Monday, September 17, 2007

Soramimi Ni-Ban

I haven't laughed this hard in awhile, but it takes some time to get to the humour in it, if you don't speak Japanese. I speak just enough that I can appreciate how ridiculous all this is, how delightful.

If you haven't read my original post, in which I enthuse about the Japanese art of mishearing song lyrics, do so. Thanks to the ever-playful Sumiyo (and Japanese Youtube videos - link here), I have a deeper appreciation for just how Soramimi works.

Dig: you're watching TV. There's a famous song, in SOME language other than Japanese, playing. There's a little movie - like a dramatic "rock video" -- illustrating what it SOUNDS like is being sung (in Japanese) to the casual Japanese viewer. As the key phrases ring out, illustrative Japanese subtitles appear below, presenting the misreading at hand. For example, some French song - God knows what the original lyrics are, as my Japanese is far better than my French and my Japanese isn't that good - is playing, and we see images of a woman's dress, her long hair, her purse. Then a phrase is sung, in French, that sounds remarkably - and I mean remarkably - like "Okama to sono otosan." We then see an image of a drag queen, whose clothes we've been examining in closeup, sitting on a bus stop bench beside an old man. "Okama to sono otosan" means something like, "the drag queen and that father." Or maybe "The drag queen and that old man."
This is NOT what the original lyric refers to, but hearing it thus creates a ripple of hilarity in the Japanese viewer, because it's really what it sounds like. Ha! The drag queen and that father! Ha!

It's funnier, trust me, if you try it with an English song. For example, there's a Def Leppard tune which has a chorus of, "Are you getting it? I'm a-getting it!" As the song plays, there are images of an older Japanese woman in a white dress walking on the beach, looking at the ocean and holding her stomach, a pained expression on her face. "I'm a-getting it," the subtitle reveals - I needed Sumiyo's help to read it - sounds like "Ama geri de!" (roughly, "because of the old fisherwoman's diarrhea). Not the usual theme of a rock video by far. For "Really getting it?" - the next line - it sounds, with some stretching, like "umi ni dere nee," a sort of slang expression meaning something like, "I can't work in the sea today." (They cheat a little on this one, I think). Then there's a line, " 'Coz I'm a getting it," which I do credit as sounding a little like, "Kesa mo geri de," meaning, "Also this morning, because of diarrhea..."). We fade out on an image of the old fisherwoman squatting behind a log...

No? That STILL isn't funny? Maybe it loses something in translation, or explication, or somewhere. Here's a final favourite from the video clip Sumiyo showed me: a Guns and Roses song with Axl shrieking, "I leave it all behind." This is accompanied with images of a somber room, where mourning might take place, and a tablet with writing on it; the subtitle flashes, "Aniki no ihai" - again, a bit of a stretch, but not as much as you might think, if you hear it; it's a plausible cross-cultural mondegreen. "Aniki no ihai" means, "My brother's Buddhist funeral memorial tablet." (It isn't that funny yet, but wait). The camera tracks up, and we are treated to a framed photograph of a mean-looking Japanese man in a tacky suit and sunglasses. (It helps at this point to know - Takeshi Kitano fans can vouch for this - that "aniki" doesn't just mean brother in the familial sense, but also is a term of affection that gangsters use.) Just as the camera arrives at the photo, Axl - I swear to God - screams, "Yakuza!" Which the subtitles spell out. I have NO IDEA WHAT HE COULD HAVE BEEN SAYING; Sumiyo wanted to know, but EVEN TO ME, in this context, it really sounds like he's saying, "Yakuza," which riffs off the "aniki no ihai" in a bizarre way, shifting its meaning to, "My gangster bro's Buddhist funeral memorial tablet!"

Hahahahaha! My gangster bro's Buddhist funeral memorial tablet! In a Japanese song! Hahahaha!

You know who I have to compile this shit for, don't you? TOM FUCKING HOLLISTON!!! (He apparently was commenting to a crowd during one of Nomeansno's recent European dates that "Nick Drake," if you say it aloud, sounds like a stolen garden implement).

Thanks to Sumiyo, I'm a-getting it!

1 comment:

ammacinn said...

Sumiyo came through with the link -