Make it funny in English, please

Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 09:26 pm

There are many new jokes circulating in China. These jokes are simple enough, yet funny in its original Chinese. But I often failed to get native English speakers' approval everytime I translated them into English. I don't know why. I guess that might be caused by different understanding based on cultural background. Whatsoever, I hope that you will join with me to find out the reason buried within, and to make them really funny in the context of English language.

Here goes our first joke, comment it guys, and make it funny if my translation you find out is lame and weak in the sense of humour:

Quick Wit in Urgent Need

Translated by OristarA

At morning, Xiao Liu, after a brawl with his wife, leaves home angrily and sets out to office. He realizes that he has left his portfolio and keys inside as he slams the door shut behind.

At that moment, he knows it is impossible to let his wife to reopen the door. So difficult that it would be like to climb to heaven without wings. But his quick wit works. He shouts out:"I want to lock the door so that you cannot go out!" The door swings open, his wife rushes out, and points her finger directly at the very nose of Xiao Liu and roars: "How dare you!"
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Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 09:38 pm
At that moment, he knows it is impossible to let his wife to reopen the door.

Is this because he would lose face? His pride won't let him ask her to open the door?
Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 10:11 pm
No, no, Pan. He left his keys inside and cannot open the door himself. Because he has just had a fight with his wife, he fears she won't open the door for him to get back inside and retreive his keys. So he yells out that he is locking her in and she immediately opens the door to yell at him. Now he can get in and get his keys.

Did I get that right, oristarA?
Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 11:37 pm
@Merry Andrew,
You got it exactly!
I feel it is a failure that Pan is unable to get it while the translation is so plain in my eye.
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Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 11:44 pm
His Chinese wife is vixen-like tempered. After fighting with her husband, she will not do anything he demands or asks. Her husband knows very well that to ask her to open the door will be ignored.
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Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 11:51 pm
@Merry Andrew,
You got it. But how to edit the joke in English so that every English native speakers will get it at once and Pan's situation will not be repeated?
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Reply Thu 5 Nov, 2009 11:54 pm

One morning, Xiao Liu, after an argument with his wife, angrily leaves home and sets out to his office. He slams the door shut behind him and (suddenly/immedeatly) realizes that he has left his briefcase and keys inside as

After that argument he knows it will be impossible to get his wife to reopen the door. He shouts out:"I am going to lock the door so that you cannot go out!" The door swings open, his wife rushes out, and points her finger directly at Xiao Liu and roars: "How dare you!"

I've anglicised the wording
Its not a particularily funny joke Oris. although I can see where the humour comes from.
The concept of a man"locking his wife up" as punishment and that his wife believes he would do it is rather abhorent.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 02:45 am

Love to see the Americanized one.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 04:23 am
Here goes the second joke.
Any comment and editing will be appreciated.

Please Do not Publish the Story

Translated by OristarA

A reader calls the newsroom:"I will not subscribe your newspaper if you continue to serialise the Story of A Miser in it."

Amazed, the editor enquires him:" Don't you like the story?"

"Yes I do. However, my neighbor is far more interested in it than I do."

"What?" the editor is further confused, "so what?"

With the anger the other side of the line replies, "I've been disturbed since everyday my neighbor comes to borrow the newspaper from me; though reluctant I've had to borrow him because the word Miser seems to make fun of me."

Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:28 am
The Americanized version would be very similar I think. Dadpad's point about finding the whole "lock her up" thing abhorrent is a good one. It dampens the humor a bit from a Western perspective I think.

I just read the Miser one and totally didn't get it, let me try again (I think the key is miserly/ borrowing).
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Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:34 am

A reader calls a newspaper: "I will cancel my subscription to your newspaper if you don't stop publishing the 'Story of a Miser' series!"

The editor asks, "Don't you like the story?"

The reader replies, "Yes, I do. However, my neighbor is REALLY interested in it."

The editor is confused. "So what?"

The reader says angrily, "Every day my neighbor borrows the newspaper from me, and I don't want him to because that miser series seems to be making fun of me."

Yeah, still not funny.

I think the point is that it would be considered miserly in China to refuse to allow your neighbor to borrow your newspaper (is that true?). Here, it would be very rude for someone to count on being able to borrow a neighbor's newspaper even if that neighbor didn't want to lend it. ("Get your own newspaper!") And more to the point, it would be considered normal for someone to not want to lend out their newspaper to their neighbor every day -- not something that would be mocked.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:42 am
@Merry Andrew,
No, no, Pan. He left his keys inside and cannot open the door himself.

See, there's the problem! I have to use my keys to lock the deadbolt when I leave so it didn't occur to me that the door would be locked when he slammed it.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 07:51 am
First joke (all I've read so far) if far too detailed for English speakers taste.

A joke like that needs to be few words.

more like....

After a fight with his wife, Xiao Liu slams the door behind him, then realized he didn't have his keys. He knows she won't open the door for him.

"That's it!" he shouts "I'm locking you in!"

Flinging the door open, she yells "Oh no you don't!"

I don't really see this as a funny joke, but more as an example of quick thinking.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 08:07 am
The 2nd joke....is it that the neighbor is the one being the miser?

ok, how about....

A man goes to the newspaper, and asks them to stop running the miser series.

"My neighbor is picking up too many tips from it, he takes mine and hasn't had to buy a paper for months!"

IMO, shorter jokes are generally better.

If the teller makes a long story out of it, the listener has had to listen to all of it, and feels he needs to laugh, whether the joke is funny or not, to be polite.

If it's quick, it can work out 2 ways.

If it's funny, the listener will freely laugh.

If it's not funny, the listener can say "heh heh, good one" and the conversation can naturally move on.

If it's a long drawn out story, and not that funny, it's awkward trying to move the conversation paste the clumsy polite laughter.

Now...LONG jokes can be really good, if over the course of the story, there are several places were the listener can laugh a little bit as the story grows and developes. Then, when the big punch line comes, the listener is already used to laughing, and thinks the ending is even funnier knowing all the amusing things that happened before.

sigh.....this is really a time I wish Lord Elpus was here....he was a master at both the short and long joke.
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Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 09:37 am
I understand both jokes, but I don't think they are very funny. Must be a cultural thing. On the first joke, I would change the genders and find a substitute for the "locking in" part. My observation is that it is ok for the clever woman to trick the dull witted man, but not the other way around. I also agree that the length is wrong. Either be short and too the point, or stretch it out and build a story with a nice punch at the end. I think the second joke is not funny because as someone mentioned, a neighbor continually demanding the newspaper would be considered rude rather than the person refusing to lend it.
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Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 12:07 pm
In the second joke, is the point of the joke ironic in that the neighbor is a miser, but the caller does not want to be thought of as a miser for not lending him his newspaper?
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 12:31 pm
I feel it is a failure that Pan is unable to get it while the translation is so plain in my eye.

Now THAT'S FUNNY! Way more funny, in fact, than the joke itself!
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Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 02:52 pm
This is a really interesting thread.

While the "henpecked husband" is funny and the "tricked wife" would be considered abusive (at least in this culture), on the flip side, we also have the "dumb blonde" or "woman driver", which isn't considered abusive.

Humor of course always has a grain of truth in it, which is what makes it funny.

While all blondes aren't dumb, and all women drivers aren't bad, we have all seen people who are dumb or bad drivers, and the situations they get themselves into are funny. It's like it would be too broad to say "this dumb person walked into a bar..." or "a bad driver was turning into an alley"

As soon as you say "a blonde walked into a bar" or "a woman drove into an ally", it's setting the tone immediately as to what type of joke it will be, and the listeners mood just as quickly shifts to accomodate it.

All husbands aren't henpecked, but if someone starts to tell you "Betty was giving Earl hell for coming home late" you've set the stage.

I mean, how un-funny would it be if after that opening line, you hear "So Earl said "It really hurts me when you deny me time with my friends, or make me feel guilty about spending time with them. I know we discussed this before, but I really think we need an objective 3rd opinion on this. Would you still be willing to see a counselor? I really want to make this marriage work."

Neutral Neutral Neutral

Different cultures have different styles of humor.

In China, what's appreciated?

Slapstick (silly) humor?
Cleaver word plays?

If the jokes that were translated into English are examples of something really funny in China, I have no doubt they really are funny there.

However, in English, it just looses something in the translation.

Teach of of your day to day culture.
I'd love to learn about it.
Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 02:57 pm
Oh hey!

Here's a joke I saw when I googled "Humor in China" which I think is cute...

A husband hated his mother-in-law living too long with his family, so he consulted with his wife for a plan to deal with her.

The husband told his wife: “When we begin to have supper this evening, I will pretend to say the food not to be cooked well and you insist on them cooked well. Then we will begin arguing. Last we will ask your mother to make a judgment. If she agrees with you, I will let her out. If she agrees with me, you will ask her leave.’’

According to the consultation, they were arguing when they had supper. At the end, the husband asked his mother-in law: “How do you like the food that your daughter has done?”

The old lady answered: “It’s too short time that I’ve lived with you, and it’s hard to tell you that the food is good or not. I will make a judgment for you after several months later.”

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Reply Fri 6 Nov, 2009 03:19 pm
Oristor, look at my signature line, that's an example of what we would call "dry humor" in america.

To explain, dys here on A2k did actually break his hip a few months back. Obviously not a happy event.
Also, dys does not like tofu at all. He would rather eat almost anything else.

Shewolf, in real life, is a good friend of dys, and she and her daughter occassional get to travel to see him, and everyone enjoys themselves.

Shewolf likes tofu, and prepares it in all kinds of healthy meals (dys isn't too fond of healthy food either)

If dys likes someone, many times he will say things about them and to them indicating he really doesn't like them...good natured teasing.

So taking 2 things that have nothing to do with each other, not liking tofu, and breaking a hip, and in a silly way connecting the 2 to somehow being shewolfs fault is, well, funny.

What makes it dry is that dys says this as if he is totally serious.

I like that type of humor.
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