I Heart Indies

Sunday, June 3, 2012


For my last brithday, my daughter Catherine got me the board game Asterix and Obelix.  She knows what a fan I am, on a previous occasion she got me two hard-rubber figurines.
She and her then fiancee were sweet enough to play me a game.  You may notice that the box is labeled in German: the cartoon was a big international hit.
The Asterix comics were the creation of French cartoonists Goscinny and Uderzo, the story of a single Gaulish village holding out against the Roman empire.  They were made invincible by a magic potion from their druid, Getafix.  The stories were silly and convoluted, gorgeously illustrated, and laden with puns and word-play.  The speech of minor characters from other lands was rendered in different lettering so the Goths spoke in that all-but-unreadable Old English script and Ptennisnet, the Egyptian, spoke in hieroglyphics.  Of course, a lot of their puns don't translate directly from French to English, so that the dog Idee Fixe, for example, becomes Dogmatix in English.

I'm not sure I get the last frame in the above - why would the centurion think they'e giggling unless Obelix's "that's the lot," sounds like a giggle to a Roman?  I think the French is "c'est la tout," but that sounds like a sneeze.
One of their panels still floors me each time I think of it.  The pirates below have just had the misfortune to encounter Asterix and Obelix.

The gag, of course, is the representation of the Raft of the Medusa by Gericault (Pronounced Jericho.)

But here's the thing - how would the word "framed" have the same two meanings in French as it does in English, and would our pronunciation of Gericault as Jericho (as in Joshua fit the battle of...) match theirs?  How is it possible for such an elaborate pun to work in two different languages?  And how would it have worked in German?
Don't tell me, I'd rather enjoy the mystery.
By the way, if you're curious about the outcome of the game: I won.

1 comment:

  1. The people who did the English translations of Goscinny's witty text were his favourite translators. They put such effort and ingenuity into trying to capture the puns of the original French versions. In some cases theirs were better...such as the Ptenisnet that you mention. Better than the Coursdetenis of the original. The Wreck of the Medusa is often cited as a particular piece of genius.