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Then the grasshopper said, “You’ve got a drink named ‘Doug’?”

[ 59 ] October 30, 2012 |

The person who subtitled Alias is either brilliant or an idiot:




RUSSIAN SPY: ALRIGHT! Alright, I’ll tell you …

It’s like a spy novel written by old Jews.


Comments (59)

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  1. OmerosPeanut says:

    What was actually being said?

  2. SEK says:

    Yes, I’m alternating grading stacks of papers with episodes of Alias. What of it?

  3. ajay says:



    A likely story.

  4. Julian says:

    russians always crack when you rephrase a request as a command. Reagan knew this.

    • Warren Terra says:

      There was a scene in some spy thriller parody – I forget which one – where the enemy agent being questioned admitted that the third time they heard a question they were compelled to answer it, no matter how theatrical their denials the first two times. As I recall, the captured agent was of course killed right before they could complete the most important answer.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      To divulge the anecdote now, vile Terry, or to face the punishment pits!

      • Tief-Tief says:

        Not to forget which side of the bread substitute has the ikky-wax on it!

        I also like the aliens who talked in spoonerisms all the time. “Fold the hort till I get back.”

  5. Murc says:

    Is it, in fact, subtitled by people?

    I always figured that most modern closed-captioning was done primarily by voice-recognition computer transcription, which is then given a very brief once-over by an editor, who is looking for things like grammar and spelling and scansion rather than ‘is this sensical’.

    • John says:

      Given that shows like Alias *have scripts* and are recorded, wouldn’t the anecdote just involve someone transcribing the script and syncing it with the actual show?

      I’m not sure about news events, but it seems like it would be crazy to do it any other way for scripted programs.

      • greylocks says:

        For various reasons (ad libs, dubs, editing) the shooting script and the final cut often don’t match. It’s probably less of a headache to just transcribe the final cut.

        • John says:

          I suppose, but having the shooting script available would surely be very helpful, at least.

          • Hob says:

            It would be, but that’s not how it’s done– at least, when I worked at an agency that did captioning, we did not have access to the scripts. It could be a legal issue but more likely it’s just logistics, i.e. there’s no other reason why shooting scripts would be transferred from the production crew to the post-production/distribution people, and they don’t consider closed captioning to be an important enough reason by itself.

          • SEK says:

            Scripts are archived items; shooting scripts are highlighted, annotated, thrice-copied coffee-stained wrecks held together by sticky tape and willpower, because they’re actually used on the set. At least, that’s my impression, as well as that of an editor I know who works on publishing “shooting scripts,” which according to him he reverse-engineers by watching the film and transcribing it.

            • Hob says:

              Yeah, we did exactly that at the place I worked too, although in many cases it was a stretch to imagine anyone publishing the scripts (or using them in descriptive tracks for the blind)– at one point they had me typing up dialogue and stage directions for obscure kung fu movies. MAN 1: I will destroy you! MAN 2: Aaaah! [MAN 2 JUMPS FROM BALCONY; THEY FIGHT; MAN 2 IS WINNING UNTIL MAN 3 SNEAKS UP AND STABS HIM]

          • Njorl says:

            Every time the guy doing the subtitling asked his assistant to get the shooting script, the assistant thought “shooting” was just a TV-friendly version of an obscenity used out of habit, so he just asked for the production company for the script. It never matched up.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Is it, in fact, subtitled by people?

      Yes. I’ve known people who did captioning, and it is fairly skilled work.

    • NonyNony says:

      Is it, in fact, subtitled by people?

      God I hope so. Considering what the state of the art is for speech recognition, I’d be terrified of the garbled mess that the hearing impaired would be forced to put up with trying to puzzle their way through.

      (Clean broadcast news speech will probably be okay – but anything with explosions in the background or background music or someone talking in a crowded cafe or … pretty much any other dramatic situation will be a massive headache. You could do the recognition for a first pass, but I’d want a human in the loop for more than just double-checking the computer’s work.)

  6. I got a Star Wars box set for xmas once. I watched with subtitles and one of the discs had AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHH! for everything Chewbacca said.


  7. vacuumslayer says:

    Sometimes people are just really in the mood for a good story.

  8. JD says:

    Doug? In the version I know, it is most definitely “Steve.” (To be specific, “and the grasshopper looks up at the bartender with his big blue eyes and says, ‘You have a drink named Steeeeeeeeve?'”)

  9. Froley says:

    Not to be a spoiler, but the Rambaldi Device is actually a closet full of thigh-high boots and multi-color wigs that give the wearer a kind of sexytime cloaking device.

  10. Halloween Jack says:

    “…he must have thought that I was asking for an twelve-inch pianist.”

  11. There is no anecdote, only data!

  12. HP says:

    I once watched an obscure HK action flick subtitled in both Mandarin and English. It took me an hour to figure out that “abasement” = dungeon, and another thirty minutes to work out how that actually makes sense in retrospect.

  13. Eli Rabett says:

    Whats all this fuss I hear about saving Soviet jewelry – E. Littela

  14. personally, I am interested in learning more about this drink called “Doug”.

  15. Western Dave says:

    Iceberg, goldberg what’s the difference?

  16. aimai says:

    My family were early devotees of Chinese Sword Fighting movies–this would have been in the 70’s. We used to go down to chinatown to see them. The subtitles were no less hilarious than the plots. Several of my favorite lines:

    “Lay off, Eunuch.”
    or, following a torrent of sophisticated and elaborate chinese curses

    “You bunch of Rabbish.”

    Finally, a eunuch (naturally) and another bunch of bad guys are torturing the hero’s mother, who has been tied between two pillars for their convenience. To protect her son she dashes her own brains out against one of the pillars, at which point the eunuch villains tsk tsk almost sadly and say:
    “I’ve never seen such stubborness in a mother.”


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