Frivolous German translation question

Hey Deutschdopers,

Can anyone give me a good idiomatic translation of that classic line from ‘Airplane’:
“Excuse me, stewardess, I speak jive!”

Need answer fast!

I’ll take a shot.

"Entschuldigen Sie, Frau Stewardess - ich spreche Jive ! "

I can’t answer, but I do have a clarification question: Do you want “I speak jive” or “I speak German”?

I want “jive”.

I’m told that in the German dubbing of the movie, the “jive” is actually Bavarian.

Well, in the German version of the movie the old lady just says :“Oh Stewardess, I believe I understand what they say”
In German: Oh! Stewardess, Ich glaube ich verstehen was die sagen."

That whole joke dynamic is somewhat different in the German version. The “I speak jive” thing wouldn’t be funny in German.
The old lady mutters something like this when, while & after she’s leaving them " Always the same, when you want to help someone" followed with “undank ist der welten lohn” (No good deed goes unpunished/Let no good deed go unpunished)

Correct… like as if the 2 black guys coming from the back and beyond mountains of Bavaria

The problem is that there’s no exact equivalent for ‘jive’ in German, the closest being probably ironically the English lean word ‘Slang’. That’s why they went for a dialect (VERY thick Bavarian) in the dub, which worked perfectly.

EDIT: here’s the scene

:smack: Just saw that Doughbag already posted the link. Nevermind.

The problem is the joke is very idiomatic on multiple levels.
I would have guessed that German doesn’t really have an equivalent urban slang to the “jive” of the 70s (while at the same time “jive” was itself slang for lying or spouting nonsense). Then these guys are speaking it to an exaggerated degree.
Also, the subtitles are slightly wrong. The only one I remember clearly was that it rendered “Shit” as “golly”. So sometimes the audience can’t follow what they are saying, but when they can it is clear that the subtitles aren’t exactly right.

And part of the joke is the actress playing the lady who understands them. Barbara Billingsley played the mom on one of the most iconic sitcoms of the late 50s-early 60s, Leave it To Beaver. The show ran from 1957 to 1963 and then was in reruns all over the place and was set in suburban America.
Basically, she would be instantly recognized by most of the audience as someone who is probably the person on earth least likely to be able to understand what those men are saying.
Making it funny when she can speak Jive fluently,

Also, the phrase itself is absurd. For reasons I cannot fully explain, I doubt that anybody would ever utter the phrase, “Oh stewardess, I speak Jive.”

Really that joke was at its funniest when the movie was in theaters. It references what was current popular culture in nearly every facet, and as those faded into “history” the joke got less funny. It stands as a monument to how funny it was that it is still funny at all.

I think you’re missing the point.

The essence of the joke (in the original version) was that the two were speaking a language others (including the flight attendant) didn’t understand. Unexpectedly, up steps a nice lady of older age and she speaks to the two fluently and translates for the FA.

Whoever was managing the German (and maybe other) dubbing thought that the best approach to keep the spirit of the joke would be to have them speaking in a heavy version of the Bavarian dialect that most Germans wouldn’t understand. The FA was puzzled all the same, and up walks someone to translate.

Every language has some version of street talk, and European countries are also full of local dialects that non-locals almost never understand. That was decided to be the best way to capture the spirit of the joke. The substance is irrelevant.

Jokes with a cultural component almost never make sense when translated into another language.

In the English version the two black passengers were speaking an exaggerated version of “jive”, which is kind of expected from them - just not as thick, besides the point that “jive” is not a language as such.
The jock is on the lady understanding it and the surprise of the two guys understanding them.

In the German version, the joke is on both, they guys and the lady.

First of all, there is no way, that two black guys speak Bavarian accent in such a heavy and thick manner - at least not at the time of making the movie.

The second part is, when the goody-two-shoes stick-her-nose-in-your-business lady offers to translates and then basically is all manners of rude to them and gives out what ungrateful bastards people are, since all she want to do is “help” and then to two black guys look at each other puzzled and surprised on what the hell just happened there manner and “how nuts is she”.

That wasn’t a mistake, it was one of the jokes too, since “sheeeit” is clearly recognisable but the subtitles are being prim.

Exactly, the subtitles add an extra level to the joke the original didn’t have by contrasting the very coarse Bavarian with the super-prim subtitles in high German. For example, one of the guy says the common, very colloquial adage (I’m transcribing in high German because I cannot speak Bavarian ;)):

“Lieber ne Wampe vom Saufen als ein Buckel vom Arbeiten” = “It’s better to get a belly from boozing than a hunch from working”

which is subtitled as the very highbrow:

“Früh nieder, früh auf, das ist der beste Lebenslauf” = “Get up and retire early, that is the best way of living”

so the total opposite in style and meaning.

OMG that had us rolling. And like my Franconian relatives, I only understood every third or fourth word. :smiley:

The trouble is, the jokes in the movie (many jokes in every context) are very language and idiom specific.

For example:
“Check the radar range” - [looks into microwave, chicken is almost cooked]
A microwave was called a radar range for a while in The Good Old Days. (range -old name for stove)
It’s also a perfect phrase for distance reading on the airport radar.

Ich Nicht sprechen zie Deutsch, but my hat’s off to anyone who can make a translation of that movie that comes close to the original in funny.

Jive? Ebonics!

Yes, part of the joke is that the subtitles are wrong.

As I recall, the end of the scene in English is that the stewardess says something like she’ll go get help, then the old lady starts to translate that into Jive.
One of the men says “My mamma di’n’t raise no fool” (Which is subtitled as "I could understand her), to which the lady replies that he needn’t be offensive as she’s just trying to help, and as I recall the line “Shit” (subtitled “golly”) was actually hers.

I apologize in advance for this, but why not “Schwarzen Spielen” for “jive”?

Cos it ain’t funny, yo fool!
Black people don’t speak a different slang to non black people like in the US.
Here some British people getting interviewed:
Chris Eubank
Chris Tummings
Dizzee Rascal

Not that it matters at this point, but I used the wrong word above–I meant “Schwarzen Sprechen,” or something like that.