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[personal profile] 3cb posting in [community profile] lostintranslation
Right, I shall finally kick this off with a scene from the Simpsons episode "Trilogy of Error", which actually inspired me to create this very community. Of course, the Simpsons are a treasure trove of sheer infinite idioms and plays on words that would deprive any translator of their sleep for months, but this has got to be one of my all-time favourites:


A spinning wheel of fireworks flies into Dr. Nick's surgery through an open window and lands on a gas cylinder. Nick dismisses his patient's fears as the cylinder is marked "inflammable", followed by his astonished remark "'Inflammable' means 'flammable'? What a country!"

Now I suppose it does work in quite a few languages (I'm thinking French, Spanish, and presumably Italian, although I cannot be sure about any one of them. Can anyone confirm this assumption?), but there is no German translation of the word "inflammable" with a negative prefix. The German dubbing literally translates as "'not flammable' means 'flammable'". Just one of many jokes lost on large parts of the German audience.

Any other languages that are not equipped to get this punch line across? Or, more interestingly, is there a dubbed or subtitled version in such a language which features a complete revision of the original text to achieve an equally funny punch line?
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Lost In Translation

July 2010

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