Live and Direct

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Philosophy of Fun with Danish

So on today's episode of _Scrubs_, JD's brother is in mourning and confines himself to the bathtub with a mountain of beer for days on end. (By the way, while this might be a good way to deal with grief, it's also great way just to blow the weekend.) Anyway, at one point JD comes to talk to him and the brother starts looking for his beer by sipping off all the cans floating around him. Sip, "Nope, bathwater." Sip, "Nope, backwash." The translator translated this as "body shampoo."

Now here's where things get a little poststructural. The phrase for "body shampoo" in Danish is actually "body shampoo," written in English. I mean, the translator actually wrote "body shampoo" in English as the incorrect "translation" for another phrase _in English_. And while that's Derridean enough to send me spinning for a few minutes, consider that anybody who speaks English is probably going to catch the mistranslation, whereas anybody watching who doesn't speak English would have the same level of incomprehension whether the word is translated incorrectly or whether the translator had just gone ahead and written "backwash" in English. Either way, they don't understand, the only difference being that in the "body shampoo" translation, they think they've actually seen the correct translation and are laughing at the wrong "joke." And this miscomprehension is based on the fact that the Danes are using the English phrase "body shampoo" to represent a conceptual space within the Danish language in a way that it has effectively been naturalized as the correct Danish phrase, as opposed to "back wash," which is evidently what the translator thought was being said, though to my knowledge nobody ever says "back wash" to mean "body shampoo" in English. Something about this is boggling my mind.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Hmm, looks vaguely familiar...

Originally uploaded by Trevor_.
Is it just me, or does the pup in the middle look a lot like a certain German politician who had a propensity for invading the Sudetenland?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Spun out on tofu

To paraphrase Vincent Vega, the funny thing about living in Europe is the little things. Like the fact that you can buy flour tortillas, corn tortillas, salsa, pre-mixed fajita and taco spice packets, but not refried beans. Or the fact that the Danes eat candies based on menthol, eucalyptus, hot pepper, cactus (no kidding), even ammonia, but they think cinnamon candies are disgusting. Or the fact that tofu is incredibly hard to come by. To my knowledge, you can purchase it in three places in Copenhagen, all of which are a good 30 minute bike ride from our apartment.

So Sara and I made a special trip to buy tofu for a dinner party we're having this weekend. The store actually makes it fresh, so it's awesome, but also very soft. I was very much looking forward to my tofu. Until it met the realities of a bike ride home from the store, during which time it gave up its tofu-ey goodness. We now have a plastic tub of white goo.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

We are Machine

Go check out the website for my friends' game development company, Machine: This is one of the projects I mentioned some time ago as the fruit of chaos born out of my old project. There's not much on the website right now, but they do have a really cool Flash intro page. And speaking of my old project, now that its first "sneak peeks" are out, you can read more about it at

Sorry about the cut/paste, but I'm posting from home and Blogger still isn't grooving on Explorer on the Mac. I know, I know, I'll install a new browser, but that adventure is a whole other, not very interesting story. For the record, I had virtually nothing to do with the current design or game narrative, as it was developed roughly around the same time I left.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Who knew?

Originally uploaded by Trevor_.
And seafoam is the new heather.

Monday, May 09, 2005

More fun with Danish: International Edition

One of the continuing, unpredictable pleasures of living abroad is watching the Danish translation services try to keep up with American television programs. They particularly struggle with sitcoms that specialize in wordplay and puns. Mostly, they do a pretty good job, but every once in a while, they do something that makes me wonder if these people actually know anything about this mythical place known as "America." Here are three of my favorite mistranslations:

On _Scrubs_ one of the characters was moving into a new apartment and her friends were helping her move her things. There was a long line of people handing things into a truck and naming them as they went. A character handed up a tacklebox, said "Tacklebox," and the Danish translators translated that as "Box of tacos." Makes sense: you're moving, and hungry, so why not bring a box of tacos?

On _The Gilmore Girls_ (which has become a favorite of mine, rumors that I have a crush on Rory notwithstanding), two characters were vying for the position of town troubador. One character, arguing that troubadors need to be mysterious and elusive, attempted to demonstrate the mundanity and therefore unworthiness of his competitor by asking what he did for a living. He answered, "I manage a Kinko's." Translation in Danish: "I manage a sex club." Evidently, in Denmark, that is a very pedestrian thing to do.

My favorite came just last night, and again on _Scrubs_. As a sidenote, I feel sorry for the translator of this program. It's based largely on puns, abstract silliness, cultural tropes, and slang, so it must be driving the translator crazy. Still, if the person had ever, I don't know, been to America, a lot of this could be avoided. Anyway, last night the mentor figure on the series, Dr. Cox, was lecturing his students about taking responsibility for themselves and medical standards. He asked the rhetorical question, "Why do I care whether you pay attention to my lectures or not?" Answer: "Because I'm accountable. I'm accountable to our patients and to this hospital..." Translation: "Because I'm a cannibal. I'm a cannibal..." I didn't catch anything after that for several minutes because I was laughing until snot threatened to shoot out of my nose. It's a wonderful idea: faced with two translation possibilities, the translator decided that the reason Dr. Cox cares about hospital standards is because he wants to eat his patients.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Bush Family: Equal Opportunity Satanists.

Originally uploaded by Trevor_.
Who says Bush doesn't back women's rights? Clearly, he supports Laura's right to SHOUT at the DEVIL!

Shout! Shout! Shout! Shout at the Devil!

Originally uploaded by Trevor_.
One picture, and suddenly everything is so clear.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fun with Danish

Speaking of farts, the Danish word "fart" means "speed" as well as something like "journey." This leads to endless fun for English speakers as we giggle at all sorts of silly words. The apocryphal story goes that back in the 50s during a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, the Danish government was asked to cover up the signs for the well-known city of Middelfart. It's the city you have to pass through as the midpoint on your way from the mainland of Jutland over to the islands of Fyn and Sjaelland, but evidently it was too much for Her delicate sensibilities. Then there's the upcoming holiday, Kristi Himmelsfart, which literally memorializes "Christ's Heavenly Journey," but has always struck me as a bit blasphemous in a bilingual way.

Recently, my friend Martin and I were driving up to northern Sjaelland for a meeting and passed through a road construction area with a reduced speed area, which led to my favorite sign of all time: "Fart kontrol." I giggled all the way from Copenhagen and back, thinking of the Danish police handing out tickets for violating the fart kontrol.