I’ve been in Spain as long as The Simpsons have been on air (1989). And for me, despite their utter American-ness, they remain utterly Spanish. The first time I heard the ‘real’ Homer’s voice I was horrified. Lisa and Marge sound amazingly similar in both languages, but somehow Homer is cuter in castellano, Moe even gravellier, Burns even sleazier, Ralph even, well, Ralphier. And so on. I can’t make my mind up about Bart. His voice is different in the dubbed version but both are great.
Sure, some of the humour must get lost in translation but if your Spanish is street-language good, you’ll find both versions equally funny – or not-quite-so-funny as the case may be. But how do you say ‘Eat my shorts’ in Spanish? How do you translate a phrase that didn’t exist in English? Well, you dream up an equally tame ‘screw you’ expression like ‘Multiplícate por cero’ (er, multiply yourself by zero) and it works just fine. ‘Cool’ is either ‘Mola’ (or rather ‘¡Mooola!), ‘¡Cómo mola!’ or ‘Dabutin’ (a euphemism for the more hard-core ‘de puta madre’). I still haven’t worked out ‘Don’t have a cow, man’; though in one episode I did hear Bart say the fabulous ‘No te sulfures’ (don’t have a chemical reaction / lose your temper / have a cow?).
Homer is easier. In Spanish he does ‘Woo-hoo’ just the same and he says things like ‘Mm… comida / cerveza / chocolate’, but he doesn’t do ‘D’oh!’ This most characteristic of all his catchphrases is captured in Spanish by either something that sounds like ‘¡Ouch!’ (usually when he actually hurts himself), or by the mild expletive ‘¡Mosquis!’ when he’s annoyed.’ (Incidentally, doh – no apostrophe – was added to the online Oxford English Dictionary in 2001).
Perhaps one of the most interesting characters to translate and dub is that of Ned Flanders. If you follow the show you’ll know that Homer’s bible-bashing neighbour jollies up his speech with diddlys and doodilys all over the place. This is rendered consummately in Spanish with a super-abundance of diminutives like –ito, –illo and -icillo. His standard greeting ‘Hi-doodly-ho’, for example, becomes ‘Hola-holita’, and instead of the classic ‘okily-dokily’, he says ‘por supuestecillo’. Interestingly, his character uses Spanish diminutives in any case and he regularly comes out with words like ‘neighboritos’ or ‘neighborinos’.
Whatever and however you look at it, Los Simpson is an example of dubbing at its finest – a subject to which I’ll be returning in further posts. Until then, hasta luegito.