It’s “Back to the Future” Day

Today is the day of the future, as portrayed in the “Back to the Future” movie series. October 21, 2015 is the future they come to in Part 2, in the souped-up DeLorean, from 1985.

Browse the news today, and you’ll find many, many articles about it, including:

“Irish students build all-electric DeLorean for Back to the Future Day” (from CNET)

For today’s post, I’ll share some screenshots of the original movie (arguably the best of the three), with a focus on the translation of subtitles. I was interested in how they would translate this scene, when Marty gets caught in the hallway by the principal, especially the word “slacker.”


「先生はいないわ」= “All right, come on. I think we’re safe.”

Hmm. Translating back from J to E, it would just be “The teacher (or in this case principal) isn’t here.” But the original English line in the script includes the nuance of “we’re hiding from the teacher.”


「言っておくが、ブラウン博士は危険人物だ」”Now let me give you a nickel’s worth of free advice, young man. This so-called Dr. Brown is dangerous. He’s a real nut case.”

The English「a nickel’s worth」is a bit old-fashioned. But then, the principal’s character is like that.「A nickel」is 5 cents, but even in 1985, it wasn’t much.  On the other hand「He’s a (real) nut case」is still usable today. It generally just means, “He’s crazy.” That part was left out of the subtitle. But they don’t have much space.

Next is this:

「つきあってるといずれ後悔するぞ」”You hang around with him and you’ll end up in big trouble.

This is another interesting translation. 「You’ll regret it」would be fine if you were translating back into English, but 「You’ll be in trouble」sounds much more like a teacher/principal. Especially a strict one like Mr. Strickland.


「忠告をどうも」”Oh yes, sir.”

Marty doesn’t respect Mr. Strickland much. His response is very sarcastic (though you can’t tell that from the English line, his tone is clear). Tone and attitude can turn a bland phrase like “Oh yes, sir” into a comment dripping with disdain.


「態度が悪いぞ、このロクデナシが」”You’ve got a real attitude problem, McFly. You’re a slacker.”

「話は終わりですか?」”Can I go now, Mr. Strickland?”

So “slacker” is ろくでなし. That’s a good translation. A lazy, good-for-nothing type of person. And ろくでなし is a little old-fashioned, isn’t it? The English “slacker” also has a 1980s/90s tinge to it, I think.

This week is a good time to go back and watch the movies. Pay attention to the subtitles and notice some language!




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