Fun with Subtitles

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Subtitles are a wonderful tool for translating foreign languages on screen. Sòmetîms, hòwévër, sømëønê wïll gët thë brítê idëa tø mêss wîth thém. Wì not treì a hòlidäy in Swëdën this yër? Seé the lôvelí lakes, the wônderfûl telephøne system, and maní íntèresting fúrrÿ ánîmåls, ínclüding the mãjestík møøse.

We apologise for the fault in this entry. The troper has been sacked.

Mÿ sïster wás bîttèn bÿ å møøse õnce.

We apologise again for the fault in this entry. Those responsible for sacking the troper who has just been sacked, have been sacked.

Mÿnd ÿou, møøse bïtes Kan be prettï nâstí.

The troper hired to continue this entry after the other troper had been sacked, wishes it to be known that they have just been sacked. This entry has now been completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute

Subtitles are fun!
Llamas!
(åÿnd zë mãjestík møøse.)

Supertrope of Even the Subtitler Is Stumped. Also see Spice Up the Subtitles.

Examples of Fun with Subtitles include:


Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

"And these aren't just subtitles, these are subtitles I like to ride on." (rolls away, well, riding the subtitles)

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn! gives us this hilarious translator's note.
  • Crayon Shin-chan's gag dub is already hilarious, but one episode features a character working as a detective in a parody of Lupin III, and at one point he must hop on platforms floating on lava. (Or some red, hot, liquid material) The steam from the lava is everywhere, and subtitles below says, "Okay, this was WAY too much of a bitch to translate. Use your imagination. Seriously, look at all that steam. We're not dealing with that. This would spell 'E-Q-U-A' if we cared. If you squint your eyes, it kind of looks like English."
  • The second episode of Zoku Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei has a particularly convoluted subtitle gag. The characters are just speaking gibberish and the subtitles (in Japanese) are nonsense about the Dragon Balls. One fansubbing group who were stuck in the unenviable position of translating all that both translated the subtitles and added "supertitles" to show the actual lines from the manga chapter on which the episode is based, which is about Commodore Perry. Sorta.
  • These screenshots of Seirei no Moribito make the subtitles seem full of innuendo.
  • Excel Saga has a multi-layered subtitle gag that plays around with both the English dub and Japanese original track in one episode.
    • How to best explain it... The episode starts with the flying words in space, ala Star Wars. The words are in English, but it's a Japanese series so they provide a Japanese translation at the side, and the narrator also speaks out the Japanese translation. If you watch it in the original Japanese or the English dub, that's it. But watch it with English subs, and you'll get not only the original English text, but also a translation of the Japanese translation written on the side of the screen, and a translation of the narrator's reading of the translation. All of this results in the screen being full of text, with three different English versions, each with subtle differences.
    • And there's Sumiyoshi, who only speaks in subtitles that everyone can read.
  • In the first Urusei Yatsura movie, Lum's mother's speech has two sets of subtitles. One, in English and with parentheses, explains that Lum's mom is speaking not Japanese but an alien language which no human understands. The other set reads "Ιφ ψου χαν ρεαδ τηισ⊃" followed by "⊃ψου∍ρε α σεριουσ Οτακυ." In case you're wondering, that is the result of writing "If you can read this…" / "…you're a serious Otaku" in the Symbol font from classic Mac OS (using the Mac OS Roman character set).
  • Funimation's Gag Dub of Keroro Gunsou has matching Gag Subs; some of the sign subtitles even go as far as to argue with the narrator.
  • One fansub of the second season of Darker than Black replaces Hei's request for the meteor fragment with "I'll let you go if you blow me."
  • Someone did a jokesub of the first episode of Pokémon Best Wishes. Needless to say, it's not exactly accurate. Warning: Very inappropriate.
  • How could we forget this gem from Code Geass?
  • One of the Haruhi Suzumiya ASOS Brigade promos for the season 1 DVD release messed with the subtitles to turn them into Leet Speak.
  • An episode of Lost Universe involved a political figure from some foreign country and a rebel leader (in a chicken costume) arguing in complete gibberish. One fansubber decided to subtitle their conversation anyway, having them arguing over the ethics of releasing fansubs.
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam 00 movie features a Show Within a Show that has the cast in an utterly ridiculous Super Robot show. The fansubs (which for the rest of the movie were of high quality) decided to be silly during this scene and deliberately made terrible subtitles for that sequence. They're written in awkward fonts, leave a bunch of terms untranslated, and use translator's notes gratuitously. It fit in well with the tone of the scene and was generally agreed to be utterly hilarious by the fans.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Following the tradition of the comic book Scott Pilgrim vs. the World plays with subtitles all over the movie, including introducing characters, giving backstory,and even Painting the Fourth Wall.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which inspired the writing of this trope: the opening credits are in English, with subtitles in a faux-Scandinavian language. Eventually the subtitles transform from fairly decent As Long as It Sounds Foreign to a weird ramble about Sweden and a moose biting someone's sister—clearly in English, but with a few spelling eccentricities to retain the Scandinavian edge.
    • The dvd of the movie also has a feature called "Subtitles for People Who Don't Like The Movie", which subtitles the whole movie with lines from Shakespeare.
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember has a scene in which Austin converses with a Japanese CEO. The subtitles are in white, and happen to be obscured by objects that are also white...

"Please eat some shitake mushrooms"
"Your assignment is an unhappy one"
"I have a huge rodent problem"

    • ... Even though "shiitake" is actually spelt with two i's...
    • There was another scene where Austin has a conversation with his dad using Cockney rhyming slang which is subtitled in American English that Americans can understand. Eventually, though, the subtitles start getting confused (replacing long stretches of the conversation with "??????"), only catching up to the final phrase: "...and shat on a turtle!".
      • Or with "tea kettle".
  • Snatch had Mikey the Pikey, who spoke English with a very thick accent. An extra on the DVD has Mikey subtitled; the subtitles once read "?????????".
    • The reason that the subtitles can't translate Mikey's words at that point is because Brad Pitt went completely off the rails and just made up a whole bunch of gibberish. He's not actually saying anything.
  • In the parody movie Fatal Instinct, a woman is plotting in the middle of a park with her lover to kill her husband, and the two of them speak subtitled Yiddish. At one point, the man sitting in the bench answers a question the lover asked her. When she asked if he understood Yiddish, he replied that he was simply reading the subtitles, at which point, the two of them look down at the words, as if just noticing them.
  • The Man With Two Brains jokes goes like this: The character is arrested, and the policeman addresses him in subtitled German. When he is answered in English, he exclaims "Oh, you speak English!" before telling his associate to drop the subtitles.
  • George of the Jungle: when George is speaking "gorilla" to his ape friends. Normally George has about as basic a vocabulary and grammar rules as anybody, but apparently he speaks gorilla like a Shakespearean scholar, complete with a calligraphy-style font for the subtitles.
    • In addition to the above, they also keep the subtitles for the German(ic) mercenaries: "Thank you, sir!" and "Oh, see the monkey." Predictably, they're speaking perfect English....
    • Taken up to 11 in the sequel. The animals are translated into English, but the subtitles are animal sounds.
  • In Wayne's World, there are subtitles when Wayne speaks Cantonese. However, at one point he stops talking, and the subtitles keep coming. The actors sit there in silence, looking slightly bored, while this goes on.
    • To clarify, the implication is that the four word Cantonese phrase Wayne uses is worth a couple of paragraphs in English, taking considerably more time to get all the text on the screen than it is to say. This is a play on foreign films where long streams of speech are accompanied by ridiculously minute, concise subtitles. It's also a reference to the Looney Tunes cartoon Wackiki Wabbit, cited below.
    • In the sequel, when he inadvertently insults his girlfriend's father, provoking an immenent fight, Wayne asks if they can switch from subtitles to dubbing (since it's going to be a martial arts fight scene).
      • Very well. If that is your custom, prepare to die.
  • A nightclub scene in Trainspotting has two simultaneous conversations subtitled, because the music is too loud to understand what the characters are saying otherwise. The joke was reported lost in the US, where the entire film had Glaswegian/English subtitles.
  • The Imposters has a scene where one of the heroes overhears a terrorist plot... while hiding under the bed & reading the terrorist's subtitles.
  • A very rare non-comedic example: in Man on Fire, the subtitles start out behaving normally, appearing at the bottom of the screen whenever character speaks in a non-English language. As the film goes on, however, they get...weird. They start popping up one word at a time. They turn up when a character is speaking English anyway. They appear in unorthodox parts of the screen. Finally they've all but taken over the film, with such instances as a large grainy word appearing right out of a character's mouth and floating creepily across the screen before dissolving becoming not uncommon.
    • Which follows Creasy's increasing descent into madness quite well. Only when he finds that Pita is still alive do the subtitles go back to normal, more or less.
  • Barfly Jack in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels recounts a story involving one of the film's antagonists in an almost impenetrable block of Cockney rhyming slang, with English subtitles.

He then proceeds to order an Aristotle of the most ping-pong tiddly in the Nuclear sub.

  • In Airplane!!, the two black guys speak "Jive" to everybody. While they're speaking to each other, their conversation is subtitled, but later on the subtitles end, and an elderly lady who happens to "speak jive" volunteers to translate.
    • And the translator was June Cleaver, no less.
  • The Bilingual (French/English) movie Bon Cop, Bad Cop the two main characters switch back and forth between French and English. In the "English" version, only when they're speaking French do subtitles appear, translating the dialog into English (and the reverse happens in the so-called french version of the movie). It is also possible to display the entire movie with English or French subtitles, or to have each language subtitled only in itself. David, the Quebecois cop, assuming that his Ontario counterpart, Martin, only understands English, makes snarky remarks about him in French.

David (after the 'squarehead' suddenly addresses him in fluent francais): "You speak French?"
Martin: Non, je ne parle pas français. Je me suis fait installer un petit gadget au cerveau and I see subtitles under people when they speak. (No, I don't speak French. I had a little gadget installed in my brain et je vois des sous-titres sous les gens quand ils parlent.)

  • Not Another Teen Movie features a character who speaks in a series of light foreign accents but receives subtitles despite being perfectly intelligible. Also, she spends the entire movie naked and, when necessary, there large spaces are left in the subtitles to keep her nipples visible.
  • Woody Allen's film Annie Hall has a scene where the two leads, newly met and mutually attracted, are awkwardly conversing with each other. Subtitles start appearing which reveal what each of them is actually thinking as they talk.
  • In Major League III, when Gus Cantrell speaks with Tanaka to coax him to play for the Buzz, Tanaka's very heavily accented English words are subtitled in English, while Cantrell's English is subtitled in Japanese.
    • Later on, a nigh-incomprehensible shout is subtitled as:
  • The closed captioning in at least one VHS edition of Disney's Pete's Dragon slightly colorized some of the lyrics to the song "Every Little Piece"—the word "gold" appeared in yellow text, and some other references to money, cash, etc. were in dark green. It was an older tape, at that.
  • Crank: two men having a conversation where one was subtitled. When the camera cut to the other's perspective, the subtitles could be seen floating in the air back to front. Hard to explain. Just watch it.
    • The character in question, Chev Chelios, has been taking drugs all day and committing innumerable acts of violence in an effort to keep his adrenaline up. Near the end of the movie, he's in an elevator with a Chinese businessman, when he begins hallucinating that the man is talking to him in various people's voices (his mother's, his enemy's, and others). Then Chev begins to hallucinate that the man is speaking to him in Chinese, and he sees subtitles in the air. Throughout the movie there are other instances of subtitles being used in creative ways.
  • In The Master of Disguise, after a lengthy plotting session in Italian, someone sneezes; the subtitles translate "Gesundheit" to "God bless you" and "God bless you" to "Gesundheit".
  • The Three Stooges in Orbit. The Martian invaders talk in their own gibberish language, with subtitles to let the audience know what they're saying. When the Stooges encounter them for the first time, they just read the subtitles on the screen below them to work out what they're saying. There's also a gag in which a long string of words turns out to be the Martian equivilent of "Idiot!" At the end of the movie the Martians speak in English ("If you can't beat them, join them!") with the subtitles in their own language, which then rearrange into THE END.
  • The titular monsters in the horror movie Critters speak a high-speed alien gibberish, which comes with humorous subtitles: "They have weapons." "So what?" BLAM "Fuck!" Then, at the very end when the Critters belatedly realize a bomb has been planted on their spaceship, they clearly say "Uh oh.." Subtitle: Uh oh. BOOM.
  • In the Adam Sandler remake of The Longest Yard, the prisoner Turley (played by Dalip "The Great Khali" Singh, who has gigantism) speaks English, but his words come out garbled enough that subtitles are given for everything he says, even if you can understand him. "I'm glad you're back. Now I don't have to stab you."
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino sometimes subtitles well-known foreign words (like "merci") as themselves, rather than as their English translations, when translation subtitles are shown. Most lkely, the decision was because he presumed that everyone, whether or not they knew the languages being translated, would know these small words.
  • There's a German truck driver in Eurotrip who won't go near Berlin anytime soon. According to the subtitles, he sexually assaulted a horse there. He actually says that he will be arrested should he even come close to Berlin (for killing a woman, that is. No horse).
  • A Japanese character in Another Gay Movie speaks English, but her lines are subtitled in Japanese.
  • One of the major appeals of the subtitled version of Night Watch is the use of subtitles. The subtitles for a vampire's psychic lure turn red and dissipate like blood in water, text read off a computer is typed out (complete with cursor), a woman's shout takes up a good bottom sixth of the screen.
  • Subtitle tracks for Disney Animated Canon on DVD usually wind up on one of three levels:

1: Both speaking and singing subtitles match what is heard. Usually preserved for the "[language] for the hearing impaired" tracks.
2: Singing, but not speaking, subtitles match the audio. By far the most common.
3: Neither singing nor speaking subtitles match the audio. Rare, but it happens.

    • The Swedish subtitle track for |Hercules, on the other hand, took the third to a new level. The speaking parts have incorrect subtitling, as do the singing parts, but the thing is, the subtitles during the singing part is "correct" in that it fits the beat of the music. You can sing along to the music using the "incorrect" subtitles. This implies that whoever wrote the Swedish subtitles either a) didn't get to listen to the audio track he/she was subtitling and had to subtitle the English track, complete with translating songs in a way that made sense, or b) he/she just said "Fuck it" and wrote a completely original subtitle track, complete with translating songs in a way that made sense.
      • Wait, don't they always do that? Huh.
  • In Death Race, the character 14K speaks the majority of his lines in Mandarin Chinese, with English subtitles to translate. The one line he says in English is given an appropriate subtitle in Mandarin.
    • The line is "Fuck me!".
  • The raccoons from The Great Outdoors every time they show up their chattering produces subtitles about how they will find ways to outsmart John Candy's character to get at his garbage.
  • Older Than Television example: From the silent film Sunrise, The Woman From The City suggests that the Man drown his wife. The intertitle text melts and runs down to the bottom of the screen.
  • In Fat Head, there's a clip of the lawyer from Super Size Me explaining why McDonalds has to be the one making everybody fat. Subtitles appear replacing his tenuous logic with It's All About Me (in particular, "hundreds of years" becomes "they don't have much money").


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Sherlock series has a lot of fun with them. First of all, it displays text messages as such, avoiding multiple shots of phone screens. Second, the trademark Sherlock Scan is depicted as floating subtitles showcasing all of the little detail our Hero notices. And third, both of the above versions can be very creatively done too: subtitles reflect in mirrors, float in and out of windows, slide away along with the elevator doors they "reside" upon and so forth.
    • Also used to show how little he knows about someone. When he first meets Irene, all his scans get is "???????".
  • Gags with subtitles were also common in the Monty Python TV shows; The best example is probably from the Book at Bedtime/Kamikaze Scotsmen sketch, which features a highly confused conversation between two Russians, one of whom is speaking in Russian subtitled in English, and the other in English subtitled in Russian... and then French... and then German... and then Chinese...
  • The Australian comedy series The Late Show had a skit showing a look-a-sound-alike Australian Crawl band performing, with the lyrics of the lead singer (notoriously hard to decipher) subtitled. Eventually the subtitles end up showing "????" and "something about hairspray?"
  • In The Middleman episode "The Sino-Mexican Revelation," when Wendy Watson switches from Spanish to English, the subtitles switch from English to Spanish. This gag would have been repeated, though with different players, in the never-filmed final episode.
  • The episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that featured Godzilla VS Megalon featured a rather hilariously poorly-subtitled version of the Jet Jaguar song
    • He jock it made of steel. Eat sushi from a pail. Jet Jaguar? Jet Jaguar. He mother never really love him.
  • A sketch on Saturday Night Live with Elle MacPherson had the subtitle guy saying things like, "Man this chick is HOT!" and "I'm going to have a better look." and several seconds later a random guy with a headset walks behind her checking her out. All the while MacPherson is delivering a generic monologue.
    • The old SNL sketch with Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat advertising his music album. Because of his ... idiosyncratic pronunciation, every song is pretty much unintelligible. But when he starts singing "Bette Davis Eyes," the subtitles which have up to that point been giving the names of the songs default to "??????????"
      • Do you blame them? It's been over twenty years, and I didn't know what the heck he was singing until I read it right here!
        • For those still looking for the answer, it's "Bette Davis Eyes".
  • DVDs of The IT Crowd have an extra subtitle track in 1337 or ROT13 depending on the episode.
  • The Look Around You DVD subtitles are designed to look like classic Ceefax ones. In the extras, one of the special features has deliberately corrupted subtitles, similar to what you would see if your TV reception was poor.
  • A Bull Island sketch had an Irish guy land in Afghanistan. The Arabic dialogue was subtitled in English, but all the English dialogue got the same line of Arabic for the subtitle.
  • CNX once did an ad for some sort of contest in which what the narrator said was subtitled, with one exception—when the narrator said "brave contestants", the subtitles read 'crazy fools'.
  • Burn Notice announces each character as they first appear with their name and relationship to Michael—for example "Nate -- The Brother" or "Random Schlub -- The Client". The writers are not above using the subtitles to make jokes—in one episode, Michael met a guy who, after being called a mercenary, insisted that he was a "military contractor". The subtitles immediately shot back with "Ryder Stahl -- Mercenary".
    • Another episode has a Miami's 2nd biggest heroin dealer have the subtitle saying "Carmelo -- Heroin Dealer" the second part is swiftly replaced by "(Second Biggest)".
    • And in yet another episode, Michael greets a Czech assassin with a DIY knuckle-duster to the face (a bent butter knife) and "[something in Czech], comrade," which the subtitles translate as "Welcome to Miami, ass**** ." (Asterisks.)
    • In another episode, the villain is a car thief who's trying to kill a teenager for roughing him up, after the thief attempted to rape his underage sister. The client says he should never have messed with a "stone-cold gangster", and the subtitle pops up "Felix Cole--Gangster". Fiona, who had been enraged by hearing about the thief's actions, claims that he doesn't deserve to be called a gangster and that he's a pervert. The subtitles pop back up, this time reading "Felix Cole--Pervert".
    • There is at least one instance of someone being introduced as "Random Schlub -- Random thing". Once Michael agrees to take him on as a client, the subtitles come back with "Random Schlub -- Client".
    • And the memorable one in a recent episode: "Probably Not An Alien..."
    • A character asks Michael if there is a Russian word for "Hardass" upon seeing the episode's Big Bad. Said Big Bad's subtitles display the appropriate Russian word with "(Hardass)" next to it.
    • At one point in the Season 3 mid-finale "Long Way Back", Fiona angrily snaps at Michael "I am NOT one of your damn clients!" The subtitle immediately shoots back "Fiona -- Client".
    • Don't forget "Cantenna -- Cute Little Improvised Listening Device".
    • Two FBI agents go to Michael's mother's house, telling her they are Michael's friends. The subtitles show them with "Lane and Harris -- Not Michael's Friends". In another episode Michael states that there are a lot of people who'd like to see him arrested. Cut to Lane and Harris with subtitles "Lane and Harris -- Guys who'd love to see Michael arrested."
    • Being so used to the cute, funny, friendly subtitles also makes them suitable for creepier effect- for instance, the one that said nothing but "Management", indicating that we knew almost nothing about this guy and what we did know was not suitable for snark.
      • And Simon's first appearance simply gave him the subtitle "?".
    • In Tyler Brennan's first appearance, he's introduced with "Brennan -- Black Market Trader". When Michael's ex-fiancee (long story) calls him an "evil son of a bitch"...
      • In his second appearance, he extorts Mike into helping him steal some Applied Phlebotinum from a lab, and tells Mike to think of him as "your new boss". The subtitles promptly supplied "Brennan -- Michael's New Boss".
  • Then, there's the comedy clip involving why you don't subtitle insurgents... [1]
  • Arrested Development had Lupe refer to Buster as the "retardo". The subtitle read Buster.
  • In the last season of Boston Legal, from a group of Chinese lawyers and their translator:

Lawyers: [untranslated Chinese]
Subtitle: Bitch.
Translator: Bitch.
Subtitle: [untranslated Chinese]

  • Frequently on Viva La Bam, Don Vito's near-unintelligible speech is subtitled exactly how it's pronounced, which possibly makes how he talks even more confusing.
  • Used in a Mad TV sketch parodying K-Dramas (Korean soap opera); at one point, Cathy Shim simply says "Sarang" (Love) and the subtitles fill the screen entirely.
  • On 30 Rock, when Liz is forced to do a major negotiation with German businessmen using only her half-remembered high school language training, the viewers only see the bits she remembers.
  • Heroes: A minor example. The subtitles are placed near the character's mouths to represent word bubbles in a comic book. This makes them much easier to read.
    • Also, subtitles subtitling different languages (Japanese for Ando and Hiro and Spanish for the Mexican Brazilian Peruvian South American siblings) get different colours. Also something minor, but interesting.
    • Then when Hiro winds up in medieval Japan, his reaction is subtitled "@#$%!"
  • A sketch in Alexei Sayle's Stuff mocking Japanese car companies involved a Japanese businessman being subtitled during an interview. When the subtitles translate his words as "Basically, this is because my colleagues and I are complete and utter bastards", he begins shouting angrily, then runs up to the camera and peels off the subtitles, which are stuck to the 'inside' of the TV screen.
  • MythBusters, during the Compact Compact revisit. The narrator claimed that Jamie wasn't going to cuss Adam out for making a miscalculation... externally. Cue his next few lines being subtitled to make it look as if he is, indeed, cussing Adam out.
  • Top Gear had this when the presenters made their electric car a hybrid by bolting in an extremely noisy diesel generator.
  • A neat example from Finnish television: an episode of Frasier featured a character who spoke with a very thick French accent. To get this across in Finnish, instead of writing her dialogue in mangled Finnish they just added accents in certain places. Mínd yôu, ít máde rèading hér dialógûe a bît mòré díffícùlt, but not markedly so.
  • In the Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie, Alex ends up lost in a Latin American jungle and, not being fluent in Spanish, uses a subtitling spell to let her (and, of course, the audience) understand what the women she meets are saying about her. It's mostly insults.
  • Leverage has an example similar to Burn Notice's in the pilot episode. The subtitles describe Parker as "Security Circum--" then are deleted and replaced with "Infiltration and Alter--" which is also deleted and replaced with "Thief."
    • The season three opener, "The Jailhouse Job," subtitles the apartment above McRory's as "Nate's Apartment" but quickly deletes it and replaces it with "Leverage HQ."
  • The dutch comdy duo Kees Van Kooten and Wim the Bie once made a short music clip called "I Wanna Fuck You" performed by a very obvious parody of the Queen's (back then Heir Apparant) brothser in law. The subtitles were provided in Dutch, translating "I wanna fuck you" as "I like you" and the remainder of the translation was equally innocent... the text, not so much. The clip can be found here. Needless to say, it's NSFW.
  • I Love Lucy. Twice.
    • Lucy ends another argument with Ricky using her ususal screwball logic. He goes into one of his Spanish tirades, and the subtitles read simply, "She's nuts."
    • When the Ricardos and the Mertzes are in Italy, Lucy tries her hardest to get a part in an Italian movie, and of course fails miserably. Ethel gets the part instead, and Lucy mutters something which the subtitles translate as "CENSORED".
  • In the NCIS episode Frame-up, while Ducky is making a mold of Tony's teeth to compare against teeth marks found on a leg, Tony asks him if he couldn't have used his dental records instead, but it is more or less unintelligible. The subtitles say "Cooon't yooo haaa uuuued my een-al ray-corss?"
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? has a game called film dub in which two of the actors fake a foreign language conversation and the other two actors off screen 'translate' their lines after each person speaks, Hilarity Ensues.
    • The all-time greatest playing of this game, with guest Sid Caesar, featured Caesar switching languages during every exchange. Mind you, he was in his 90s.
  • On Parks and Recreation, a Native American convinces the superstitious townspeople that a curse will happen due to them having the Harvest Festival on Indian Burial Ground. Leslie finally convinces him to undo it by performing a lifting-the-curse ceremony for the cameras. As he performs the "sacred ceremony", the subtitles read, "I am not saying anything. No one can understand me anyway. Doobee, doobee, do."
  • In Survivor, they had fun with Phillip where he said he was a former federal agent, but nobody really believed him. For the entire season, his occupation was "Former Federal Agent?"
  • In Big Brother, they had a couple fun with these:
    • When Ivette told everyone she was gay, they cut to her in the diary room and instead of her usual occupation, they simply put "She's Gay" in the subtitle.
    • When Britney was tethered to Brendon, they were both sitting in the diary room while Brendon described another punishment he took, wherein he was taking a bath in chum. Britney looks at the camera and mouths the words, "Help me" and they subtitled her.


Music[edit | hide]

  • And "Weird Al" Yankovic can't resist joining in. The video for Smells Like Nirvana features subtitles on a stanza regarding Kurt Cobain's singing. 'It's unintelligible/ I just can't get it through my skull/ It's hard to bargle nawdle zouss (???)/ With all these marbles in my mouth.' The DVD video collection has the lyrics as subtitles; they step aside in favour of these for this stanza.
  • This video features footage from Woodstock "captioned for the clear-headed". Though clearly not the lyrics to the song being sung, the audio sounds a lot closer to what's in the captions than it does to the real lyrics.
  • Benny Lava is an Indian music video with English subtitles, which don't actually translate the Indian lyrics, but read what they sound like instead.
  • The lyrics to the GWAR song Morality Squad render a character's roar as "(inarticulate bellowing)."
  • Even The Muppets had a go, with the captions to their version of Popcorn (or "Pöpcørn", since it featured the Swedish Chef)...


Radio[edit | hide]

  • The Goon Show: a Nazi officer says "Speak English, you fool! Zere are no subtitles in zis scene!" Um, well of course not, it's Radio...


Theater[edit | hide]

  • When Fay poses as a sultry Frenchwoman in Anyone Can Whistle, she and love interest Hapgood carry on an extended conversation in French, with English surtitles for the audience. At one point, Hapgood asks Fay a question and she has to consult the surtitle before answering.
    • In one production, the translations were on large cue cards held by two extras, and continued into the ensuing song "Come Play Wiz Me," which mixes French and English. When Fay sang the English phrase "imperturbable perspicacity" (which means, in essence, "rock-solid insight"), the cue cards read "?????"
  • It's common for productions of operas to feature projected surtitles translating the libretto into the local language. Baz Luhrmann played with this in his production of La Boheme, projecting the titles in various places on the set and in different fonts, depending on which character was singing.


Video Games[edit | hide]

Matthew Patel: Ramona's FIRST ex-boyfriend! Powers: Mystical
Lucas Lee: Ramona's SECOND ex-boyfriend! Powers: Just look him up online...
Todd Ingram: Ramona's THIRD ex-boyfriend! Currently Dating: Envy Adams! Cheating on her too!
Roxanne "Roxie" Richter: Ramona's FOURTH ex-boyfriend?! Gender: Female!
ROBOT-01: Invented by the Twins! Size: Small
Super Fighting Robot: Invented by the Twins! Size: Maximum!!!
Kyle K. and Ken K.: Ramona's FIFTH and SIXTH ex-boyfriends! Powers: Being Japanese...
Negascott: Scott Pilgrim's EVIL TWIN! Rating: Negative Awesome!
Super Gideon Graves: Ramona's SEVENTH ex-boyfriend! Powers: Just LOOK at him!
Gigagideon Graves: Ramona dated this guy?! Powers: Undefeatable!
Gideon Gordon Graves: Is this the real Gideon?! Powers: Unknown...


Web Animation[edit | hide]

  • Played with, like everything else, in Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series: in Episode 9, we're hearing what is theoretically the Spanish language track, only to read "All of your Puzzle are belong to me!"
    • Episode 10 uses part of "A Cruel Angel's Thesis" instead of the normal opening, subtitling the lyrics by taking the original lyrics and making them more about card games. For example, the final line, "Young boy, become a legend", is replaced with "Young boy, play some card games".
    • Another Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series example, the abridged 2nd movie had this for the Opening Title Sequence, giving the Mondegreen treatment to the opening and ending.
    • Similarly, nearly everything Pikachu says in this specific Pokémon Abridged Series is given a meaning it could not have had in the original anime. Metapod evolving into Butterfree elicits a subtitle of "Yay the drugs are gonna come out".
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • One of the trailers uses this to hilarious effect. What starts out as a seemingly normal promotional trailer degrades into an argument between the voice over guy and the subtitler. And here is the aforementioned trailer.
    • Possessed!Lopez's subtitles somehow translate [1] into "Son of a bitch." You can't get much farther from the truth than that.
  • One episode of Banana-nana-Ninja! uses blinking subtitles for an intercom announcement. In an animated comic featuring Deadpool as a guest judge in a cooking contest, he complains about his subtitles and gets word balloons instead.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

 L33t D00d: 5\/\/33t. Pl4ya 2 <
—-, ixor m4
    • More recent strips involved Ping the Robot Girl being equipped by Largo with a "TR4NZL33T" live translation module, which renders English as Japanese subtitles in Ping's eyes. Only problem is, the translation engine was loaded with text from Japanese porn sites...
    • It also does it with the zombies. They speak in typical zombie grunts and groans, which are handily translated for our convenience:

 Zombie 1: Rwwrwr. Rawr ura rawru.
Subtitles: Commander, we have a situation.
Zombie 2: Rehr rwuck.
Subtitles: t3h suck. Just when everything was going so well.

  • Real Life Comics occasionally has fun with this too.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja did this through incredibly overzealous subtitles for Spanish dialogue, for example by translating the word policia. Four times. On the same page.
  • Concession showed this once; Artie's cousin worked in the closed-caption department and had handed in her notice, so she took the time to mess with the subtitles. She'd just had an unhappy affair with one of the newsreaders, so that person's speech got subtitled as "I'm a lying whore who likes to beat up the homeless".
    • Were you referring to this?


Web Original[edit | hide]

 Martin: Um, sorry, is anyone double-checking these subtitles? They don't seem to match what I am saying!
Translator: Yeah, they seem fine, Jacques.
Martin: Are you sure?
Translator: I'm positive.
Martin: Okay. Je trust en vous! (French: "I trust you.")


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Ling-Ling in Drawn Together is a Pokémon parody who speaks in incomprehensible "Japorean," gibberish that is supposed to be Japanese and Engrish. His subtitles also often contain Engrish as well. Once, when a Comedy Central banner for The Daily Show blocked his subtitles, Captain Hero started talking about Jon Stewart, implying they only understood him through his subtitles.
    • It became a running gag in one episode where numerous banners would block his subtitles. This made everyone he talked to, including Ling-Ling's own father, stare at the bottom of the screen in utter confusion since they could no longer understand what he was talking about.
    • In a non-banner-related gag, Ling-Ling said something that ended with the phrase "who we really are." The subtitle said "who we really L", while the audio said "something something are."
  • One episode of Family Guy had Peter finding his real father is Irish. At one point, they get involved in a drinking contest, and they end up incoherently slurring, with subtitles telling up what they are talking about. At one point, the subtitles read "?????????".
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Wackiki Wabbit", Bugs Bunny greets two castaways with a long line of faux-Polynesian gibberish, which the subtitles translate as "What's up, Doc?" He follows that with a short phrase, with the subtitles reading "Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of his party." When one of the castaways says, "Gee, thanks", faux-Polynesian subtitles appear beneath, causing his friend to comment, "Did you say that?"
  • Disneyland: the First 50 Years, a short film showing at the titular theme park and starring Steven Martin and Donald Duck, at one point uses subtitles to translate the latter's barely-intelligible speech. Donald notices the subtitles and begins arguing with them and the accompanying narrator voice-over. Finally, he grabs a giant mallet, stalks off-screen, and thrashes the interloper, with randomly flying letters and punctuation indicating the severity of the beating.
  • Animaniacs did this a couple times. They seem to be able to interact with and alter them as well; one sketch has them altering "These are typical Earth creatures." to "Are these typical Earth creatures?" and immediately making bizarre faces. The same short has them change "No" to "No Problem".
  • Used in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy during a conversation with an Eldritch Abomination in "The Prank Call of Cthulhu".

 Mandy: Ugh, this isn't working.
Grim: He said, 'If you're talking about the new interns, you can find them in the cafeteria.'
Mandy: You understood him?
Grim: No, but I'm pretty good at reading subtitles backwards.

  • In an episode of Chowder, the titular character speaks Spanish-sounding gibberish, which is subtitled as: Spanish-sounding gibberish.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie did this briefly, translating Princess Mindy's seahorses' whinnying to "Mermaid magic?"
  • The Invader Zim DVDs come with Irken subtitles.
  • At the beginning of the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Banjo", Zorak and Moltar have a Seinfeldian Conversation concerning Moltar's soap and Zorak's book, while the subtitles project blatant Ho Yay on the characters. The only time the subtitles really match up to the dialogue is Zorak's lone "What?"
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball asks Darwin if he knows Chinese. Darwin responds with a long sentence in Chinese, which is subtitled "No".


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • A common, universal running gag is to say something incredibly long only to have the subtitles be a single word or vice-versa.
  • BBC News tends to add subtitles to thickly-accented or dialectic English speakers, even if they are otherwise intelligible.
    • Unfortunately, this patronizing trend has spread to some documentaries and other factual programmes when they feature a foreign interviewee who speaks perfect English but with a faint overseas accent.
    • Chinese TV stations tend to do the same to speakers of non-local dialect or who have a really heavy accent.
    • Quite often it is done on films made using concealed cameras to make sure people understand what is being said.
    • This was used as a gag in a comedy skit where a female British reporter was interviewing a terrorist who stopped mid-interview when he saw subtitles and became angry that he was being subtitled. It gets funnier when his partner talks with just as much accent, doesn't get subtitles and he storms off...still being subtitled.
    • Common on Dutch and Flemish TV, where broadcasts from the other side of the border, most often TV series, tend to be subtitled despite being perfectly intelligible. As elsewhere, people speaking with a thick regional accent get are often subtitled, which, as this parody shows, is usually justified.
  • YouTube's recent "Transcribe Audio" feature, based on a Google translator, can produce some hilariously inaccurate subtitles. Case in point.
  • Once on morning news show The Daily Buzz, anchor Mitch English and celebrity guest Pauly Shore decide to mess with the show's captioner, Marjorie. She does this throughout the segment. And keep in mind, this is happening during a live broadcast.

  Captioner: This is not nice, Mitch!

  1. "Mother of God"