Micah on Chinese Movie Titles

05 Jan 2007

Micah has an interesting post on some of the factors that come into play when translating a foreign movie title into Chinese for mainland viewers. In the entry he talks about the titles of the following movies:

– The Host (Korean)
– Pirates of the Caribbean
– Night at the Museum
– The Devil Wears Prada
– Casino Royale
– Tsotsi
– Transformers

Micah tells us that the Chinese name of the creature in The Host is . Hoping to see what a 魊 supposedly looks like, I searched for an image of it on Baidu. Although page 2 of those search results seems to suggest that the creature looks like Maggie Cheung, I didn’t really get my answer. However, I did end up discovering a site I didn’t know about: CnMDB.com. Yet another Chinese site shamelessly ripping off a successful foreign website. (Yawn.)

2 MDBs

Note that the IMDb page has no ads (in this selection), way more movie pictures, and uses a romanized version of the Korean name.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. I was in a chatroom about Web stuff the other day when someone entered and asked what we felt were the sites we wish we had thought of… it later came out that they were mining the room for ideas to convert from English sites into sites in other countries…

    Running the Hao Hao Report perhaps I’m not the best to comment on this issue… but just wanted to say, it doesn’t seem limited to the Chinese.

  2. Gosh, copied it without attribution, and loaded it down with ads. Surprised…me? Oh, no. I’d only be surprised if they left out popping up a new window on every click, malware installers, and little stars and flowers that chase your cursor around the screen.

  3. The Host (괴물) is a pretty good movie – the best sci fi movie to come out of Korea anyhow. The problem I have is with their choice of English titles. After watching the movie I know where it comes from, but I still think it is an inappropriate title. In this case a direct translation of the Korean would have made for a better title: Monster or The Thing or Creature.

  4. Hey John – hows your net access in SH right now? I’ve been unable to see the post page in the wordpress dashboard for ages now……

  5. ash,

    My internet connection at ChinesePod was horrible pretty much all day long today, but it was OK (although slower than usual) earlier today and it seems OK now.

  6. Fascinating – I couldn’t find a picture of the 魊 (蜮) monster, either, but I learned that it’s a horned, blind, three-legged turtle-like thing that sits in the water and spits venomous sand at people or their reflections. And – of course – there’s a chengyu: 含沙射影!

  7. I’ve been wondering about the sort of stuff Micah’s been talking about for a long time. There are definitely movies I’ve seen here under more than one title. For instance, I used to see THE MATRIX on sale as “21st Century Killer” when I was in Shenzhen, but then I saw it as, I think, “Binary World” in Hong Kong. I remember THE FACULTY was called “Lau Shi Bu Shi Ren” in the Mainland, but was called something else in HK. In that case, I wondered who had come up with the name for the Mainland version. Was I just seeing a bootleg of an official Taiwan version, or did some Mainland pirate come up with his own name for it? Did the fact that “Lau Shi Bu Shi Ren” sounds way better than “Lo See M’Hai Yan” have something to do with the different names in the different places, or not? I’ve also wondered if the pirate’s choice of name could have a big influence on whether people like the movie or not. For instance, when I picked up the Japanese science fiction movie CASSHERN in Shanghai, it was called “Manmade Men.” That’s interesting, because it shifts the focus of the story from the character who called himself Casshern (who was pretty disappointing) to the mutants, who were much more compelling. If the title causes the viewer to focus on a different part of the story, or a different character, the person watching could have a totally different viewing experience.

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