examples of this trope are common enough to be considered People Sit on Chairs
. In keeping with the spirit of the trope, please only add examples that are Egregious
or humorous. If your example contains the phrase "roughly equivalent to [short phrase]", it's not an example, nor are proper nouns or technical jargon.
- Many languages do not actually have the words "yes" and "no." Instead one responds to a yes/no question by repeating the question or key verb, but in the positive or negative. For example, in Irish Gaelic, if you are asked "Ar mhaith leat x?" (Do you like x?), one would respond either "Is maith liom" ("I like") or "Nior maith liom" ("I do not like").
- Mandarin Chinese is the same way. The closest thing they have is "Shi" which means "It is" note and "Bu Shi" meaning "It is not." Otherwise they just put "Bu" in front of the verb like they do in Gaelic. This is the cause of the infamous Recursive Translation that rendered Darth Vader's Big "NO!" from Revenge of the Sith as "do not want". And Now You Know.
- In Ithkuil, virtually every sentence or phrase seems to be short, and becomes much longer in translation. For example, a sentence made of 5 characters in Ithkuil means "On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point." Its rendering in phonetic script is "Tram-mļöi hhâsmařpţuktôx".
- Even in terms of words, Ithkuil has some simple roots that have really complex definitions: one root, "-ŠPʰ-", means a "mix of humor and shame one feels upon pulling a joke on someone or at their expense but the target doesn’t 'get it' or remains ignorant of the joke".
- According to Cracked, the Pascuense (the language spoken in Easter Island) word "tingo" means "to remove every object from a person's house one by one until nothing is left."
- American Sign Language (and probably other sign languages) uses very succinct gestures and relies a lot on facial expression and directionality. So, the phrase 'she helped me reluctantly again and again' can theoretically be communicated with one sign. Likewise 'I'll do it myself' is one sign, and 'she asked me to tell you to take the keys from her and give them to me' can be communicated in four signs.
- Jerry Potts, a Métis guide and translator, was notorious for not liking to talk a lot. Once, after a Native Chief had spent several minutes greeting some White guests, he translated the speech as "He says he's damn happy you're here."
- A Latin example is the phrase "Mutatis Mutandis" (sometimes abbreviated to MM, even) which translates as "after the things that should have been changed, have been changed". It's one example of an entire grammatical construction, the ablative absolute, which can be expressed with as few as two words in Latin but typically requires a translation along the lines of "When / Since / Because / While / After [x] was / has been / had been [y]" depending on context.
- Body Language and Intonation can convey large amounts of information with a single word.
- A few Armenian words are like this; for instance, shaganakagoyn is the word for brown. It is however a lot more fun to say.
- The wonderfully useful Scottish word "tartle" means "to hesitate before introducing someone because you've just realised you've forgotten their name".
- "Orka" is a Swedish verb that means something to the extent of "to have the energy/strength/stamina for something" or "to not be too tired/fatigued/weak for something". When the word is said with a frustrated tone it carries the meaning of "but who would bother with what you just said, not me, that's for sure!" (The meaning is pretty much the same as in the Finnish verb "jaksaa" above.)
- There is also the Swedish word "Lagom" that, due to being equivalently translatable in very few languages, English not included amongst those, forcibly invokes this, and the fact that it is a very flexible word does not make things easier. A proper rough translation of "Lagom" into English would be something along the lines of "neither too [insert adjective] nor too [insert the adjective's antonym], but just simply adequate for this given situation".
- Basically "the Goldilocks zone", only that that story isn't as well-known outside the English language, making it a reverse Translation: Yes for many viewers who aren't familiar with it.
- Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, up top, is awesome. Translated, it means "fishing place at the boundary," which local wags have rendered as "We'll fish on our side, you fish on your side, and no one fishes in the middle". The locals are quite proud of it.
- In Hungarian, "megcsörget" means "to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back, allowing the caller not to spend money on minutes". "Prozvonit" means the same in Czech and Slovak, and so does "cimnuti" (lit. "to pluck" or "to give somebody a pool") in Serbian, and in addition, teenagers and young adults use it often as a signal ("I'll give you a missed call when I'm ready to go."). In Romanian "dă bip" is the imperative version of that phrase; a not-quite-but-almost literal translation would be "beep me." In Finnish, the word for that type of call is "häläri", whose etymology probably is in a word that translates as "alerter". Turkish has the word Çağrı for the same concept, which literally means "call" and was used when pagers were popular. With pagers gone, the word found new use among mobile phone users.
- In Australian slang, the phrase "prank me" is used to describe the same thing. It originates from people calling their friends while said friend is in a meeting or a class, causing the phone to ring and the friend to get in trouble with their superior.
- There's an improv game that involves two people having a conversation in a made-up foreign language and two "translators," one for each person, making up meanings for what they say. This trope tends to happen a lot. Also, sometimes someone will speak with a certain emotion and have it translated otherwise; for example, someone going on a long, angry-sounding rant, and having it translated as "I love you".
- In French, the common question words of 'who', 'what' and 'where' can be rendered as to 'qui est-ce que', 'qu'est-ce que' and 'où est-ce que' (who/what/where is it that). Admittedly, though, in everyday language, 'qui', 'quoi' and 'où' are fully sufficient.
- To ask someone what's up or what the problem is, you can say "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" which, rendered morpheme for morpheme, is "What is this that it there has?" Or, as we say in Quebec, "Skyâ?" — boiling that seven-morpheme phrase down to one syllable.
- "Ilunga" is a word in one of the Bantu languages spoken in Africa that means "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time".
- Some English words like Jaywalking and Accountability don't have equivalents in other languages. The biggest example is Spanish: the closes translation of Jaywalking into Spanish is Crossing the street carelesslynote , which is not an actual offence in most Spanish-speaking countries. Of course, this makes any translated instances of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking from American media even more poignant for Spanish-speaking audiences.
- Ditto in Japanese: The equivalents are 道路横断歩行 (Dōro ōdan hokō, translated roughly as Highway Crossing Walk) and 説明責任 (Setsumei sekinin, literally Explaining responsabilities) respectively, despite in the case of jaywalking is not being tolerated there.
- TV Tropes.
- In the Madrid metro, they have a vocal announcement that says, "Atención, estación en curva. Al salir, tengan cuidado para no introducir el pie entre coche y andén." Literal translation: "Warning, curved station. When disembarking, take care not to insert your foot between the train car and the platform." Or as they say in London, "Mind the gap."
- On the other hand, "Please allow other patrons to disembark before embarking" translates to "Dejen salir"note .
- TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary.
- The biggest offender seems to be Zeerust. Which upon translation into plain English, approximately means "the Narm-inducing phenomenon in which a work created in the past had its own sense of futurism which, to modern audiences, ironically makes the work seem dated." Oh wait, I need to explain Narm first!