Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fun quirks of language 05

Remember Thundercats? Here's a quick clip of them (admittedly not during their better moments) to jog your memory:

Thundercats is cool. Well, was cool, until I discovered the joys of Cowboy Bebop, Eureka 7, Hagaren and the generally vastly superior Japanese voice acting, animation, music, storylines and other elements that simply make an animated feature worth watching. But I digress.

In it's day, Thundercats rawked. It was one of those things a wee boy waited for every week to watch (and not just to ogle Cheetara), and everyone wanted a toy Sword of Omens, even though we knew the bastard wouldn't get any longer no matter how much you swung it, did the poses and shouted "Thunder! Thunder! Thundercats! HOOOO!' at the top of your lungs.

Looking back, I think a big part of the catchiness is the sound of the word "thunder". It has oomph. I'm no linguist, alas, but I know there's a word for the oomphiness of the word "thunder". I suppose you could say it has a certain onomatopeaic quality*? Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I was hiking up Existentialist Hill** last weekend when a friend brought to my attention the existence of a Taiwanese translation of Thundercats:


For the benefit of barbarians who cannot read the above, the first two characters do in fact translate as "thunder" and the last one is most certainly "cat". But I think you'll agree with me that a lot was lost in the translation when you realize that the above three characters are pronounced pilimao.

Yep. That's right, in the Taiwanese version, Lion-O does his thing shouting "Pili! Pili! Pilimao! HOOOOOOO!!" Ugh... Suffice it to say that version didn't do so well. I don't even want to contemplate what a Hokkien version would sound like.

* This is where a clever linguist is supposed to read this and correct me.

** Go ahead. Ask me why it's called Existentialist Hill.

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