Parasite Translator.

No, not an interpreter of parasites, but Darcy Paquet, the guy who did the English-language subtitles for Bong Joon-ho’s movie Parasite, this year’s surprise Oscar winner; Lee Hana had a nice interview with him last year for Korea.net, and I’ll quote the most linguistically interesting bits here:

– For “Parasite,” you and Bong jointly revised the final version of the subtitles. What was that process like?

I typed up the subtitles for about a week and half. We sent some emails back and forth. Afterwards, there were two days of long meetings with the director, the producer, me and several people from the distribution company. They all spoke English and offered suggestions. It was helpful to have a group of us thinking together about the challenging parts of the translation.

– In one scene, a woman calls a dish “jjapaguri” but the subtitle says “ramdon.” Is it true that “jjapaguri” was the hardest to translate?

I was embarrassed because I made up this word “ramdon.” I thought people would laugh at me for it, but it works in the film. The word is first used during a phone conversation. Later, as one character prepares the food, we see the packages on the screen and I wrote “ramyeon” and “udon” over them to show how “ramdon” came about. I did actually Google “ramdon” before writing it and nothing came up. It appears to not be a word in any language at all.

– Couldn’t you have written in “jjapaguri” so that foreign audiences could look it up later?

There are always debates like that. In that case, if you put the original Korean word, people can search it up later. There are other examples, like “Seoul National University” (SNU) being translated to “Oxford.” The first time I did the translation, I did write out SNU but we ultimately decided to change it because it’s a very funny line, and in order for humor to work, people need to understand it immediately. With an unfamiliar word, the humor is lost.

– Was there a reason you went with Oxford rather than Harvard?

I think Bong likes England a lot. I’ve been joking about this as well, but when I was a high school student, I applied to Harvard and didn’t get in. Jokes aside, I think Harvard is too obvious a choice. It’s more memorable when you say Oxford.

He describes how he got the job and offers advice for people wanting to break into subtitle translation. Thanks, Bathrobe!

Comments

  1. Was there a reason you went with Oxford rather than Harvard?
    Americans. Soo competitive.

  2. And why Harvard? Why not Yale??

  3. Yale just doesn’t sound right.

    Any self-respecting university ought to have at least two syllables in its name.

  4. Oxford is Harvard, Cambridge is Yale.

  5. January First-of-May says:

    Oxford is Harvard, Cambridge is Yale.

    Though it’s Harvard that is in Cambridge.

  6. Both Jason Schwartzman’s character in “Rushmore” and Lisa Simpson are under the impression that Oxford and “the Sorbonne” are more prestigious/exclusive than Harvard.

  7. J.W. Brewer says:

    Yale is only monosyllabic in (certain varieties of?) English, due to our peculiar phonotactics. It comes out in Lithuanian, for example, as “Jeilio,” and in Japanese as イェール.

  8. Jeilio, spelt Geilo, is a well-known Norwegian skiing resort, so be careful telling Norwegians you went to Geilo for four years. I think Mr Harvard himself went to Cambridge. The Cambridge connection may have something to do with non-conformism, which thrived in East Anglia in the 17C and then in the American colonies. Two Cambridges is so confusing. Honestly, why couldn’t they use red-Indian names like the Australians have done.

    Oxford & Cambridge are more prestigious in England, and Harvard & Yale in America, because – though I’m sure they’re all jolly good – snobbery is almost by definition provincial. I’m told that French undergraduate universities are easier to get into, and though the Sorbonne is as old as any school around, since the events of 1968 it’s become less hard to get a place. But then there are the Grandes écoles, the graduate & professional schools in Paris & Lyon, which are as competitive as they come.

  9. January First-of-May says:

    Honestly, why couldn’t they use red-Indian names like the Australians have done.

    They totally did though – Manhattan, for example, or Chattanooga. Or even Massachusetts, for that matter.
    And it’s not like the Australians are that much better with their Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth.

  10. Mr. Harvard should have renamed Charles river to Cam river or call the town Charlesbridge.

    It makes no sense otherwise.

  11. Honestly, why couldn’t they use red-Indian names like the Australians have done.

    I’m confused. Are you saying Australians name things after American Indians? If not, what are you saying?

    And why “red-Indian” rather than “American Indian”?

    I had the thought that’s it’s distasteful to refer to people by a color (not “their color” because they aren’t red-colored). But, then, I’m white. And other folks around here are black. And that’s totally normal to me, because I’m used to it.

    Writing this from the middle of the USA.

  12. Don’t overthink it; it’s just a passing bit of japery. AJP doesn’t need his consciousness raised.

    Writing this from very close to the eastern edge of the USA.

  13. In Japanese it’s often エール大学 ēru daigaku.

    And yes, it’s years and years since I’ve heard ‘red Indian’. Amerindian, native American, First Nation… but not ‘red Indian’. There is, of course, a pinky-coloured children’s lolly in Australia called ‘Red Skins’, and I was surprised to find recently that it is still around. It is advertised on the Internet, although the only Wikipedia article is about a New Zealand sweet.

  14. I’m confused. Are you saying Australians name things after American Indians? If not, what are you saying?

    He’s saying “Why didn’t Americans retain native names for places, as Australians have done?” The answer, of course, is that we do, but the more so the further west you go until you reach Spanish-named country. It’s not surprising that the coastal cities have mostly European names. In a list of 35 U.S. cities and towns most at risk for submersion, only Secaucus NJ, Waccamaw Neck SC, Poquoson VA, Tybee Island GA, Chesapeake VA, Hoboken NJ, and Miami FL have Native names. Per contra, the top seven Australian cities by population have Euro names: Canberra is the largest one that does not.

  15. They totally did though – Manhattan, for example, or Chattanooga. Or even Massachusetts

    It seems to me even more common in Australia for small towns and properties to have names in local languages than it is in English-speaking N. America. Ellen! I’ll save red for socialists. I’d have said ‘N. American’ if I’d thought of it.

  16. I keep mental list of places with the most exotic names which I visited.

    Coolangatta and Goondiwindi feature prominently there

  17. And why Harvard? Why not Yale??

    In the popular consciousness in Asia and Europe, Harvard is simply more prestigious than Yale. Arguably so is Stanford. I blame the business schools. Harvard also has the Kennedy school which has been dripping Harvard propaganda into the veins of foreign government officials for decades now.

    Princeton doesn’t even rate however, so we Yalies do have that consolation.

  18. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I’m told that French undergraduate universities are easier to get into

    Absurdly easy: you just need to have passed your Bac. That’s why anyone who has ambitions is advised to apply to a Grande École — hugely competitive. Universities are OK if you want to study medicine or law, but not otherwise. I don’t know about law, but in medicine they have vast numbers of students in the first year, of whom 90% fail the examination needed to get into the second year. It’s ridiculously wasteful, and expensive for the state. For anything except medicine or law a good student won’t think about going to a university.

  19. SF, you’ve been to Goondiwindi? So have I! My great uncle & aunt’s sheep station Oona Vale was 17 miles from the town and he bought me a great pair of riding boots there. I remember Goondi as he called it had a milk bar, something I’d never seen. And there’s a famous racehorse called Gund-synd, for Goondiwindi syndicate. That’s all I know about Goondiwindi, except it’s a nice town.

  20. Don’t remember milk bar, but I had a lunch at the only Chinese restaurant in the town.

    They don’t have chopsticks…

  21. Wow, a restaurant!

    Apparently awful old Charles I named the Charles River ‘Charles’ after himself, along the same lines as ‘Trump Tower’ (I suppose ‘Donald Towers’ sounded too Mickey-mouse). In 1649, Mr Harvard missed a perfect opportunity (Charles’s execution) to revert to the original name: Quinobequin – much nicer – meaning “meandering”. His excuse was that he died of TB, in 1638, aged thirty. So, too bad Messrs Yale & Stanford: if you haven’t founded & funded a top American university by the age of thirty consider your philanthropic life a failure.

    Ellen… ecologically speaking, how about ‘green Indians’.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Milk bars were a thing in Austria in the 1970s or so. They seem to be gone except maybe for one in Vienna, but the milk industry continues to have a powerful lobby.

    For anything except medicine or law a good student won’t think about going to a university.

    …unless of course the subject isn’t offered anywhere else, like all the natural sciences.

    Apparently awful old Charles I named the Charles River ‘Charles’ after himself

    Emperor Charles stressed he was naming the Karlskirche in Vienna after St. Charles Borromee.

  23. That’s one of the wonderful quiz questions in Russia.

    What Russian city was named after Peter the Great?

    Hint: the obvious answer is wrong.

  24. Petrozavodsk?

  25. Good non-obvious answer. Unfortunately wrong.

    Petrovsky zavod was named after Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral founded near the plant and town.

  26. Petergof.

  27. Yes, that was definitely named after Peter the Great himself (Peterhof or Peter’s court).

    Everything else, including St.Petersburg is named after Saint Peter.

  28. Milk bars were a thing in Austria in the 1970s or so

    “Milk bars” in Australia are apparently more akin to what we in the US call “corner stores”. I assume the Austrian milk bar was more like the original Polish bar mleczny – a cheap cafeteria serving hot food – mostly dairy based or vegetarian.

  29. “St.Petersburg is named after Saint Peter.”

    By Peter the Great. At least Trump isn’t claiming the tower was named after St Trumpington the patron saint of golf.*

    *Because that would be St Andrew

  30. “Milk bars” in Australia are apparently more akin to what we in the US call “corner stores”.

    You’re unpacking the wrong paragraph of the Wiki article. The clue is “tuck shops,” a Billy Bunter English-schoolboy name for a candy store with no connection to delis nor to American “corner stores”. Milk bars, the ones that had a connection to milk, flourished in the 1940s – 1970s. Like all Australian cafés & local restaurants they were owned & run in those days by Greek families. They had fans on the ceiling, a green formica counter & bar stools all the way down one side, and tables for four along the other. All they served was big glasses of very cold milk and ice-cream-soda type desserts. Teenagers hung out and shoppers dropped in for 15 mins.

  31. – I just remembered that tucker is an old-fashioned Australian word for food (see “tucker bag” in Waltzing Matilda), so perhaps tuck shop has another meaning there.

  32. They had fans on the ceiling, a green formica counter & bar stools all the way down one side, and tables for four along the other. All they served was big glasses of very cold milk and ice-cream-soda type desserts. Teenagers hung out and shoppers dropped in for 15 mins.

    So it’s what we in the US call “soda fountains.”

  33. David Marjanović says:

    I assume the Austrian milk bar was more like the original Polish bar mleczny – a cheap cafeteria serving hot food – mostly dairy based or vegetarian.

    Mostly milk-based drinks as far as I understand.

  34. “Milk bar” always make me think of A Clockwork Orange.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, yes.

  36. Milk bars are preserved for posterity in A Clockwork Orange (1962):

    “What’s it going to be then, eh?”

    There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry.

    The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither.

    Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no license for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg. Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with.

  37. So it’s what we in the US call “soda fountains.”

    Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemistry professor, was among the first to introduce soda water to America… Although Silliman’s business eventually failed, he played an important role in popularizing soda water.[2]

    Milk bars are or were independent establishments, rather than shops within shops, and the emphasis was very much on the large glasses of milk not the sodas or ice cream. But note here that all my experience is based on having visited just the one milk bar in Goondiwindi, in 1973ish, plus what my mother told me from time-to-time about Australian milk bars. I think, apart from the US Art-Deco styling, they were just an Australian – or Australian-Austrian – thing, but that doesn’t tell us where Burgess got his version from. I was hoping that Bathrobe might have something to say on milk bars.

  38. Bathrobe was too young to go to milk bars when they were a thing.

  39. I heard that milk bars also were a thing in Germany in the 50s. Basically a place for young people to hang out that weren’t stuffy old-people cafés, but that your parents wouldn’t make too much of a fuss about because milk is healthy and they didn’t serve alcohol. Plus some of them seem to have had juke boxes that played rock’n roll.

  40. Hans, in London that was coffee bars. They sold frothy coffee, which led to drugs and, in the end, Cliff Richard.

  41. John Cowan says:

    To me, Milkbar sounds like a brand name for some chocolate thing I don’t want to eat.

  42. Imitation chocolate thing.

  43. Hans, in London that was coffee bars. They sold frothy coffee, which led to drugs and, in the end, Cliff Richard
    I don’t see the connection – in my mind, Cliff Richard is as far away as you can get from sex and drugs and rock’n’roll as possible without actually becoming a Mormon eunuch monk. 🙂

  44. In your mind, but not in the minds of decent British parents in 1958. Look at that degenerate yobbo with his wild hair and surly glare — would you let him near your daughter?

  45. I wanted to say “Hard to believe that this is the same guy who later sang Congratulations“… but then I remembered about Elvis’s trajectory.

  46. Exactly.

  47. I must have been thinking of Expresso [sic] Bongo even though it was waaay before my time.

    John, Nestlé (and I do admire the American pronunciation and cringe at the British Nessles) had a product in Britain called “Nessles” Milky Bar.

  48. “Nestlé (and I do admire the American pronunciation and cringe at the British Nessles)”

    I have never, in a life spent entirely in Britain, heard any British person pronounce it Nessles.

    “Oxford is Harvard, Cambridge is Yale.”

    True in more ways than you think. Yale staffed the CIA, which spent decades trying to undermine the USSR and achieved virtually nothing; then a few Harvard men went over in the early 1990s and destroyed the entire industrial economy. Similarly, the GRU recruited a few agents from an elite Cambridge drinking society and set them to undermine Britain, with no effect; and then a few members of an elite Oxford drinking society took over the government and crashed the country in less than a decade.

  49. I have never, in a life spent entirely in Britain, heard any British person pronounce it Nessles.
    Well ok, let’s hope it’s changed, but do try visiting some other countries. Surely they sing Nessles in the Milkybar Kid commercial I posted? They certainly used to when I was a child (the 1960s).

    an elite Cambridge drinking society
    By now it’s almost impossible for me to keep straight the amended facts and the forty years of fiction by the likes of Alan Bennett & John Banville. The Cambridge spies must have generated as much income for Britain as Oxford’s hideous new Blavatnik School of B̶u̶s̶i̶n̶e̶s̶s̶ M̶a̶n̶a̶g̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ Government.

  50. In one episode (season 7, episode 2) of the British comedy As Time Goes By, the main characters, played by Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer,* discuss the change in the pronunciation of the name of the chocolate bars from Nessels to Nestlé. Their nostalgia for the older name is inspired by finding an old British penny. (The old penny was a surprisingly large coin, as evidenced by the name of the penny-farthing bicycle, in which the large wheel is the represented by the penny. My grandfather’s coin collection—now mine—included pennies with the heads of all the British monarchs back to Victoria, and I was interested to note that the coins from before the First World War were much thinner than the later ones.)

    * I had a dream last week in which I was talking to Judi Dench about Geoffrey Palmer. Specifically, I was describing to her how vividly I remembered Palmer’s death scene from “[Doctor Who and] The Silurians.” Palmer dies fairly quickly in each of his Doctor Who appearances, but the way he falls forward dead from the Silurian plague, with his eyes wide open, made a visceral impression on me when I first saw it.

  51. The Cambridge spies

    were a brave group of the Gay Resistance heroically fighting against horrible persecution of homosexuals by the authoritarian British government.

    They didn’t want to end up like helpless Alan Turing and they chose to fight by allying with the Soviet Union, an enemy of their enemy.

    This will be the version told in future British history books.

    Mark my words.

  52. Hans: “Cliff Richard is as far away as you can get from sex and drugs and rock’n’roll as possible without actually becoming a Mormon eunuch monk”

    NME 1958: “the most crude exhibitionism ever seen on British television. His violent hip-swinging was revolting, hardly the kind of performance any parent could wish their children to see. If we are expecting to believe that Cliff was acting naturally, then consideration for medical treatment may be advisable. While firmly believing he can become a top star and enjoy a lengthy career, it will only be accomplished by dispensing with short-sighted, vulgar tactics.”

    (Quoted today in “A history of rock music in 500 songs“, this week’s song being Move It.)

  53. See, now that’s the impression one gets from the photo I linked to.

  54. While firmly believing he can become a top star and enjoy a lengthy career, it will only be accomplished by dispensing with short-sighted, vulgar tactics.
    Looks like he took that advice. 🙂

  55. Stu Clayton says:

    Trump did not take that advice, and has risen even higher than Cliff. It appears that short-sighted, vulgar tactics can prevail in the short term. The short-sighted and vulgar love it.

    The long-sighted superior sort could adopt those tactics just as well, but they prefer to look down their noses at the spectacle and purse their lips. If only there were a vulgar Democrat with balls ! I hope Bloomberg wins the primaries. Otherwise I would vote for Dolly Parton.

  56. short-sighted, vulgar

    I believe you mean “short-fingered vulgarian.”

  57. Stu Clayton says:

    He’s also a Langfinger, curiously enough !

  58. John Cowan says:

    The word on the NYC street is that Bloomberg has no intention of winning the nomination. His intention is to make presidential noises and then endorse the eventual nominee. At that point he can transfer his (self-funded, 1 gigabuck) “campaign” fund to the nominee, thus hopefully outweighing all the Republican zillionaires.

  59. January First-of-May says:

    That would explain why he seems to be trying to run on a “let’s be Trump, just with a D next to my name!” campaign, with pretty much the only thing in his favor being the money.

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