The Translation of Puns

Full text


empirical example

Author: Camilla Østergaard Pedersen ASB: English and Spanish Date of hand in: December 1, 2010



- An analysis of the fate of puns in subtitling with Sex and the City as an empirical



1.1.Aim and problem statement...2

1.2.Theory and method...3



2.1.What is subtitling? ...5

2.2.Characteristics and constraints...5


3.1.What is a pun? ...8

3.2.The classification of the pun ...9

3.2.1.The relation of formal identity...9

3.2.2.The arrangement of pun components...10

3.3.Puns in film- and TV productions...11


4.1.Language-specific constraints...12

4.1.2. Translation and equivalence...12

4.2.Media-specific constraints ...14


5.1.Delabastita’s translation strategies...15


6.1.About ‘Sex and the City’...16

6.2.Plot and characters...16

6.3.Genre and communicative purpose...17

6.4.The TT audience...18



7.4.Visual puns...27






Appendix 1: Linguistic structures...38

Appendix 2: Illustration of the formal classification of the pun...38

Appendix 3: Delabastita’s translation strategies...38



The way that certain combinations of sounds and words can be exploited to create some kind of playful and surprising effect fascinates me. This is also one of the reasons that ‘Sex and the City’ (in the following referred to as ‘SATC’) is one of my favourite TV-series. In my opinion, one of the characteristics of this comedy series is the sharp and witty dialogue, in which humorous effects to a large degree are generated by the employment of wordplay. This use of wordplay in ‘SATC’ inspired me to the subject of this thesis. One day while watching an episode, it occurred to me that many of the instances of wordplay were lost in the subtitles; either because the meaning of it was only maintained to a certain degree or because the wordplay was simply left out. This observation indicates that the translation of wordplay can be a challenging and in some cases maybe even impossible task. Moreover, it can be assumed that the task of translating wordplay in subtitles may pose even greater challenges for the translator due to the constraints induced by the nature of this specific translation type. Therefore, I find it interesting to look into the translation of wordplay in this particular context. Since ‘SATC’ was my source of inspiration, I find it natural to use examples of wordplay from this series as objects for study.

Wordplay comprises the creative use of language in the form of e.g. rhyme, alliteration, play with grammar, etc. (Schröter 2004:159)


An additional type of wordplay is the pun, which is the form of wordplay that will be focused on in this thesis. The pun is a complex and diverse phenomenon, which is evident from the terminological and conceptual inconsistency that different works and publications on the subject tend to show. The terms ‘pun’ and ‘wordplay’ are in many cases used interchangeably, and in the words of Dirk Delabastita, an influential scholar on the field, ‘there is not even a consensus as to how the term pun should be understood’ (Delabastita 1993:55).

In this thesis the term ‘pun’ refers to the type of wordplay that creates a double meaning in the context in which it is employed by exploiting words that differ in meaning but are similar or almost similar in pronunciation and/or spelling. In order to avoid any potential confusion or misunderstanding, I will thus distinguish between the terms ‘wordplay’ and ‘pun’1. The former will be used to refer to the different types of wordplay in general, whereas the latter will be used to refer to the specific type of wordplay just mentioned. In other words, I regard the pun as being a subtype to the wider term ‘wordplay’.



Aim and problem statement

The purpose of this thesis is to examine which strategies are implemented by subtitlers when dealing with the transferring of puns from one language into another. In extension of this, I will evaluate whether the effect of the pun in the original version is maintained in the subtitled version. I will do this by carrying out an empirical analysis, which consists of a comparative analysis between the puns in the original version, i.e. the source text (in the following referred to as ST) and their translations into the subtitled version, i.e. the target text (in the following referred to as TT). The empirical material that is subject to analysis consists of 12 selected examples of puns from SATC, season 1-6.

It is not my intention to provide an exhaustive analysis of all the different types of puns that can be identified in the empirical material and the translation strategies that can be employed to translate them. Rather, I intend to look into how some of the issues that the translator faces when dealing with the translation of puns in subtitles are solved – successfully or not.

Thus, the aim of this thesis is to look into which strategies are used for the translation of puns in subtitles and with what effect. I will fulfil this aim by evaluating the translation of every example of puns that are subject to analysis. This will be done by answering the following questions to each example:

1) Which translation strategy has been used to translate the ST pun? In extension of this, I will seek to determine why the translator has chosen this strategy.

2) Is the presumed intended effect of the ST pun maintained or lost in translation, and why? 3) Would it be possible, or maybe even more suitable, to apply a different translation strategy

for the ST pun, and why?

The results will enable me compare the fate of the puns in the Danish subtitles, and on the basis of this I will be able to conclude on the following problem statement:



Theory and method

In order for me to be able to fulfil my aim, I will need a theoretical framework. Seeing that the selected examples are taken from a TV-series, it is pertinent to look into relevant aspects of translation within this type of media. Accordingly, I will start by accounting for some of the characteristics of subtitling that may be influential on the choices made by the translator. This theoretical part will mainly be based on Henrik Gottlieb’s works, since he has carried out several studies on the field. Additional references will be made to Jorge Díaz Cintas and Aline Remael, who are also specialised within the area.

In order for me to be able to analyse the selected ST puns and their translations, it is necessary to understand the phenomenon. Therefore, I will use the works of Delabastita to look into the characteristics of the pun as well as to provide a tool for classifying it. Since the focus is on the translation of puns in subtitles, the pun in this specific context will also be accounted for.

Having looked into the nature of both subtitling and the pun, the challenges of translating puns are examined. In this regard it is relevant to look into the notion of ‘untranslatability’ as well as the concept of ‘equivalence’, since these theories are relevant when seeking to understand why the meaning and effect of the pun can be challenging to transfer from one language to another. As regards the theory of equivalence, I will focus on Nida’s ‘formal’ and ‘dynamic equivalence’ because these distinctions are suitable in my evaluation of whether the effect of the ST puns has been maintained (cf. question 2 on previous page). Finally, I will utilize Delabastita’s model of strategies that can be applied to the translation of puns to identify the different solutions opted for in the translation of the ST puns.

With these theories as a framework, I will be able to analyse the empirical material which consists of 12 selected segments containing pun elements. In order to give the reader an understanding of the empirical material, I will give a brief introduction to the series in chapter 6, where the genre, communicative purpose and TT audience also will be considered, since these factors may be influential on the choices made by the subtitler.

On the basis of the analysis and the subsequent chapter in which the results are compared, I will be able to conclude on the problem statement.




As a result of the different perceptions of the pun there are also various approaches as to how it should be classified. Due to the limited scope of this thesis, I will solely focus on the classification of puns in terms of their formal structure.

One of the pun types that are represented in Delabastita’s illustration of the formal classification of puns (appendix 2) is the homographic pun. It has not been possible to find examples of this specific pun type in the empirical material, though. This can be explained by the fact that it relies more on sight than hearing, seeing that it is based on words that are spelled the same, but pronounced differently (Delabastita 1993:79). As a consequence, this pun type will not be included in the theoretical part either.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that the empirical material (among other theories) is analysed on the basis of Delabastita’s model in which nine different strategies that are possible to apply in the translation of puns are identified. However, since the purpose of this thesis is not to provide an exhaustive analysis of all the possible types of puns and their translations, it is not every translation strategy that is represented in the analysis.



In this chapter the main characteristics of subtitling are accounted for. This is to provide an understanding of this particular form of translation, since the nature of it poses some constraints to the translator, which may be necessary to consider in the analysis in chapter 7. These constraints are also the reason that some translation scholars do not regard subtitling as a type of translation, but rather of adaptation (Cintas & Remael 2007:9). In this thesis subtitling is considered to be a form of translation, taking the stance that the message rendered in the subtitles is not an adaptation of the original dialogue, but a translation of it that due to the characteristics of subtitling does not render the ST dialogue in its exact wording. Accordingly, the terms ‘translator’ and ‘subtitler’ are used interchangeably.


What is subtitling?

Subtitling is the most common mode of screen translation2 in Denmark. According to Gottlieb, subtitling can be defined as:

‘Diamesic translation in polysemiotic media in the form of one or more line of written text presented on the screen in sync with the original dialogue’ (2008, in Schjoldager: 208).

This definition is broad enough to refer to both intra- and interlingual subtitling, but it is important to distinguish between the two, though. Whereas intralingual subtitling is the subtitling of the original dialogue in the same language (thus a translation form provided particularly for the deaf and hearing impaired), interlingual subtitling is the translation from one language to another (Gottlieb 1997:71). The latter is the type of subtitling that is dealt with in this thesis.


Characteristics and constraints

Subtitling differs from other types of screen translation by being written.3 The fact that this particular translation type renders the original dialogue in a written form makes it diamesic, seeing that a shift in language mode is involved. Additionally, interlingual subtitling is diagonal, meaning that it shifts from one

2 Screen translation encompasses all products distributed on screen, be it a television, cinema or computer

screen (Cintas & Remael 2007:12).


language to another. Thus, the language mode shifts from source language (in the following referred to as SL) speech to target language (in the following referred to as TL) writing (Gottlieb in Schjoldager 2008:210).

This means that the subtitler must not only translate the dialogue from one language to another. S/he is also to transfer dialogue from the spoken language which is characterised by pauses, interruptions, unfinished sentences etc. to the written language which is more rigid (Gottlieb 1997:113). This shift from speech to writing induces some time- and space constraints, because there is a limit as to how many characters the average viewer can read while at the same time grasping the visuals and acoustics on screen. Therefore, the task of the subtitler is to focus on rendering the most informative elements of the original dialogue in the subtitles (Cintas & Remael 2007:63-64). The subtitler is also restricted in terms of space when translating from speech to writing, given that a new semantic load is added to the screen in the form of subtitles. In order for the subtitles not to take up to much space on the screen, they should not exceed 32-41 characters per line in a maximum of two lines (Cintas & Remael 2007:9).

As a result of these time- and space restrictions, which are induced because of the shift in language mode, subtitlers often resort to condensation, meaning that much of the original dialog is left out in the subtitles (Cintas & Remael 2007:145).

Another characteristic of subtitling is that it is conveyed in polysemiotic texts4. A text is polysemiotic when meaning is communicated through more than one semiotic channel5 simultaneously. Film and TV-productions, which are the types of polysemiotic texts that are dealt with in this thesis, are some of the most prominent polysemiotic text types due to their audiovisual nature (Gottlieb in Schjoldager 2008:41). Traditionally they employ the following four semiotic channels simultaneously:

The verbal acoustic channel: dialogue, background voices, sometimes lyrics (when meaningful in the given context)

The non-verbal acoustic channel: music and sound effects The verbal visual channel: captions and written signs

The non-verbal visual channel: picture composition and flow (Gottlieb 1997:89).

4 The term ‘text’ will be used throughout this thesis to refer to ‘any combination of sensory signs carrying

communicative meaning’, cf. Schjoldager’s notion of the term (Schjoldager 2008:40).

5 A semiotic channel is the mode or sign system through which meaning or signs are communicated


Meaning is conveyed through the interplay between these channels, which means that there are several aspects to consider in the subtitling process. Not only is the subtitler to transfer the verbal meaning from

the original dialogue into the TL, s/he must also consider the visual channels and their importance in relation to what is being communicated verbally.

This semiotic complexity can be considered a constraint to the subtitler because the meaning expressed in the subtitles must conform to what is communicated through the visual channels (Díaz Cintas & Remael 2007:9). Therefore, the subtitler does not have the same freedom as e.g. literal translators.

Nonetheless, an advantage in this respect is that the audience’s understanding of the original dialogue does not depend entirely on the subtitles, but is also supported by the intonative and visual aids of the original verbal and visual channels (Gottlieb 1997:121).

The fact that subtitles appear in synchrony with the original dialogue makes this translation form overt6 (Schjoldager 2008:31). This coexistence of the original dialogue and the written translation of it gives rise to what is denominated the ‘gossiping effect’ (Cintas & Remael 2007:55), an expression that is used to refer to the fact that the audience because of the simultaneous reception of the original dialogue and the subtitled version of it is enabled to find discrepancies between the two versions. One of the constraints in this regard is that the subtitler cannot take the same ‘covert’ liberties as e.g. literal translators without the audience (or the part of the audience that have a certain knowledge of the SL) noticing it (Gottlieb 1997:203). Furthermore, due to the gossiping effect, the use of the condensation strategy referred to earlier may give the audience the idea that too much information is left out, seeing that the presence of the subtitles in synchrony with the original dialog makes them aware that it is not the entire dialog that is rendered. Therefore, a common strategy is to transfer the items from the ST that have strong phonetic or morphological similarities to the TL, thus hoping that the TT audience appreciates the ‘resemblance’ between linguistic items of the original dialogue and the message that is rendered in the subtitles (Cintas & Remael 2007:56).

6 Translation is regarded as overt when viewers/readers are – or should be - aware that they are dealing with



In order for me to be able to analyse and evaluate the translation of the ST puns in chapter 7, it is necessary to look into the nature of the pun. As indicated in the introduction, it appears that there are different notions as to how the pun should be defined and classified. However, there seem to be an agreement upon the fact that the pun involves two senses (Partington 2009:1795). This means that it produces two or more possible meanings due to the context in which it is conveyed. Thus, ambiguity is triggered, which can be said to be a central feature of the phenomenon (Gottlieb 1997:186).


What is a pun?

Dirk Delabastita offers an operational definition of the pun, which covers the most characteristic aspects of it. Therefore, it will serve as a basis for the elaboration of the nature of the pun in the present chapter.

Wordplay is the general name indicating the various textual phenomena in which certain features inherent in the structure of the language used are exploited in such a way as to establish a communicatively significant, (near)-simultaneous confrontation of at least two linguistic structures with more or less dissimilar meanings (signifieds) and more or less similar forms (signifiers) (Delabastita 1993:57).

In this definition, it is stated that the pun is based on the confrontation of linguistic forms that are formally similar, but have different meanings (Delabastita 1993:58). The formal similarity is manifested in terms of spelling and pronunciation. It is therefore the confrontation of similar forms and dissimilar meanings between linguistic structures that gives rise to ambiguity. This means that ambiguity arises because words that look and/or sound the same but have different meanings are exploited in such a manner that an additional semantic layer7 is added to the otherwise stable relationship between signifier8 and signified9 (Sanderson 2009:125).

7 Semantics is the study of the meaning of words (McMillan). Thus, a semantic layer is a ‘layer of meaning.’ 8 Signifier is a term used in semiotics (the study of ‘signs’) referring to a word, symbol or the like, through

which meaning is carried. In this case it is the word or group of word that constitute the pun (

9 The signified refers to the meaning that the signifier carries, thus in this case it is the habitual meaning of


The linguistic structures through which the pun can be embedded can be phonological, polysemous, idiomatic, morphological, and syntactical10. It is important to state that in many cases two or more of these linguistic features are exploited to obtain a single pun (Delabastita 1996:130-131).

In Delabastita’s definition of the pun it is stated that the effect of a pun must be ‘communicatively significant’. Thereby, it is distinguished from unintentional wordplay, which appears from time to time (Delabastita 1996:131). A pun therefore need to be conveyed in especially textually contrived settings to be effective (Díaz Pérez 2008:37). As is stated by Brown:

‘A necessary condition for pun perception is a context in which multiple and disparate meanings for the pun word are acceptable; the context must concern itself with certain matters if a pun is to be made on a certain word’ (Delabastita 1993:70) Thus, a pun can only be regarded as effective when the context allows for a double-reading to be triggered. Such contexts can be verbal (which e.g. follow from our expectation of grammatical well-formedness, as well as thematic or conventional coherence) (Delabastita 1996:129) or situational (i.e. referring to the actual setting in which an utterance occurs or to ‘the world spoken of’ in the utterance) (Delabastita 1993:72-3).

The fact that a pun is communicatively significant means that it has a communicative effect. Such effect can for instance be humorous, attention-getting (often seen in newspaper headlines) or persuasive (frequent in marketing material) (Díaz Pérez 2008:37).


The classification of the pun

Various criteria can be used to describe and compare puns. They can for instance be classified in terms of their formal structure or according to the linguistic features in which they are inherent (Delabastita 1993:133). To serve the purpose of this thesis, I will use the former.

3.2.1. The relation of formal identity

The purpose of classifying puns in terms of their formal structure is to examine how the pun components (i.e. the word or word group that have more or less similar forms and more or less different meanings) are related formally. The relation of identity between the two pun components can be either partial or complete. It is possible to identify four types and degrees, which can be further specified in terms of homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy (Delabastita


1996:128). As mentioned in the introduction, the homographic pun will not be included in this thesis.

The homonymic pun is comprised of words that are identical both in spelling and

pronunciation. The words have different meaning, though. An example is the word ‘bear’, which can be a verb (to carry) or a noun (the animal).

The homophonic pun is based on the exploitation of word pairs which sound alike, but are

different in spelling. An example of such word pair is ‘Carrie’ (proper noun) and ‘carry’ (verb).

The paronymic pun exploits words that have slight differences in both spelling and

pronunciation. An example of such a word pair is ‘adding in salt/insult to injury’ (Delabastita 1993:79-80).

3.2.2. The arrangement of pun components

Depending on how the pun components are arranged in the text fragment in question, the pun is either horizontal or vertical (Delabastita 1993:78-79).

A pun is vertical when the meanings of it are exposed in one glimpse (Gottlieb 1997:186). The vertical pun is what Delabastita in his earlier-cited wordplay definition refers to as ‘the simultaneous confrontation of meaning’, seeing that the two confronting linguistic components are represented simultaneously within the same portion of text (Delabastita 1993:78-79), even though only one of them is materially present. The other component is triggered into action by the employment of the contextual setting (Delabastita 1996:129), which ignites the pun. This is illustrated in the following example:

“I don’t even want to be seen in public with him. And I hate his name – Harry. ‘Cause he is… Everywhere but his head” (Charlotte York, SATC season 5, episode 8).

This homonymic pun is vertical because both pun components are exposed simultaneously in the same text fragment. Thus, ‘Harry’ (proper noun) is the first pun component. The second is triggered by the following phrase, in which the homophonic relation between ‘Harry’ and ‘hairy’ (adjective) is exploited.

Additionally, it should be stated that it in some cases is possible to distinguish hierarchically between the two meanings that are derived from vertical puns. This is done on the basis of the importance of the meanings in relation to their contextual setting. In other words, one of the pun readings may be biased in a contextually stronger manner because its meaning contributes more obviously to the coherence of the pun’s immediate context (Delabastita 1993:206).


In horizontal puns, on the other hand, the two confronting linguistic components occur one after another in the text. It is the repetition of a word in context that triggers the secondary meaning. This is what Delabastita refers to as ‘the near-simultaneous confrontation of meaning’ in his definition. This type of pun component arrangement is illustrated with the following example:

“I don’t believe in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, I just believe in

parties” (Samantha Jones, SATC season 3, episode 2).

Due to the premodifiers in the first two renderings of ‘party,’ there is no doubt that the entities that are referred to are political. The secondary reading which triggers the pun is called forth in the third rendering of ‘party’, where it becomes obvious that the type of party that Samantha refers to is not political.

On the basis of these criteria it should be possible to account for any pun in terms of its formal structure (Delabastita 1993:81)11.


Puns in film- and TV productions

Having elaborated on the pun in general, it is now pertinent to examine the phenomenon in the setting of polysemiotic texts, more precisely film- and TV productions.

As mentioned previously, the pun can be utilized to obtain a humorous effect. This is why it is a highly employed device in comedy films and series. In such polysemiotic texts the pun can be conveyed through:

• Dialogue

• Written text on screen, be it through displays or captions

• Dialogue combined with non-verbal visual information (Gottlieb 1997:188)

In other words, it can be triggered through verbal representation solely (either written or spoken) or through the interplay of verbal and visual elements. The puns that are conveyed in the latter manner will in the following be referred to as ‘verbal puns’.

With this type of pun, the construction of a double meaning is conveyed through the simultaneous confrontation of an utterance and a visual image (Sanderson 2009:124). The visual representation constitutes the situational contextual setting, which means that the situational context can be regarded as crucial to the functioning of puns in polysemiotic texts (Delabastita 1993:72).



Puns have by some translation scholars been labelled ‘untranslatable’. The purpose of the present chapter is to clarify the reasons for this by looking into both the language- and media specific constraints, with emphasis on the former. The talent of the translator and the time available to perform the translating task may also influence the results of the translation, but will not be elaborated in the following.


Language-specific constraints

It seems to be a common notion that the translation of puns is a challenging task. This can be explained by the fact that:

‘the semantic and pragmatic effect of source-text wordplay find their origin in particular structural characteristics of the source language for which the target language more often than not fails to produce a counterpart, such as the existence of certain homophones, near-homophones, polysemic clusters, idioms or grammatical rules’ (Delabastita 1994:223).

In other words, the rationale for considering puns as untranslatable is that they exist by virtue of the linguistic structures of the language in which they are produced. Seeing that the TL is built upon other linguistic structures than the SL, it is not possible to translate the ST pun equivalently to the TT. Thus, according to Delabastita, the notion of untranslatability means that translation equivalence is impossible in the transfer of puns from a SL to a TL (Delabastita 1996:13). Nonetheless, one’s stance in the disputable claim that puns are untranslatable depends on how the notions of translation and equivalence are perceived.

4.1.2. Translation and equivalence

Within translation studies the term equivalence is used to refer to the relationship of similarity between the ST and the TT. Catford offers a definition of translation where equivalence in its strictest sense seems to be a prerequisite:

‘Translation may be defined as follows: the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (TL)’ (Schjoldager 2008:17).

Here it is indicated that the TT should be equivalent to its ST in both form and content. Taking this stand point, puns are presumably untranslatable in many cases.


Whitman has a more flexible view on translation, though. She regards translation as a process of mapping aspects from one language to another, and on the basis of this she rejects the notion of untranslatability. In her view, the task is to link the message of the original dialogue to the minds of the foreign audience. As she states: ‘Translation means being aware of the intent of the original as well as the target audience’s common pool of allusions’ (Gottlieb 2009:22-23).

In other words, she encourages a TT-oriented approach where the focus is on producing an effect on the TT audience that is as close as possible to the effect obtained on the ST audience. Thus, it can be argued that she favours what can be called an equivalent effect.

The concept of equivalence has been widely discussed, since it traditionally focuses on achieving equivalence in terms of form and function between the ST and TT. Most translation scholars have moved towards a more TT- oriented approach to translation, arguing that the aim of translation is to be ‘doing for a new target audience what the source text did for its readers’, thus advocating a functional approach to translation (Schjoldager 2008:70) as is also what Whitman sees as the ideal approach.

Nonetheless, Nida has proposed two types of equivalence, which allow for a less restrictive perception of the concept by moving away from strict word-for-word equivalence (Munday 2008:43).

The first is formal equivalence, which focuses on the message itself in terms of form and function. Thus, the object is for the message in the TT to match the different elements of the ST as closely as possible, if necessary at the expense of natural expression.

The second is dynamic equivalence,12 which focuses on creating what Nida denominates ‘the principle of equivalent effect’. With this form of equivalence the aim is to create a relationship between the TT audience and the TT that is substantially the same as the one between the ST audience and the ST, if necessary at the expense of literalness, original word order, etc. Phrased differently, the TT audience and their needs and expectations are in focus, and these should be met with a complete naturalness of expression. Thus, it can be concluded that a crucial aspect of this type of equivalence is the achievement of naturalness, also if this involves adaptations in terms of grammar, lexicon and/or of cultural references (Munday 2008:42). Nida’s two approaches to equivalence have been heavily criticized. First of all, it is argued that still too much focus is put on the word level. Second, much criticism is centred on the equivalent effect, e.g. by questioning the measurability of such effect (Munday 2008:43). Nonetheless, seeing that these two distinctions allows for a less strict approach to the concept of equivalence, I find them useful as an analytical tool in chapter 7, when determining the degree of translation equivalence in each example.



Media-specific constraints

Apart from the language specific constraints that occur in the translation of puns from one language to another, the challenge of translating puns is increased in audiovisual productions due to their polysemiotic nature.

First of all, the condensation strategy often applied by subtitlers because of the time- and space constraints may be influential. The fact that subtitled humour in many instances are rendered in fewer words than in the ST may affect the outcome of the rendering of the pun in the TT (Veiga 158).

An aspect particularly characteristic for audiovisual productions concerns the visual pun, though. The visual pun is produced through the visual rendering of the unexpected semantic layer, i.e. the secondary ‘reading’. This poses some constraints to the subtitler, since the translation of the original dialog which is rendered in the subtitles is not only to correspond with the semantic content of the original utterance, but also with the visual image (Gottlieb 1997:189). Consequently, the subtitler does not have the same opportunities of providing alternative creative translation solutions as would be an opportunity in monosemiotic text types. This is likely to influence the outcome of the translation.



Delabastita has developed a model which deals specifically with the translation of puns. In this model nine different translation techniques that are possible to apply in the translation of puns are identified. As Delabastita reckons, the model is open to further refinement. Nonetheless, it is applicable to identify the strategies applied in the translation of puns in subtitles.

Worth mentioning is that strategy nine in the model is not possible to applicable in subtitling due to the technical constraints within this type of translation. Furthermore, it should be stated that in some cases it is possible to combine two or more techniques (Delabastita 1993: 191). The different strategies in the following model are explained in appendix 3.


Delabastita’s translation strategies

1) Pun  pun 2) Pun  non-pun

a) Non selective non-pun b) Selective

c) Diffuse paraphrase

3) Pun  Punoid 4) Pun  Zero

5) Direct copy: Pun ST = Pun TT 6) Transference: Pun ST = Pun TT 7) Addition: Non-pun  Pun 8) Zero  Pun



In the present chapter I will give an introduction to ‘SATC’, the series from which the examples that constitute the empirical material have been selected. Furthermore, the genre, communicative purpose and TT audience are considered, because these are relevant aspects to consider in the translation process.


About ‘Sex and the City’

‘SATC’ is an American TV- series, which consists of six seasons with a total of 94 episodes. It was aired for the first time in 1998 by HBO, an American cable TV-station.13

The series, which is partially based on the book of the same name written by Candace Bushnell , has been a huge success all over the world, which is also evident from its more than 50 Emmy Award and 24 Golden Globe Awards nominations,14 of which it has won several. The success has been so big that ‘SATC: the Movie’ was released in 2008, followed by ‘SATC 2’ in 2010.

The series was broadcasted in Denmark by TV3 from 1998-2004, and has subsequently been rerun several times.15 All the seasons from the series is available on DVD, either separately or in a DVD box featuring the complete series.


Plot and characters

With New York City as the setting, ‘SATC’ tells the story about four attractive, fashion-conscious, career minded and independent female characters. Or more precisely, the lead character Carrie Bradshaw, the central narrator of the series, tells the story. Carrie (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), a ‘thirty-something’ fashionista, writes a weekly column called ‘Sex and the City’ for the fictive newspaper ‘New York Star’. In the column she tries to make sense of the city’s dating jungle, the relationship between men and women, as well as just about any matter that may impact the life of the modern woman.

Every episode of the series is centred on Carrie’s research for her next column, and thanks to the ups and downs of her and her three best friends Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, she is never short of material. Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall) is a confident and successful PR executive with a very uninhibited sexuality. Miranda Hobbes (played by Cynthia Nixon), a hardworking and successful corporate lawyer, who later in the series has a baby is the relationship cynic. Charlotte York is an art gallery manager and an indefatigable romantic optimist.

Based on the experiences of these four very different girls and best friends, relevant issues are dealt with.

13 (

14 ( 15 (


This is done both in the form of conversations between the girls where they share stories and experiences, but also when Carrie reflects upon the theme in question for her next column. In many cases the latter is done in the form of Carrie’s voiceover narration (McCabe & Akass 2004:185), but in the first three seasons she also addresses the camera directly, asking questions like: “Why are there so many great unmarried women and no great unmarried men?” (Season 1, episode 1- 04:20).


Genre and communicative purpose

HBO defines ‘SATC’ as a comedy series. According to Nedergaard-Larsen, the language is a characteristic feature within this genre (1992:45).

As mentioned in the introduction, the dialogue in ‘SATC’ is sharp and witty, and the flexibility of the language is often exploited in the form of wordplay (McCabe & Akass 2004:186). According to McCabe and Akass, the writing is vital for the series, and they state that HBO has focused on this particular feature in their promotion of it. They argue that ‘promoting SATC as a literary product means the series can navigate difficult adult content – sex and profanity – by putting it into a context where smart comedy writing sets this product apart from its competition’ (McCabe & Akass 2004:6). On the basis of this, it can be argued that the primary communicative purpose of the series is to entertain the audience. Based on the fact that much of the narrative is centred on sex and profanity, it can also be argued that some additional communicative purposes are to inform and to create debate (seeing that ‘sensitive subjects’ such as sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, breast cancer etc. are also dealt with).

Furthermore, even though not characteristic of the comedy genre, it can be argued that an additional communicative purpose is to invite the audience into dialogue by questioning the idea of the modern woman, gender roles, etc. This is partly because Carrie due to her role as the narrator of the story occasionally addresses the camera directly (McCabe & Akass 2004:178), and partly because the series draws on modes of confession in the first two seasons by including clips with statements of ‘real’ people expressing their attitude towards some issue related to dating and the relationship between men and women. By drawing on this TV confessional technique, the audience is invited to identify with different issues that are placed in comic fictional narrative (McCabe & Akass 2004:167).



The TT audience

Due to the themes in the series, i.e. womanhood, men, sex, gender roles, fashion, career and any relevant issue in relation to being woman in the 1990s, it can be assumed that the intended target audience is most likely to be women in the age of 18-40 years old, since this target audience is likely to be able to recognise and relate to some of the experiences and situations that the characters face and maybe even to a certain degree identify with one of the very different girls. The fact that the TT audience is likely to be relatively young and ‘up to beat’ makes it fair to assume that the main part of it has a fair knowledge of the SL. This claim can be based on the fact that Denmark is a subtitling country, meaning that most Danes listen to English every day (Gottlieb 1997:199). This influences the TT audience’s knowledge of the SL.

In this regard, the gossiping effect is relevant, because it can be argued that it is likely that the main part of the TT audience is still able to appreciate the effect of the ST pun even though it is not rendered in its original sense in the TT. Thus, the simultaneous reception of the dialog and subtitles may be an advantage in this regard, but it should of course not restrict the subtitler’s effort in recreating the effect of the ST pun in the TT.



In the following analysis the ST and TT will be analysed on the basis of the questions enumerated in the introduction.

The ST puns have been classified on the basis of their formal relation cf. Delabastita’s classification accounted for in chapter 3. Thus, the puns that will be analysed in the following are based on homonymy, homophony, and paronymy. Last, but not least, the visual pun is also represented.

It should be noted that the ST version is reproduced with any characteristics of spoken language that the dialogue may have, meaning that e.g. ‘it is’ is reproduced as ‘it’s. Furthermore, the pun components in the ST are underlined.

For the sake of word economy, the two meanings that are called forth in the following puns are denominated M1 (meaning 1) and M2 (meaning 2). Consult appendix 4 for a transcription of each segment in context.


Homonymic puns

Segment 1

Character ST TT

Carrie I have no fortune. I didn’t need a cookie to tell me that

Jeg har ingen lykke. Det behøvede jeg ikke en lykkekage for at vide

M1: ‘the entity or power believed by some to bring good or bad luck to people’ M2: ‘a very large amount of money’ (

Translation strategy: Pun Non-Pun (selective)

This is an example of a vertical pun where one of the possible readings is more plausible than the other (cf. chapter 3). Because of the immediate contextually setting (the audience has just seen Carrie opening a fortune cookie), M1 is the obvious signification. M2 is called forth by the context as well. In the precedent scenes the audience sees Carrie being refused a loan in the bank, and this is what triggers this additional meaning.


The pun is rendered in a non-punning manner in the TT because only M1 of the ST pun has been retained. It can be argued that the subtitler had no other choice but to render M1, given that the contents of the subtitles must conform to the visual image, which in this case exposes Carrie opening a fortune cookie. The Danish equivalent to ‘fortune cookie’ is lykkekage, a compound of the two words lykke + kage. ‘Lykke’ has another semantic meaning than ‘fortune’ though, seeing that it is rather an equivalent to the English noun ‘happiness’. Consequently, equivalence is not achieved and the effect of the ST pun is lost.

Given that the subtitler is merged to retain M1 in the TT due to the pictorial information, I do not see any alternative translation solution.

Segment 2

Character ST TT

Instructor Are you ready to grab the bar? Parat til at gribe stangen? Carrie I’m ready to go to the bar Solgt til stanglakrids

M1: A long piece of wood (in this case the object that Carrie holds on to when swinging the trapeze)

M2: A place where you go to buy and drink alcoholic drinks Translation strategy: Pun Punoid

In this horizontal pun a double reading is triggered with the repetition of the word ‘bar’ in a context where it has another meaning than the first pun component.

The subtitler has chosen to translate the ST pun by using a wordplay-related rhetorical device. This is done by exploiting the effect of repetition, thus repeating the word ‘stang’ in the compound ‘stanglakrids,’ which in this context is rendered as a Danish idiom that figuratively means ‘to be in a very unpleasant situation’ (Andersen 1998:205). The meaning of Carrie’s answer to the trapeze instructor’s question is that she is nervous and most of all feels like calming her nerves with a drink. Comparing the figurative meanings of the ST pun and the TT version of it, it can be argued that dynamic equivalence has been held (even though in a non-punning manner), since the communicative meanings are similar: Carrie finds herself in an unpleasant situation.

An alternative translation solution, which arguably remains closer to the meaning of the ST pun, could be: ‘Parat til at blive stang-Bacardi.’ Even though the same strategy is used by conveying a


play on words through the repetition of ‘stang’ in another context, it can be argued that this utterance renders the meaning and structure of the ST pun in a more equivalent manner since only ‘blive stang-bacardi’ diverges from being formally equivalent to the ST pun. With ‘stang’ as a premodifier to ‘Bacardi’, a spirits brand whose name can be used to describe the condition of someone who is very drunk, the meaning of ‘stang-Bacardi is ‘to be very drunk’. Thus, it can be argued that it draws on the same meaning as the one in the ST pun: That alcohol is suitable to calm a person’s nerves. Hence, it maintains the effect of the ST pun more successfully.

Segment 3

Character ST TT

Carrie’s voice-over That night the only thing Miranda put to bed was the McKenzie-brief

Den aften var det eneste Miranda gav tørt på, McKenzie

ST M1: Putting the child to bed (the literal meaning)

ST M2: To finish dealing with something, in this regard a case she has been working on in the law firm (the figurative meaning)

Translation strategy: Pun Pun

In this vertical pun based on an idiom, both the literal and figurative meaning of an English idiom is exploited. The subtitler has succeeded in translating the ST pun to a TL pun. The TT pun has the same formal structure as well as underlying linguistic mechanism as the ST, seeing that it is also a homonymic vertical pun based on an idiom. Nonetheless, the TT pun has a different figurative and literal meaning:

TT M1: To change nappy

TT M2: To tick someone off (Anderson 1998:225)

Even though the semantic meaning of the idiom is not quite similar, I believe that it is fair to state that an equivalent effect is obtained in the TT seeing that both the literal and figurative meaning of the idiom upon which it is based serves the purpose of the ST pun, i.e. it states the fact that Miranda (once again) missed out on spending time with her baby and instead spent time on work. Thus, dynamic equivalence has been held.


Segment 4

Character ST TT

Carrie’s voice-over The next morning I recovered from my see-Big-sickness

Næste morgen kom jeg mig over min Big-søsyge

M1: sea sickness (i.e. playing on the fact that Carrie attended a boat-party)

M2: ‘see sickness’ (referring to the fact that Carrie was overwhelmed by old feelings when seeing Big. Thus, implicitly, these feelings are referred to as a ‘sickness’.)

Translation strategy: Pun Non-Pun (selective)

In this vertical pun, which exploits the formal relation between ‘see’ and ‘sea’, the subtitler has only expressed aspects of M1 of the ST pun while having excluded M2.

The equivalent words to ‘sea’ and ‘see’ in Danish are ‘sø’ and ‘se’ respectively. This Danish word pair is not homophonic, which precludes an equivalent translation in terms of the formal structure. It is interesting to look into the wording of the TT, though. ‘Big-søsyge’ can in a word-for-word sense be rendered as ‘Big-sea sickness’ in English, but this signification does only convey ST pun M1 partially, seeing that ‘Big’ seems to function as an indicator to the kind of seasickness that Carrie has in the TT.

Due to the situational context, it can be argued that the effect of the ST pun is maintained to some degree, even though a pun is excluded because of the lack of homophony between ‘se’ and ‘sø’. Nonetheless, this requires that the target audience sees the underlying correlation between ‘Big’ and ‘seasickness’. The aspect of Carrie feeling ‘see’-sick because of this meeting is implicit only, because of the lack of the punning effect in the TT.

If the subtitler had decided that ST M2 was the most important to maintain in the TT, a possible solution would be: ‘Næste morgen kom jeg mig over min se-Big-syge,’ which would also be an application of the pun non pun (selective) strategy. The punning effect would still not be maintained, but the ST M2, which in my opinion is dominant in the given context, would be rendered and maybe the target audience would be able to see the similarity between ‘se-Big-syge’ and ‘sø-Big-syge’, which would actually retain both meanings. Consequently, it can be argued that dynamic equivalence to a certain degree would be held because the effect of the ST pun would be partially transferred to the TT.

Segment 5


Enid I want less Carrie Bradshaw and more carry this bag with these shoes, do you see what I mean?

Jeg vil have mindre Carrie Bradshaw og mere: “bær denne taske med disse sko”

M1: Carrie (proper noun) M2: To carry (verb)

Translation strategy: Pun Non Pun (non selective)

In the translation of this horizontal pun, which exploits the homophonic relation between M1 and M2, both meanings of the ST pun are retained in the TT, but in a non-punning manner. Characteristic for horizontal puns when utilizing this strategy is that a relative degree of equivalence is established between the ST M1 and M2 and the meanings rendered in the TT. Nonetheless, the lack of equivalent lexical items in the TL results in the loss of the pun (Delabastita 1993:202). Therefore, it can be stated that lexical equivalence has been held with the loss of the pun in the TT as a result. However, it can be argued that the TT audience due to the gossiping effect may be able to grasp the wordplay anyway, seeing that no particular proficiency in English is required to appreciate the identical pronunciation of Carrie and the English verb to carry. It can be argued that puns based on names are particularly challenging cases of pun translations, seeing that no word can replace the name. Therefore, I cannot point on a translation strategy that would be more suitable.

Segment 6

Character ST TT

Woman in waiting room I’m a nun Jeg er søster

Samantha You have none? De har en søster


M1: None M2: Nun

Translation strategy: Pun Pun

In this example, the horizontal pun is translated successfully into a TT pun. The formal structure differs from the ST pun seeing that the TT pun is homonymic. This is because ‘søster’, a Danish equivalent to ‘nun’ is equivocal. Consequently, the two following meanings are called forth in the TT pun:

TT M1: Sister (the antonym to brother) TT M2: Nun

Even though the meaning is not identical to the one in the ST pun, it can be argued that the TT pun imposes the same effect on the TT audience as the ST pun does on its ST audience. Accordingly, dynamic equivalence has been held.


Paronymic puns

Segment 7

Character ST TT

Charlotte You don’t have a crib yet? Har du ingen vugge endnu? Miranda No Charlotte, I have a job Nej, Charlotte. Jeg har et job.


instead. I’m sorry, but when am I supposed to find time to prepare for this baby? I don’t have a vague idea how I’m gonna do any of this

Hvornår skal jeg finde tid til at forberede mig på babyen? Det har jeg ingen vag idé om

Carrie Well, I don’t have a “Vogue” idea, so “hello”

Det har jeg ingen “Vogue” idé om

M1: Vague idea M2: Vogue idea

Translation strategy: Pun Non-Pun (non-selective)

This horizontal pun is based on the phonemic similarities between ‘vague’ and ‘vogue’. In the TT, the subtitler has rendered both meanings, but in a non-punning manner. In this segment, the condensation strategy referred to in chapter 5.2. is employed, given that some of the ST dialogue items are left out. Nonetheless, this is not at the expense of the meaning. Even though ‘vague’ and its Danish equivalent ‘vag’ are very similar, the punning effect is not possible to recreate in the TT because the formal relation between ‘vag’ and ‘Vogue’ is too weak. The pun is triggered with the ‘I don’t have a Vogue idea’-utterance, which refers back to the preceding scenes where Carrie is criticized by her ‘Vogue’-editor. It is therefore dependant on the situational context. Because ‘Vogue’ is a proper name, it can be argued that the subtitler does not have the same opportunities of creating a well-functioning TT pun if the situational context is to be maintained. Therefore, I do not see any alternative translation solution.

Segment 8

Character ST TT

Samantha Well, I decided to turn a little hair loss into a lot of hair gain

Jeg besluttede at gøre hårtab til hårforøgelse


M1: Wig (i.e. artificial hair to be worn on your head as a replacement of your own) M2: Witty (i.e. to be clever and funny)

Translation strategy: Pun Pun

In this vertical pun, the phonemic similarity between the words ‘wit’ (in this context used as the adjective witty, though) and ‘wig’ has been exploited, resulting in the word ‘wiggy’.

The subtitler has succeeded in creating a TT pun by exploiting the phonemic similarity between two Danish words, thus rendering the following meanings:

TT M1: Paryk (wig)

TT M2: Rykker (the figurative meaning of ‘to rock’ can be regarded as an English equivalent to this expression)

As in the ST pun the phonemic similarities between two words are exploited by combining them into one word. Thus, it can be stated that the subtitler has succeeded in creating a pun that is similar in terms of the formal relation between the pun components. Furthermore, the semantic content of the TT pun is equivalent to the ST pun with the result that the same effect is achieved. On the basis of this, it can be concluded that this is an instance of formal equivalence.

Segment 9

Character ST TT

Mr. Big I’m tired of old New York Jeg er træt af gamle New York Carrie Well, if you are tired you take a

“napa”, you don’t move to Napa

Hvis du er træt, så “napa” en lur, ikke flyt til Napa

In this case a double pun is triggered, seeing that Mr. Big states that he is tired of New York. As an answer to this, Carrie implies that the normal reaction when you are tired is to take a nap, thus calling forth another signification of the adjective tired, i.e. the one that is used to refer to a person’s condition when s/he is tired and needs rest.


Nonetheless, the pun that is in focus is the second, which is a vertical pun that triggers the following meanings:

M1: Nap (i.e. a short sleep)

M2: Napa (i.e. the geographical location in California) Translation strategy: Pun Pun

The subtitler has managed to create a TT pun which is also homophonic, and establishes the following meanings:

TT M1: ‘napa’ (an altered version of the Danish verb ‘at nappe’ TT M2: Napa

Even though the pun is triggered through other syntactic elements than in the ST, it can be argued that formal equivalence is held. This is due to the fact that the TT is a word-for word translation which renders the same meaning. Therefore, no other translation solution would be better.

Common for both the ST and TT pun is that the English ‘nap’ and the Danish ‘napa’ (nappe) are altered, i.e. an ‘a’ is added. The reason for this may be that the pun is emphasised, seeing that it might go unnoticed if ‘nap’ was spelled normally. With this wrong spelling, the link between the two pun components is stronger.


Visual puns

Segment 10

Character ST TT

Carrie’s voice over When your career is going better than ever, it’s hard not to get a big head

Når ens karriere er på toppen, er det svært ikke at blive indbildsk

M1: “To get a big head” can figuratively speaking mean ‘when success goes to your head in the sense that you might start thinking that you are better than other’ (Politikens Engelsk-Dansk Idiom Ordbog 2001:147).


M2: “Big head” in the literal sense (the audience sees a poster of Carrie where she is enlarged. Consequently, her figure (including her head) is much bigger than that of the real Carrie).

Translation strategy: is Pun Non-Pun (selective)

In this example the subtitler has only rendered M1 in the subtitles, i.e. the signification that is rendered through the verbal utterance. The secondary ‘reading’ in the ST pun is triggered through the visual image. The fact that the subtitler has chosen to translate the verbal meaning may have the result that the audience feels confused by the visual image because it does not conform to what is being expressed in the subtitles. It may therefore be fair to state that this is an unsuitable translation solution. To avoid the mismatch between the contents of the subtitles and the visual images, it can be argued that it would be better to render M2 of the ST pun by employing a Danish formulation that somehow matches the visual image. In the lack of better Danish phrasings, such solution could be: 'Det er svært ikke at lade succesen stige én til hovedet når karrieren er på toppen’. Even though the semantic content of this phrase is only equivalent to the verbal ST meaning, it can be argued that the fact that the word ‘head’ is included makes it a better translation solution. It does not conform entirely to the visual image, but the fact that the phrase contains the word ‘head’ may mean that the meaning of the subtitles makes better sense to the audience seeing that Carrie’s head on the poster is in focus in the visual semiotic channels. Thus, a slight degree of dynamic equivalence will be held because the effect of the ST pun is recreated to some extent.

Segment 11

Character ST TT

Carrie’s voice over Meanwhile, Miranda was getting fed up as well, with herself…

Miranda var også godt irriteret, på sig selv…


M2: To be fed with something eatable (literal meaning) Translation strategy: Pun non-pun (selective)

Special for this instance where only M1 of the ST pun is rendered in the TT is that the subtitler is not only restricted by the visual elements but also by Carrie’s voice-over which carries the audience from one scene to another. The voice-over brings us from a scene where Charlotte is fed up (in the figurative sense) by her husband and his nonsense and to this scene, where the visual channel renders the figurative meaning of the idiom. Thus, ambiguity is triggered, and due to the reference to the preceding scene, the subtitler has no other choice but to render the meaning of the idiom. In Danish the meaning of the English idiom ‘to be fed up’ is ‘at være træt af’ (Smith 1995:56). With this rendering a double reading is precluded though, seeing that it is not equivocal. Therefore, the pun is lost. Nonetheless, it can be argued that the effect of the ST pun to some degree is maintained due to the support of the visual image. Even though the visual images do not call forth a second reading of the TT rendering, the meaning is still implicit seeing that the audience cannot have any doubt as to why Miranda is ‘sick and tired of herself’.

On the basis of this and the fact that the subtitlers opportunities of finding a creative solution to the problem is restricted because of Carrie’s voice-over which serves to create coherence between this and the preceding scene, I do not see any alternative translation solution.

Segment 12

Character ST TT

Carrie’s voice-over I didn’t think Mrs. Cohen could move any slower. But

apparently she could…

Jeg troede ikke, Mrs. Cohen kunne bevæge sig

langsommere, men det kunne hun åbenbart

M1: Move from the apartment M2: Move her body physically


Translation strategy: Pun Non Pun (Selective)

In this example, only ST M2 is rendered in the subtitles, i.e. the meaning that conforms to what is expressed through the visual channel. In Danish, the equivalents to move in M1 and M2 can be ‘flytte’ or ‘bevæge sig’ respectively, and the latter is the one employed in the subtitles due to the visual image. Nonetheless, it can be argued that the effect of the TT rendering would have been more similar to that of the ST by employing the Danish word ‘flytte’, i.e. “Jeg troede ikke Mrs. Cohen kunne flytte sig langsommere, men det kunne hun åbenbart.” Even though it is only a slight difference, it can be argued that this rendering conveys the effect of the ST pun better, seeing that ‘flytte sig’ might suggest a duplicity in meaning because it is the word that is employed in the context of ‘moving out of the apartment’ (for instance) as well. Thus, by doing this, a higher degree of dynamic equivalence would have been attained.


On the basis of the comparative analysis between the selection of ST puns and their translations into the TT, it can be stated that there are several instances where the effect of the ST pun has been maintained in the TT – either with an equivalent meaning or with a meaning that produces the same effect on the TT audience as the ST pun did for its audience. Nonetheless, the main part of the TT renderings only conveys the meaning of the ST pun partially or not at all, with the result that the effect is lost in the TT. Considering the fact that the language is a very important feature of comedy series, this means that some humorous aspects are lost in the TT. Thus, the importance of recreating the effect of the ST cannot be overrated. Therefore, it is interesting to examine whether it is possible to identify some tendencies concerning the instances where the ST puns have been translated successfully as well as the ones where the effect is lost.


Four of the selected ST puns (segment 3, 6, 8, and four) have been translated using the Pun Pun strategy. Only one of these is based on homonymy. According to Gottlieb, puns based on homonymy and paronymy are most likely to ‘survive’ in translation because these pun types allow for greater differences between the pun-components at play. Therefore, they may be regarded as less language-specific than the homophonic puns (Gottlieb 1997:190). The analysis carried out in this thesis is far from exhaustive because of the limited number of examples. Nonetheless, it can be stated that two of the four successfully translated puns are paronymic, i.e. puns of the type where the formal relation between the pun components is weak. Accordingly, the subtitler has a larger degree of freedom when dealing with this pun type, which suggests that these pun types also are the ones that are most likely to be rendered with an equivalent effect in the TT, as is also stated by Gottlieb.

In five instances (segment 1, 4, 10, 11, and 12), the Pun Non-Pun (selective) strategy has been employed with the result that the effect of these puns is not conveyed in the TT. The visual puns are most dominant here. It can be argued that the reason for this is that the subtitler is restricted because of the situational context, i.e. the visual image. Characteristic for visual puns is that the subtitler should make what is communicated in the subtitles conform to what is expressed through the visual semiotic channels. This precludes him/her from taking creative liberties and finding an alternative phrasing whose meaning differs from the original version.

The Pun Non Pun (non-selective) strategy has been used for two puns (segment 5 and 7) whose common denominator is that one of the pun components is a proper name. It can be presumed that proper names generally make the translation of puns challenging, seeing that they are rarely replaced with another item, which is easier to do when dealing with other word classes. Therefore, it may be safe to assume that it is very hard to maintain the effect of such puns.

Finally, the Pun Punoid strategy has been employed to segment 2. Even though only one of the selected examples illustrates the employment of this strategy, it may be assumed that the effect of ST puns to a high degree can be maintained if the subtitler is not able to find a TT pun, and therefore creates some other form of wordplay as a form of compensation.

A final observation that is relevant to the theory on subtitling accounted for in chapter 2 is that the condensation strategy, which is an often employed strategy used by subtitlers because of the time- and space constraints, does not seem to impact the outcome of the TT rendering of the ST puns, seeing that only very few instances of the selected examples showed instances of condensation.



The aim of this thesis was to study how puns are translated in subtitles and with what effect. By doing this, my intention was to examine whether a loss of effect tends to be the fate of puns in subtitling. To enable me to answer this problem statement, I made an empirical analysis based on Delabastita’s theories on the nature of the pun as well as strategies that can be employed to translate it, in which the ST puns were compared to the TT renderings with the purpose to determine whether the effect of the ST puns was lost in subtitling.

In the analysis, I considered the characteristics of subtitling primarily based on Gottlieb’s theories in chapter 2 when relevant to the example in question. Furthermore, Nida’s theories of formal and dynamic equivalence were included as a tool for estimating whether the effect of the ST pun was rendered equivalently in the TT.



Related subjects :
Outline : Visual puns