What part don’t you understand?

In August 2015, when I went to Korea for the second time, my working visa was delayed, so I had to do the ‘visa run’ to Fukuoka, Japan. While I was wandering around a suburb of that city, I saw a modern building devoted to the study and performance of traditional Noh theatre.  I thought that their slogan could be “What part of Noh don’t you understand?”. Unfortunately, on searching the internet, I found that Pat Byrnes, a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, had beaten me to it. I thought I mentioned this in my blog post of the time, but apparently not. Certainly I mentioned it on Facebook.

The reason I’m mentioning it now is that a few days ago I was watching some of the Crash Course series on the history of theatre, one of which is about Noh. I’ve written before about the variable quality of their autosubtitles — usually perfect, but sometimes, inexplicably, very wrong. Maybe the fault is Youtube’s, not Crash Course’s, but the same principle applies

Perhaps not surprisingly, the subtitles are sometimes unable to tell the difference between Noh and the English words no and know. To be fair, they get it right more often than they get it wrong, and there are some sentences in which Noh and no both make sense. The sentences which are plain wrong are:

more significant for no Sarugaku [an earlier theatrical form] also included dance theatre

we’re still a pretty long way from no proper

The fourth type of no play

parodies of know

Most intriguing is a sentence with two Nohs and a no. The subtitles get one Noh right and the other wrong, and the no right:

Noh acting is highly gestural and codified no actors train from the age of seven there are no directors and nothing that we would recognise as rehearsal

A similar issues occurs with the words cast and caste, both of which are relevant in a presentation about a theatrical form which originated in mediaeval Japan:

during the height of Noh many performers were even able to join the noble cast the samurai

Also, to, too and two cause problems, just as in real life:

attachment is bad even if it’s two flutes

There were also three random errors:

– a natural trio, really rendered as a natural tree, oh really

does what it says on the tin rendered as does what it says on the title (which is kind of appropriate, because he was talking about a Japanese text called ‘Records of Ancient Things’)

– the real defining moment rendered as the real funny moment


One thought on “What part don’t you understand?

  1. Pingback: peroquial and ineaningfrrl | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s