Pun introduced in translation?
September 4, 2010 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Is there a pun in Hamlet's first line in the movie Hamlet liikemaailmassa?

The scene takes place in a kitchen where someone is slicing ham; Hamlet comes up, takes over, and cuts a large piece off for himself. As he does so he says something which is rendered in the English subtitles thus: "Ham … let me!". The actual dialogue is given in Finnish, though. Is there a pun in the Finnish as well? What is it?
posted by kenko to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am having no luck finding the quote in Finnish online, but I think the answer to your question is certainly "yes." It just doesn't make sense that the translator would wantonly introduce an obvious pun. I hope someone can provide the original, though.
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on September 4, 2010

I also can't find the Finnish online, unfortunately.

I certainly hope the answer is "yes" too, and so what I'm really interested in is an explanation of what the pun is. "Ham … let me!" is so compact.
posted by kenko at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2010

There's a few clips on YouTube but apparently not from that scene. Are you watching it from a DVD? Can you get an audio clip to me so I could transcribe it?
posted by keijo at 10:45 PM on September 4, 2010

Keijo, I'll see what I can do—I saw it in a theater, but I'm sure I can track down a dvd.
posted by kenko at 11:25 PM on September 4, 2010

I managed to get hold of the film! I've been thinking about this all day and just had to find out. Kaurismäki is a genius:

The words spoken by Hamlet in Finnish are "Kinkkua, anna minä." This means literally just "Ham, let me" and is not funny in any way in Finnish without the context. However, it is a brilliant pun introduced by Kaurismäki and not the translator, since most of the viewers will be familiar with the English translation.
posted by keijo at 8:08 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fascinating! Thanks for tracking it down, and thanks to kenko for asking the question. I wonder if other writers have deliberately introduced things because they would make a good effect in translation?
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2010

I wondered if widespread English-speaking in Finland would be the explanation!

Thanks keijo!
posted by kenko at 9:59 AM on September 5, 2010

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