Today we have a near-entertainment topic, but with overtones. More than half of EnglishDom’s content department watches cartoons. And since we are an online English school, almost all of us watch them in English.
And we noticed an interesting fact: the popular American cartoons are much deeper than they seem at first glance. They in an understandable and accessible form reveal such facets of the English language and the English-speaking culture, which are practically inaccessible for those who do not live in the States.
Check out a selection of popular English animated series that are best watched in original.
American Dad is one of those animated sitcoms that were very popular in the United States, but completely failed in the Russian-speaking space. And the main reason is humor. 9 out of 10 jokes in the cartoon are based on language puns or references to American culture. Localizing it competently is a hell of a job for translators and editors.
Many of the jokes are pretty rude and completely devoid of any tact. But they are designed for the average American viewer with his sense of humor.
Take your mom jokes, for example. In the United States, this is a separate category of rough humor, which has already become a classic. For example, the “Great Space Roaster” series (season 5, episode 18).
Mom, you are not smart. I don’t tell “yo mama’s so dumb” jokes. I tell “my mama’s so dumb” jokes. Example: My mama’s so dumb, I don’t tell “Yo mama’s so dumb” jokes, I tell “My mama’s so dumb” jokes.
Translation studio 2×2:
“Mom, you’re not very smart. I’m not even joking about “your mom is so dumb”. I joke about “my mom is so dumb.” Example: my mom is so dumb that I don’t joke about “your mom is so dumb”, I joke about “my mom is so dumb”.
We are sure that this joke will cause a mute shock to almost all Russian speakers. In our country, for such humor, you can get sickly people, and in the USA this is a popular topic for gags.
Yo mama jokes – it is yo mama, not your mom – are very common in American culture. This is one of the symbols of national humor. Racist and sexist jokes – to the same cohort. And although they are condemned in public, they are constantly heard in narrow companies of Americans.
“American Dad” very accurately and without unnecessary censorship illuminates such moments of internal culture. Sometimes with exaggeration and grotesque ridicule, but often in the way it is customary to talk about it in society.
If you love rough humor, American Dad will show you how jokes are made in the United States.
Daria is a fairly popular cartoon from the 2000s that pokes fun at popular US culture. Despite the fact that it is over 20 years old, it is still relevant and topical.
Interestingly, the cartoon is a spin-off of another cult project – “Beavis and Butthead”. Daria in him is just a minor heroine.
“Daria” shows the life of American schoolchildren, making fun of the stereotypes of American society, study, cultural trends. But at the same time, the cartoon raised rather serious questions of self-perception and socialization of young people, the search for oneself and relationships with the opposite sex.
Most of the episode titles are either puns or references to famous films, books or bands.
For example, The lab brat, which was localized in Russian as “Sad Experiment”. This is a slightly modified idiom “lab rat” (“laboratory rat”), which now sounds like “laboratory asshole” – Daria was very unhappy with her laboratory partner.
Or Pinch Sitter. Translated, this is “Replacing the nanny.” And in the original it is a hint of the phrase “pinch hitter” – a substitute player in baseball. Interesting pun to show that Daria replaced her sister as a nanny in this episode.
Another illustrative example is the series The Big House, which in the localization was referred to as the “State House”. This is correct, because in American slang the phrase means not only “big house”, but also “prison”. True, the ambiguity could not be conveyed in Russian, because the series is about the house arrest of a teenager, and not about a real prison.
The dialogues and jokes in Daria are very revealing. They are entirely sarcasm.
– So … where you girls been all our lives?
– Waiting here for you. We were born in this room, we grew up in this room, and we thought we would die here … alone. But now you’ve arrived, and our lives can truly begin.
– She likes you.
– Girls, where have you been all our life?
– Yes, here, they were waiting for you. We were born in this room, grew up in this room and thought that we would die here alone. But then you appeared, and life took on meaning.
– She likes you!
Snappy Daria shows you how to make clever jokes in English. Not banal gags or vulgar hints, but humor to think about. And which, perhaps, not everyone will understand. For yourself, you can glean quite a lot of similar phrases that are suitable for today.
Although Adventure Time has a 10+ rating, it is still intended for adults. This is a comedy of absurdity and absurdity, seasoned with vulgar hints.
The most interesting thing is that when translated into Russian, almost all of them were lost. Localizers decided to make the cartoon more childish than it really is.
Let’s take one small excerpt from the Holly Jolly Secrets I series (season 3, episode 19):
Yes, Finn. It goes in my butt.
In the dub, this phrase was rendered as “Yes, Finn. Give her here. ” But literally the phrase means “Shove it up my ass.”
The joke is that “butt” can mean both “the back of something” and “butt” at the same time. The context here suggests the first meaning, but the pun leaves another interpretation. Actually, that’s why Finn was so surprised at BMO’s offer.
Unlike American Dad, the humor here is based on hints and ambiguities. Here lexical puns and their combinations with visual allusions, rather than cultural references, play a role, therefore Adventure Time is much more popular in the Russian-speaking space.
Here’s a rather subtle example of a lexical joke:
Do you see a heart with an inscription on your belly? “Hug me” is a rather popular inscription on various sweets, which translates as “Hug me”. But it says “Tug me” here. One letter completely changes the phrase: “tug” is the verb for petting. And the inscription can be translated as “Distort me.”
In “South Park” obscene humor, there are many vulgar jokes. There is even an opinion that the animated series is one big joke about farting.
But no. In fact, with crude humor, the authors raise complex problems of society. The authors pay special attention to racial issues and stereotypes about blacks, Jews, Canadians, Japanese, and Chinese. The cartoon in a harsh and banter manner conveys the mood of the real American society.
A typical South Park moment that shows how Americans feel about the Canadian accent. The word “about” in Canada is really pronounced by many as “a boot”, which makes the people of the United States very amused.
The cartoon also raises issues of ecology, religion, censorship, human rights violations, homophobia and politics. Almost every high-profile event was reflected in the events of the “South Park”.
Actually, this is why South Park is so popular in the United States – it became the second longest animated series in history. It is worth watching in order to better understand Americans and the topics that excite them, at which they laugh. And Cartman is often the mouthpiece of America:
– Hippies. They’re everywhere. They wanna save Earth, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad.
– Hippie. They are everywhere. They want to save the Earth, but all they do is smoke weed and smell bad.
Yes, the cartoon is rude and controversial: jokes “below the belt” and a variety of toilet humor are in every episode. But it is definitely worth seeing to better understand Americans.
We have long hesitated whether to include The Simpsons on this list. Kind of like a button accordion, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. So, here he is.
The Simpsons is the longest animated series in history. Today it has 32 seasons. And it brilliantly ridicules the problems of American society. This is done much more subtly than in the same American Dad or South Park – it was the “Simpsons” that became the ancestor of this genre of animation.
The humor in The Simpsons is much more correct, even with the acuteness of the themes. And they are much easier to localize. They have a lot of jokes based on American culture – we even had a separate material on the topic “Jokes and References from The Simpsons in English That Need to Be Explained”…
Nevertheless, understandable humor is also lacking.
– Gimme that! I can’t believe how easy it is in this country to get cigarettes.
– Well, give it here! It’s incredible how easy it is to get cigarettes in this country.
And although the whole episode is connected with children’s smoking – it is also a very relevant and complex topic, but here the joke is not about that at all. And about how easy it is to buy firearms in the United States – in most states you don’t even need a special permit for this.
By the way, there is also a hidden reference in the title of the series. Smoke on the Daughter is a crystal clear homage to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.
The Simpsons’ vocabulary is pretty clear. 90% of dialogues and jokes become clear already at the Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate levels. Linguistic humor based on puns and puns is also there, but it does not interfere with general understanding.
At the same time, each of the spectators will find something of their own. Cinema lovers – a huge number of references to films and TV series. A short collection can be viewed here… Mathematicians are a bunch of math humor and hidden facts. A book has even been written about this. The Simpsons and Their Math Secrets.
In general, even though the “Simpsons” are already 34 years old, they are still relevant. They are worth seeing to get closer to American culture in general and the English language in particular.
Cartoons are a great way to take a break from classic English lessons. After all, watching the same “The Simpsons”, you can pump your listening comprehension and understanding of colloquial phrases. And if you want to learn the language both effectively and with pleasure, then sign up for a free lesson with a teacher at EnglishDom – we also use cartoons as teaching aids.
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