Библиографическое описание:

Никольская Ю. В., Куимова М. В. Some words about challenges in translation (through the example of wordplay in movies) // Молодой ученый. — 2015. — №3. — С. 827-829.

All translation is a compromise – the effort to be literal and the effort to be idiomatic

Teo Savory

There is no doubt that translation is a serious intellectual activity. It requires a lot of skills, experience and cultural awareness of both source and target languages. Translation is not just a simple substitution of words from one language to another. That is why the main task of a translator is to use a variety of literary devices to render the author’s thought as carefully as possible.

Translation has been discussed by a number of translation theorists. They claim that the central problem of translation is to find “equivalence” instead of rendering word for word. Any language is culture-oriented and differs with respect to sentence arrangements or syntax [3, 8, 9, 11, 12].

W. Wilss defines translation as “a text-oriented event. Translation is a procedure which leads from a written source language text to an optimally equivalent target language text and requires syntactic, semantic and stylistic and text — pragmatic comprehension by the translator of the original text” [13].

A lot of scholars state that a translator is forced to overcome phonological, lexical, grammatical, morphological, syntactic and semantic features [2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10].

The major problems in translating are divided into four groups:

-         pragmatic;

-         cultural;

-         linguistic;

-         text-specific [1].

Moreover, there are other challenges:

-         archaisms;

-         neologisms;

-         abbreviation;

-         culture-specific items;

-         collocations, fixed expressions;

-         idioms;

-         metaphors;

-         similes;

-         proverbs;

-         wordplay, etc.

Wordplay is the general name indicating the various textual phenomena in which certain features inherent in the structure of the language; these features 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) [6].

Wordplay has the “signature” of a language. It is mostly used to amuse and reinforce the meaning. Wordplay deliberately exploits an ambiguity and multiple meanings of words. Wordplay is achieved by puns, phonetic mix-ups, oddly formed sentences, clever rhetorical expressions / sentences, clever repartee, obscure words and meanings, etc.

Wordplay is almost always a funny, witty utterance. Here there are some examples from movies:

“She Done Him Wrong”:

Lou: When women go wrong, men go right after them.”


Slim: You can call me Mum or you can call me Erin, but you cannot call me Slim.

Gracie: I never call you Slim.

Slim: I know, but just in case somebody asks you someday...

Gracie: I don’t think you are that slim.

Slim: Thanks a lot.

“The Devil Wears Prada”:

Miranda Priestly: You don’t read Runway, do you?

Andy: No

Miranda Priestly: And before today, you had never heard of me, had you?

Andy: No

Miranda Priestly: And you have no style or sense of fashion.

Andy: That depends on …

Miranda Priestly: That wasn’t a question.

“The World is Not Enough”:

Bond: “I was wrong about you.”

Christmas Jones: “Yeah, how so?”

Bond: “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.”

Elektra King: I could have given you the world.

James Bond: The world is not enough.

Elektra King: Foolish sentiment.

James Bond: Family motto.

“The Mirror Has Two Faces”:

Henry Fine: I don’t date these girls because they’re well-read. I gave one of them a copy of “Farewell to Arms”. She thought it was a diet book.

“Forrest Gump”:

Jenny Curran: His name’s Forrest.

Forrest Gump: Like me.

Jenny Curran: I named him after his daddy.

Forrest Gump: He got a daddy named Forrest, too?

Jenny Curran: You’re his daddy, Forrest.

[Forrest Gump referring to Apple Computer]

Forrest Gump: Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said, that’s good! One less thing.


Patroclus: Prince Hector, is he as good a warrior as they say?
Odysseus: The best of all the Trojans. Some would say...
[sidelong glance at Achilles]
Odysseus:... he’s better than all the Greeks.
[Achilles snorts]
Odysseus: Even if your cousin doesn’t come, I hope you’ll join us, Patroclus. We could use a strong arm like yours.

Achilles: Play your tricks on me. But not on my cousin.

Odysseus: You have your swords. I have my tricks. We play with the toys the gods give us.

“Die Another Day”:

Reporter: We’ve been hearing rumors about the Icarus space program. What’s the big secret?

Graves: It’s not a secret, it’s a surprise.


 [after Bond has escaped]

Kamal Khan: Mr. Bond is indeed of a very rare breed... soon to be made extinct.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”:

Elizabeth: Whose side is Jack on?

Will Turner: At the moment?

“Richard III”:

Panthino: Launce, away, away, aboard! thy master is shipped and thou art to post after with oars. What’s the matter? Why weepest thou, man? Away, ass! You’ll lose the tide, if you tarry any longer.

Launce: It is no matter if the tied were lost; for it is the unkindest tied that ever any man tied.


Claudius: “… But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son...

Hamlet: [aside] “A little more than kin, and less than kind…

Claudius: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

Hamlet: Not so, my lord; I am too much I’ the sun.

In summary, wordplay is a rhetorical device. It often implies either different meanings of a word or bringing words together to produce a witticism. A good translator should be fully aware of words which may be highly emotive in one language and may not be so in another language. Thus the translator should consider the meaning and try his best to convey the original idea into another language using various means and translation methods.




  1. Al-Nakhalah A. Difficulties and problems facing English students at QOU in the translation process from English to Arabic and their solutions. http://www.qou.edu/english/conferences/firstNationalConference/pdfFiles/ahmadMaher.pdf (accessed January 30, 2015).
  2. Baker M., Venuti L. The translation studies reader. Routledge, 2000. 544 p.
  3. Bell R. T. Translation and translating: theory and practice (Applied Linguistics and Language Study). Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1991. 298 p.
  4. Biguenet J., Schulte R. The craft of translation. University of Chicago Press, 1989, 170 p.
  5. Cronin M. Translation and Globalization. Routledge, 2003. 208 p.
  6. Delabastita D. Introduction. In wordplay and translation. Special issue of the translator. Studies in intercultural communication, 1996. 2.2., pp. 127–139.
  7. Eco U., McEwen A. Experiences in translation. University of Toronto Press, 2001. 112 p.
  8. Grossman E. Why translation matters. Yale University Press. 2010. 160 p.
  9. Gutt E. Translation and relevance: cognition and text. Blackwell Publishers, 2000. 271 p.
  10. Munday J. Introducing translation studies: Theories and Applications. Routledge, 2001. 240 p.
  11. Robinson D. Becoming a translator: an introduction to the theory and practice of translation. Routledge, 2003. 320 p.
  12. Steiner G. After Babel: Aspects of language and translation. Oxford University Press, 1998. 560 p.
  13. Wilss W. The science of translation. Problems and methods, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen. 1982. 292 p.


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