Translation Strategies for Wordplay in The Simpsons

By Elina Korhonen (2008)

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The Simpsons is an animated cartoon series with an appeal for adults as well as for children. On the surface it is a fairly straightforward comedy series with more under its core than one perhaps realizes at first. In addition to providing a humorous insight into the life of a in many ways typical American nuclear family, the series actually has an ambiguous nature and it criticises many sides of American culture. This is in many cases achieved with the use of wordplay.

The Simpsons is one of my favourite television series, and having watched it for several years I have paid attention to the exceptional amount of wordplay in it. The series is filled with different types of wordplay that plays a significant role in creating a double reading of The Simpsons as a text. In fact, the role of wordplay is so significant that it would be a serious loss to the target audience of The Simpsons if it were lost in translation. When I started considering writing my thesis on the translation of wordplay in The Simpsons, I naturally started paying much more attention to the subtitles when watching the series, and came to admire Sari Luhtanen’s brilliant way of preserving the humorous nature of The Simpsons in a great number of the instances of wordplay. This made me even more interested to investigate what kind of translation strategies Luhtanen uses to render the wordplay into Finnish.

The purpose of this study is to analyze how Sari Luhtanen has rendered as subtitles the abundant wordplay in The Simpsons. With Dirk Delabastita’s translation strategies for wordplay as a frame of reference, I am going to investigate which strategies Luhtanen uses to retain the puns in the subtitles. Also the extent to which Luhtanen has had to omit the target text wordplay from the translation will be in the focus of interest. I will perform a quantitative analysis on the data, and discuss examples from the nine episodes of The Simpsons that are included in the corpus. Luhtanen has not been interviewed for the purposes of this study, so her possible motivations for using each translation strategy are based on my assumptions only. This study relies heavily on the work of Dirk Delabastita (1996), as his definition and typology of wordplay as well as his range of translation methods for wordplay are both used as frames of reference.

Chapter one of this study is about introducing the topic and the material used for this study. In chapter two I will discuss the concept of wordplay. In chapter three the functions of wordplay will be discussed and chapter four will concentrate on the translation of wordplay. A quantitative analysis of the data is presented in chapter five, and in chapter six the findings will be discussed. Chapter seven concludes the study.

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