Read the small prints

I have been watching some shows on the local TV cable network, and sometimes bits of an actor’s dialogue get muted out. I just found out how to make out what those missing bits mean – by reading the Malay sub-titles at the bottom of the TV screen.

I was watching Married to the Kellys one evening, and there was a scene where someone was advising another to tell a third party to ‘kiss my ass’. That phrase was muted out, but I got the meaning alright from the subtitles.

It looks like there is someone in the station who gets first-hand listen to such phrases, and he dutifully sub-titles all the dialogue in a show - together with these bits. After this, these bits then get sonically cut off by another staff who is probably specifically looking out for such things. This person is also probably looking out for other offensive words, as well, like ‘bitch’ and some obvious ones with four letters. And he is probably not bothered to read his colleague’s subtitling work.

Sometimes you also get to see some censored scenes before the actual run of the episode or the movie. Watch out for their promotional trailers. Take Desperate Housewives. For one coming episode, the station ran a promo showing one of the housewives in red bra and panties trying to entice her husband back. In the actual episode this scene was digitally blackened, so that it looked like she was wearing a heavy and hairy black dress over her front.

One time there was a promo for the movie Hope Springs with Colin Firth and Heather Graham. Heather, in one section of that promo, had taken off her top, and her bra was obviously showing. When I watched the movie on the cable network, I didn’t see that part at all. In that scene where she was supposed to have exposed her top – not bared but covered – I saw only a very quick scene transition from a pair of fully-clothed couple to them having done the deed – in a split second, almost. Colin was supposed to have dropped his pants in front of Heather and she followed this with losing her top.

So, the thing to do now is keep a close watch on the sub-titles in those silent moments in the middle of some character’s dialogue. And watch those promos for forthcoming movies, attentively.


  1. bibliobibuli says

    Well observed, Leon! I will follow your advice.

    What was "kiss my arse" in Malaya, anyway? "Ciumlah jubur aku"? I am gonna go around practising that all day with approriate attitude.

    Chet says

    Try acronyming it, Sharon. Cija!

    Leon Wing says

    The subtitler used "punggun" in place of "jubur". Now you can practise 2 phrases. I prefer the "punggun" one cos of its plosive. The "j" in "jubur" sounds a bit like a come-on. Ha ha. But you'll notice that locals never sound the
    "p" as in English; the "p" sound is like a cross between "p" and "b".

    Chet, the acronym for new phrase sounds more insulting : Cipa!

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