miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014

FATTY OWLS... FAWLTY...

That's right, this is a Fawlty Towers post!
Last summer, I visited Stockholm to meet a female friend of mine, a lady who works for the Spanish Embassy. She can't speak Swedish, but she's able to make up for it with her excellent English and German (having been a high school English teacher back in Spain). For instance, she could find out that "riksdag" means "Parliament" in Swedish thinking of the German cognate "Reichstag" (In between Swedish and German, being the languages of sister nations, there are hundreds of cognates more).
So this teacher-turned-official friend of mine didn't understand why her new Swedish friends say about her: "She's from Barcelona". Time to explain the connection with Fawlty Towers, one of the British comedies most loved in Sweden (together with 'Allo 'Allo, Flying Circus, Blackadder...)!
Cue Mercedes surprised! In the version of the show she knew, Manuel was a cuate from Jalisco. The laziness of the average Spaniard when it comes to foreign languages is translated into the media as the practice of dubbing every single foreign show. In Sweden, only media for children below 11-12 are dubbed into Swedish (and minority languages such as Finnish, Yiddish, Saami...): the rest of TV programmes are broadcast in original language, with Swedish (or Finnish, Yiddish, Saami...) subtitles. Including British comedy.
Again, in the Castilian (European Spanish) dub, Manuel (played by a Briton with dark features and a knack for foreign accents!) is from Jalisco. Cue Mex accent... In a previous post, I dealt with changes upon European Spanish characters in Castilian translations of media. But this is not the only issue that makes FT such a difficult series to Castilianize.
To start with, the title. Hotel Fawlty, with a silent H, instead of the literal Torres (de) Fawlty. The towers on the hotel are actually so short that they can barely be noticed. Aside from the fact that the new title, unlike the original, does give a clue on what kind of enterprise Fawlty Towers is.
The billboard gag, the opening running gag similar to Bart's blackboard or the family before the sofa in The Simpsons opening, is based upon the premise of anagrams. In the first episode I saw, "The Kipper and the Corpse", it read "Fatty Owls", which has become our in-family nickname for the whole series.
How to translate these anagrams? Of course you can take the letters in FAWLTY TOWERS and make FATTY OWLS, but can you make BÚHOS GORDOS with the letters in HOTEL FAWLTY? So, the dub leaves the billboard du jour intact with a caption/subtitle to translate it literally.

Notice the towers.
And the billboard.
But this is not the only issue in FT. How to translate cultural references...? "At the Oval" becomes "en el críquet", but "Wogs?" And Manuel's funny mistakes, based on the Anglo-Spanish language barrier?

Mr. Fawlty: Manuel, there is too much butter on those trays.
Manuel: ¡No, no, no, señor Folty! ¡Not "on, dous, treis"! ¡"Un, dos, tres"! (counting to three with fingers)

This fragment is simply cut out. Just because most Spaniards, due to the lack of long vowels and other features of their mother tongue, prove as ineffectual when it comes to foreign languages as Manuel in the dialogue above.


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