Cursing and bantering in English subtitles

mark schilling 0934611501 at
Fri Oct 25 02:30:41 EDT 2002

My gut reaction to Asano-san's-san's query about "bad language" in subtitles
is -- the more colloquial the better. If a gangster is snarling "kono yaro"
at someone, in preparation to beating him within an inch of his life, then
have him say "you fuck" in the subtitle, not "you fool" or "you ass" or
other quaint equivalents that pop up all-too frequently in subtitles of
Japanese films.

There is such a thing as being too colloquial, though. If the subtitler
makes a yakuza sound like a character out of "The Sopranos," she is going to
take the audience out of the movie, as it wonders how this Japanese guy
learned to speak pure New Jersey.

But please, please, please, never use "cum." It's not a colloquialism; it's
sheer illiteracy.

Mark Schilling
schill at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Fujioka Asako" <asakof at>
To: <KineJapan at>
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2002 2:32 AM
Subject: Cursing and bantering in English subtitles

> Hello. During my work subtitling Japanese films into English, I've been
> wondering how the international film community (film festival programmers,
> sales agents, general audiences, journalists) reacts to explicit language
> subtitles. Understandably, having to "read" too many curse words in the
> subtitles leaves a negative effect very different from "hearing" the
> colloquial language of bantering. Aside from this issue of communicating a
> film and its nuances properly, are there any kinds of guidelines that
> film festivals or movie companies follow in the use of explicit language
> subtitles?
> "come" or "cum" is a word I've used often, now I'm faced with translating
> cursing: "fuck" and "goddamn" "dick" etc...
> Any advise would be helpful. Thanks.
> Fujioka Asako

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