Tag Archives: Swedish English translation

The Full Monty? The tribulations of translating film titles

Do you remember The Full Monty, that wonderful 1997 British comedy about the six unemployed Sheffield steel workers who became male strippers? Here in Sweden it was called Allt eller inget.

The original title is quite impossible to translate. “The full Monty” is an expression means going the whole way, giving it everything you’ve got. The works. The full nine yards.

Nobody quite knows where  the expression comes from. Perhaps from Field Marshal Montgomery who enjoyed enormous breakfasts with all the trimmings? Perhaps from a tailor called Montague Burton who sewed suits for men leaving the army and gave his all to the ask?

It was hilarious to read that when it was released in China it was called Six naked pigs!

Rather a lot got lost in translation!

I discovered this interesting fact from this list of the 50 funniest movie titles


There are some other real gems:

I’m drunk and you’re a prostitute. (Leaving Las Vegas – Japan)
It’s raining falafel (It’s raining meatballs – Israel)
Urban Neurotic (Annie Hall – Germany and Austria)
The teeth from the sea (Jaws – France). That makes it sound the story of someone who’s lost their false teeth while having a dip.

There are lots of  rather amusing lists of poorly translated film titles out there on the internet.

But translating film and book titles is no enviable task for the poor translator. The new title has not only got to be accurate but also sound right in the new language. It also needs to appeal to the potential audience. You Swedes for some reason love film titles which include the word “dangerous”.

Polyglots can hours of fun looking through the “Also known as” section in IMDB. Here is what happened to Jaws


The Swedish title of the first Millenium novel, Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women) would, I suspect, never have been as internationally successful as The girl with the dragon tattoo. The original sounds like a newspaper headline, the latter suggestive and interesting.

There’s a new comedy out here about a Finnish man who desperately wants to be Swedish: Hallonbåtsflyktingen. It seems that the English title will be The Raspberry Boat Refugee. Not a bad title. It’s accurate and makes you curious. What it can’t possibly do is let you know that the raspberry boats are a kind of sweet associated in many people’s mind with the ferries between Sweden and Finland. Put the word sweet into the title and it just doesn’t work so well.

Titles that involve a pun are a real pig. The importance of being Earnest was Oscar Wilde sticking his tongue at the over-seriousness of his contemporaries. At the time there were many tracts and pamphlets urging moral behavior.

There are some stinkers of course, but also those times when you think the translator got it just right.

I rather like “Indigo Blue” for Michel “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Gondry’s adaptation of Boris Vian’s novel “L’épume des jours,” It’s the title of a Duke Ellington tune which features significantly in the film. “The froth of days”, the literal translation, would just not have got bums on seats.

Working with translation yourself, makes you realise,  just how difficult this sort of thing is.

So,  Six Naked Pigs? No,  I don’t think so!