Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”


Books, eBooks, and more from Dr. Debito Arudou (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg
If you like what you read and discuss on Debito.org, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  I’m trying to maintain my summer vacation (and a dry-out from the Internet for a little while), but every now and again I stumble across something interesting (what with this golden age of political comedy in the US), and here’s something indirectly Japan-related.

Trevor Noah and company on the Daily Show make an interesting case about how Trump’s language, both in terms of content and syntax, is challenging for translators in other languages to render.  They make the point that the impact and nuance is often softened by translator self-censorship (or filling in the gaps with personal interpretations).  I understand well, having been in their situations more than once.  (And let me say here for the record:  I am not a trained interpreter, and I have had numerous debates with interpreters with accuracy versus diplomatic rendering of the language.  I fall on the side of total accuracy warts and all.)  Worth a watch:

But at minute 4:00 of the segment, the Japanese interpreter claims that there is no accurate way to translate Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the pu**y” remark.  She even claims that there is no word “in the exact sense” for “pu**y” in Japanese.

Rubbish.  I can think of quite a few words that would do the trick, in content and especially in nuance.  The two easiest, of course, are om*nko or om*nta, as in “om*nta o tsukandari shite“,  and in Trump’s case I would even remove their honorific prefixes.

Of course, that would require bleeping out the syllable after “man”, but it’s been done on Japanese TV before.  I’ve seen it.

But I dislike it when people, especially in this case a professional interpreter, play dumb and deny.  Repeating that old lie that we heard as beginning Japanese students that “there are no bad words in Japanese”.

Like it or not, “om*nta” what 45 said.  Portray it accurately.  Or, as the segment argued well, the awfulness of 45’s speech is bleached out simply because the interpreter is being too diplomatic, cultured, or prudish.  Dr. Debito Arudou


Do you like what you read on Debito.org?  Want to help keep the archive active and support Debito.org’s activities?  Please consider donating a little something.  More details here. Or even click on an ad below.

8 comments on “Daily Show on overseas media interpreters’ self-censorship of Trump’s language: Japanese interpreter plays dumb, claims no way to express “grab ’em by the pu**y”

  • There are other possibilities. She could have been just told what to say as is often the case in this type of show. (She may not even be an interpreter. Simply an actress. Remember the Daily Show is a comedy show, not a news show.) Or it might have been her way of avoiding being crude.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Ah, remember when Obama went for sushi with Abe, and afterward he walked out and said ‘That’s some good sushi right there’, which was universally rendered into ‘That’s the best sushi I’ve ever had’ in Japanese by all the news shows?
    Hell, ever watched the way English is subtitled on TV shows like CSI or 24 in Japan? No wonder these people are confused!

  • @Alan – Or you, Alan, could be a robot sent here just to confuse us all. Or you could be a Japanese shill.

    You get my point? Why are you inventing hypotheical situations to excuse her. Debito is just pointing out the lie. That’s the most he can do without further information. Don’t invent hypotheticals. Point out the lie and let the liars come forth.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Obviously, that Japanese translator confuses herself. She could have said “急所を掴む” at least. Or just said, “I can’t say that.”

  • Bridget Jones movie quote “The Japanese, a cruel race” was never translated correctly here. Quelle surprise.

  • Yup…..Japanese translation of English into Japanese, even with my poor J skills can tell it is not up to scratch, and, no excuses either.

    I also came across this in my court case when i was given a formal translator, for completeness. I would give a one word reply and he would be off on a tangent for 5mins. Or the judge asked a simple one word Q and the translation was another soliloquy! Not good!

  • I would certainly say Japanese translators self-censorship, most likely because they have to or because they deem it “culturally appropriate”. I think Japanese wanting to avoid conflict or maintain harmony plays into a little.

    I do think there are occasions where some expressions or slang can’t be translated. I’ll never forget a Pride pre-fight interview (a foul-mouthed exchange) between two fighters Don Frye vs Ken Shamrock.

    There was a lot of self-censorship in the translation/interpretation . The word motherf**ker was said several times. Not sure there is a word for that in Japanese.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>