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April 17, 2009

The subtleties of subtitles.

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If you're like me, you tend to watch DVDs with the subtitles on -- whether because the kids are awake and the house is too noisy, or because the kids are asleep and the house needs to be quiet, or for some other reason altogether. And if you're like me, you can't help but wonder sometimes just what was going through the subtitlers' minds.

Case in point: Two nights ago, I was watching Peyton Place (1957), a surprisingly edgy-for-its-time (but still rather tame, compared to its source material) movie about adultery and incest and gossip and, um, "miscarriages" in a small New England town -- and in one scene, as two women and a boy go to church, we hear the choir in the distance. See if you can figure out what lyrics the choir is actually singing as these people approach the church:

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And that's where the scene fades out. Had it continued, though, I suspect the subtitlers might have noticed that "heavenly fold" doesn't exactly rhyme with "Son and Holy Ghost." And hey, even if they had heard the lyrics correctly, didn't they choose a rather strange place to put the line break?

This isn't the only oddity in the subtitles, though. Consider the bit below, from the scene where Rodney tells Allison that he promised to dance with Betty, the "tramp" that he recently broke up with in order to please his father:

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Admittedly, the actor playing Rodney speaks rather quickly here, but even if he skips or compresses his syllables, shouldn't it be obvious he's referring to the "intermission" at the high-school dance? Or is he putting off dancing with Betty until after he has seen some test results for a cancer treatment or something?

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Comments

Very interesting article.. I never would have suspected that whoever puts in the subtitles would make such a hugh mistake..I am a movie buff ,but never watch the sub-titles

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