There are three ways of doing things: the right way, the wrong way and the way that I do it. These are the words of the character, Sam “Ace” Rothsein, played by Robert de Niro in Martin Scorsese´s film Casino (1995), and that must inevitably, spring to the minds of many audiovisual translation professionals, from time to time. The cinema has given us endless celebrity quotes that have become part of our film history and, of course, our language. In our blog today, we reminisce about some of and them and the translator´s answer to them, and you are welcome to mention any others. We know that there are lots, and they may not have all had the same impression on us, but the following examples should surely jog your memory.

Frankly, darling, I don’t give a damn

Let’s start with “Frankly, darling, I don’t give a damn” (Gone with the Wind, 1939) with Rhett Butler and Scarlett O´Hara, which was translated into Spanish as “Francamente, querida, me importa un bledo.” We don’t know today, if the translator made this choice to add a certain rudeness to Clark Gable´s character, but it’s true that the spectator would expect to hear more refined words from the lips of such an elegant and well-groomed gentleman. In a nutshell, today this would represent a big challenge.

Stupid is as stupid does

The film Forrest Gump, when translated into Spanish, had as its title a lesson taught to the main character by his mother: Mama says, “Stupid is as stupid does” (Tonto es el que hace tonterías – Forrest Gump, 1994). Thank you Forrest, will bear that in mind.

Sayonara, baby

The quote “Sayonara, Baby” from the film Terminator, was actually “See you later, baby” in English. If the translator had chosen to translate this as “See you later, baby,” we spectators on the other side of the ocean would have an alligator at the grand finale and would all get up to dance. Totally out of context for the scene in question.

May the force be with you

Does the phrase: “May the force be with you,” sound familiar (Star Wars, 1977)? Undoubtedly, yes. Literally translated in Spanish as “Que la fuerza os acompañe”. Definitely one of the best wishes we could transmit to a professional audiovisual translator before starting a project.


The voice of chameleonic actor, Robert de Niro, saying “Counsellor? Counsellor? (Cape Fear) left many a spectator´s hair standing on end. The scene is just as chiling in Spanish, with the translation “¿Abogado? ¿Abogado?”

ET, phone home

The charming extra-terrestrial, making his first attempt at speaking the human language, said “ET, phone home”, in the film E.T. (1982). In the original English script, we see that the word phone, which could be an infinitive, but in Spanish version “Teléfono, mi casa,” it was translated as a substantive. This choice sounds cuter and allows to see that ET is still trying to learn the language, doesn’t it. Whichever way we look at it, this alien´s words were the protagonists of many games we played as children at that time.

My precious

In Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) by Peter Jackson, Gollum constantly repeated the phrase “My precious”. A simple noun phrase, literally translated into Spanish as “Mi tesoro,” is already part of our repertoire.

To infinity and beyond!

Now is the turn of a film which is liked by children and adults, because Disney needed to be mentioned in this post. “¡Hasta el infinito y más allá!” is the literal and credible translation of “To infinity and beyond!” of the children’s cartoon classic, Toy Story (1995).

Wax on, wax off

With the famous “Wax on, wax off,” the memorable Mr. Miyagi, who he used his words sparingly but offered wise advice, introduced Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) to the world of karate in Karate Kid (1984). On this occasion the “Wax on, wax of” was translated into Sanish as “Dar cera, pulir cera” using the infinitive form. If the translator had chosen the imperative in this case, they would definitely have lost the essence of the wise old man´s limited language abilities, don’t you think?

I see dead people

The next quote is “I see dead people”, from Sixth Sense (1999). If we want to be strictly grammatical, the boy is constantly seeing dead people, as implied by the use of the present simple tense in this phrase, which he reaffirms later by saying “all the time”. In the Spanish translation of “En ocasiones veo muertos”, the words “En ocasiones” may have been necessary to achieve effective synchronisation with little Haley Joel Osment´s lips, who appears throughout the whole scene.

Nobody’s perfect

From the classic Some Like It Hot, we inherited the famous “Nobody’s perfect” (Nadie es perfecto, in Spanish) -which is reassuring to know- a well-known statement from the famous romantic comedy from 1959.

Go back to your playpen, Baby

Penny, the ballerina and lively character portrayed by Cynthia Rhodes, in Dirty Dancing (1987) says to the naive character Baby, played by Jennifer Grey, “Go back to your playpen, Baby.” The Spanish translation, “Vuelve a tu cunita, Baby” leaves the character equally as deflated. Poor Baby!

All of these decisions taken by an audiovisual translator at some time, allows us to enjoy the best products in the film industry and they become, inevitably, part of our speech. The best of luck to all of the individual translators that will allow us to enjoy many more films to come.

Useful links

The most surprising aspects about translating films into Chinese

Translation quotes that you’ll never forget


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