chapter  2
15 Pages

Transcultural Images

Subtitling Culture-Specific Audiovisual Metaphors
ByJan Pedersen

Language users employ figures of speech for a multitude of reasons, such as elucidation, facilitation of meaning, or illustration. Regardless of the reasons for using a figure of speech, the images employed in the figurative language use is central. Metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech rely for their success on a shared knowledge of the images involved. However, many of these images, or at least the conventional uses of these, are culture-specific, and this can be problematic if the figure of speech is not transparent. An American may have difficulties in understanding what an Englishman means when he is ‘grasping a nettle’, and an Englishman may not know what ‘a cheap drunk’ is. These difficulties become serious problems when translation is involved, particularly when it is a question of audiovisual translation with its many diverse constraints. Subtitlers need to be aware of whether the image involved in a particular metaphor is used in the same way in the source and target cultures. If not, s/he may have to step in and assist the viewer in understanding the intended message of the source text, and do so within the constraints of the subtitling situation. There is ample evidence that subtitlers are very adept at carrying out this transculturality appraisal. Yet there are times when they go astray and create new, and sometimes perplexing, target-language metaphors.