Errors in closed captions

For some reason I always assumed that the people who write the closed captions for a movie or TV show were working from a script, or some such official source. Naaah. It seems they’re basically no more authoritative than a song lyrics web site, based on the transcribers “what did he say?”

Two recent examples from my holiday viewing. (I watch a lot of TV with captions on…although my hearing is pretty much just fine)

A Christmas Carol (1951…the Alastair Sim version). At the climax, Scrooge and Mrs Dilbur are sitting on the staircase. Mrs Dilbur threatens to call the beadle. Except the captions say “beetle”. Scrooge replies, “a fig for the beetle”.

Sound of Music. Max complains that a singing group had been snatched up by Sol Hurok. The captions spell it more like “Saul Feurik”.

I believe most captioning is now done by software.

That would explain it … a few bugs in the system, yet.

Another one from Christmas Carol: when Scrooge asks the boy to go buy the prize turkey, the boy replies (apparently Victorian slang): “Walk-ER!”

The caption: “Won’t occur!”

That was…creative.

There was recent Jeopardy!* contestant who did closed captioning for TV shows. He said he repeated lines into a voice recognition computer software program.
*Sometime last season

I remember watching an episode of the original Will & Grace (not the 2017 version) at the house of someone who had closed captioning on all of the time. The closed captioning had Karen calling Rosario (her Hispanic maid) “my little taco.” The actual dialog had that phrase deleted.

I imagine the taco reference must have been in the original script but at the last minute someone said “We’ll be in a lot of trouble if we say that.”

I’ve seen lots of similar cases, where the text doesn’t match the dialog (most recently in an episode of Marvelous Mrs Maisel)-as if the captions came from an early version of the script that got altered at the last minute.

I work in TV news.

The closed captioning comes out of scripts wherever possible.

The scripts don’t always match what is actually said by the person on camera, and sometimes we don’t have scripts available.

We get transcripts after the fact, but they’re often incredibly bizarre, especially since I live in a place where people frequently speak two languages, or speak English with an accent.

Per Vocabulary Notes for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843), Walker = humbug, “an expression signifying that the story is not true, or that the thing will not occur”. And, FWIW, “beadle” is not in various online ebook versions that I searched of A Christmas Carol. (Why would the 1951 movie have a threat at the end? And from Mrs Dilber the acquisitive laundress?)

NPR’s Fresh Air, for example, admits that

One favorite fail is is from a broadcast 3 years ago, “Between World Wars, Gay Culture Flourished In Berlin”. There are like 13 mentions of “blackmail” in the 34:46 interview of Robert Beachy by Terry Gross. #2-13 are “blackmail”. But the first mention, by Robert Beachy, is transcribed, “Gay prostitution flourished too, so did black male.”

So “won’t occur” may have fortuitously been close to the mark. (“Walker” is straight from Dickens so there’s no doubt about what’s correct.). The “beadle” conversation was an addition by the movie version.

Speaking of Dickens, just discovered a doozy in the captions to Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol. Scrooge’s response to the charitable solicitation is “Are there no presents?”

I’m just watching Fargo and the captions refer to a car calling it a Cierra.

Try Sierra… :stuck_out_tongue:

In that instance, whomever or whatever created the captions didn’t know his Fords from his Panzers, but in other instances what happens is that the captions are taken from the original script and it’s the actors who deviate. For example, I did a class project comparing the captions of Ep1S1 for Desperate Housewives in different languages, including English HH (different from the basic English CC in that it includes things such as “soft music playing”). When the captions and the actual voices didn’t match, the captions were closer to the original script (or, in English, exactly from it).

Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

Over Thanksgiving, while I was visiting my parents, my father and I watched “The Dirty Dozen.” As my father suffers from partial hearing loss, he has the TV’s closed captioning turned on all the time.

I noticed a number of instances in which the words in the captioning didn’t match what the actors were saying. These weren’t typos; they were actual omissions and changes in words. This struck me as very strange – it’s a 50-year-old film, and it’s not as though the actual script or transcript of the dialogue hasn’t been available for many years.

Maybe you can explain this one then. During the news on one of our local TV stations, the CC will suddenly start spewing lines of “test test test test test” for several minutes at a time.

I recently watched “The IT Crowd” on Netflix and noticed a lot of times that the CC would display “(inaudible)” if someone mumbled a line or used an unfamiliar (to Americans) slang phrase.

My all-time favorite CC goof, which I have mentioned multiple times before, was from “The Amazing Race” (which is no surprise as it has consistently crappy CC transcription). As one team was looking for the Mat at the end of a leg, one person said “We must be close, I can smell Phil’s cologne from here.” Except that instead of “cologne” the CC had “colon”.

If you’d like a good laugh put closed captions on for sporting events, especially a fast-moving one with a lot of foreign names, like hockey. Hilarious.

Happens all the time over here. You expect it for live commentary*, but when in a recorded programme you get garbled references to a character whose name has just been spelt correctly, it does get annoying.

  • It can be as mad as predictive text on a phobe. One of the oddest was computerised subtitling of the Eurovision Song Contest one year. The singer was warbling away about lurve giving him shivers,but the subtitling said Chivers (which is a brand of marmalade over here).

At one point in the movie Topsy Turvy, Gilbert is shown working on a model of the staging and muttering to himself. The caption on the DVD says, “Wretched, meritorious be.” The line is from the song See How the Fates Their Gifts Allot, and it should be, “Wretched, meritorious B.” The song compares the lives of two people: happy, undeserving A and wretched, meritorious B. Whoever did the captioning must not have known this, and assumed the line was in the subjunctive mood.

I watch METV and when the word "cocktail’ is being said or the ‘CC ’ is showing a gun is being cock **** will show up in place of the word “cock” ! This is so annoying seeing **** for words when it is not getting beeped out . I agree you do get a good laugh when the CC has the wrong word. I was watching’ Have Gun will Travel ’ online and it had CC and the word ‘Taliban’ kept showing up and I was like WTF ! The CC should had read 'Paladin ’ and not Taliban .

A chat show interviewing Daniel Craig showed a clipof his new Bond movie. Someone tells Bond to *Laissez tomber *(drop your weapon). The caption rendered it as “listen to me.”

The most likely reason is that the connection the station and the captioner, or the captioner and the broadcasting point, has been severed.

Other possible reasons include:
The person running the prompter screwed up;
The default blank script includes the words “test test test”;
A computer in the control room has crashed.

Still not a cieRRa…