Solved! How I Got Mel Brooks In My Shakespeare

Ok, this story is too fascinating not to share.

You’re probably sick of me hyping my Shakespeare is Universal campaign, which features a t-shirt depicting “To be or not to be” translated into languages from around the world.

This morning, Twitter follower @JulietWilliams3 wrote to me, “Your Japanese says ‘Mel Brooks running away’, is that what you meant?”

For a moment I thought she was kidding.  Then my stomach turned as I realized that she was in fact correct, or at least as far as the Mel Brooks went.  Yikes.   I flew back to my original document, and that sequence of Japanese characters was not there. What the heck?  The version that I’ve been using was produced by my graphic designer who did admit to having re-generated much of text.  So now I’m left with the choices of a) a bug in the translation engine, b) designer made a copy-and-paste error of some sort (maybe he was in IMDB?) or c) designer did that on purpose.

I immediately write back to him – a former coworker I haven’t spoken with in 3 years.  I don’t expect a response.

I then turn to Reddit and see that they have a translations  group specifically for this purpose.  So I post up my image and ask for validations of the translation.  Someone who does not know the story tells me that the Japanese reads, “Mel Gibson’s Great Escape.”

And then it all falls into place with this post from swarmtactic:

Yes, Mel Brooks’s “To Be Or Not To Be” was rebranded to be “Mel Brooks’s Great Escape” in the Japanese market, and that is what it says here (I’m guessing silverforest just had a typo with “Mel Gibson”) 

I can confirm silverforest’s translation is accurate. In your graphic designer’s defense,[1] , which is a popular online japanese translation dictionary, lists the Mel Brooks movie as the first entry for the phrase “To be or not to be”, god knows why.

I confirmed this myself – type “to be or not to be” into that engine and you get back the characters which, out of context, would simply tell you “Mel Brooks’ Great Escape.”  (Making this even more confusing?  The Mel Brooks movie The Producers has a song called Run Away! So at first I thought this was a Producers reference!)

So it appears that the engine I was using at the time had a pointer into this service and parroted back whatever it was given.  Amazing that we found that!

I’ve got edited artwork in with the t-shirt people, so this and a couple of other errors will be fixed before the shirts are printed.  Plus I took the opportunity to add Chinese and German ( I learned last night that I forgot German!) so now there’s even more language.  Please, if you haven’t already, consider supporting the movement and showing the world how much you believe in the power of Shakespeare.

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4 thoughts on “Solved! How I Got Mel Brooks In My Shakespeare

  1. Um, I know you meant to link to your shirt, right? But you actually linked to a YouTube clip (but it fits the situation!)

  2. Updated! Thanks!!

    Yes, the video that was linked definitely fits, we were talking about the problem here at work and how sometimes when you ask for a translation into a language you don't know you're left at the mercy of the person doing the translation (also known as the "chinese tattoo problem").

  3. I was told that my Hebrew and my Farsi were both left to right when they should be right to left. These changes will be made in the final version (come to think of it, they should be showing up now on the linked page – are they not?)

    Until the deadline for the camaign (in about 16 days depending on when you read this) I'll be gladly accepting any edits and improvements. I want the finished product to be as high quality as possible!


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