You don't know Jack! (a pun is involved)

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by morzh, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. morzh

    morzh Banned

    Well, it's a challenge question; it may not really have an answer to it.

    In 2010 a movie called "You don't know Jack" was released.

    To translate the title in Russian would be easy, had it not been for the pun involving the name and the well-known expression "you don't know jack!".

    So the today's translation is:"Вы не знаете Джека".

    The facts:

    1. The movie is about "Doctor Death", Jack Kevorkian.
    2. "You don't know jack" (this is the way it is usually said; it is the shortened version of "you don't know jack :warn:shit!") means "Ты вообще нихрена не знаешь".
    3. There is an obvious pun based on the two.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Maroseika Moderator

    Though the English pun is quite clear, I don't understand why is it here. I don't see how this pun is connected with this person, the doctor. Just because he did, what he did, under wraps? Or just a wink to the void?
    Translating puns is a hard nut, translating senseless puns is even harder.
  3. morzh

    morzh Banned

    I think the general idea is "You don't know anything about Jack" (Вы ничего не знаете / не понимаете про Джека).
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    But why? Their idea is that the doctor was something different than everybody thought he was? Or what?

    Вы ничего не смыслите в Джеках... Чушь какая-то.
  5. Sobakus Senior Member

    Мне на ум приходит что-то вроде "Да кто (этого вашего) Джека знает?", "Ни Джека вы не знаете". "Джек его знает" и подобное с Джеком в именительном падеже, наверное, не подходит по смыслу?
  6. morzh

    morzh Banned

    How could I explain...when someone makes a movie with a title involving a name, and uses it in a proverb / idiom, like it has been done here, it is a pun. 100%. Then it is another question, what kind of pun it is.
    Generally, if it is a proverb, or an idiom, the meaning more or less retained, but somehow the name has to fit.

    So, if "You don't know jack" means "you do not know anything at all", then "You don't know Jack" probably means "You do not know anything at all about Jack". Or, to extend a pun, "You don't know jack about Jack".

    My question is: is it possible to keep both pun and the meaning in Russian?
  7. morzh

    morzh Banned

    "Да кто (этого вашего) Джека знает?" - может быть, но смысл поменялся, плюс нет игры слов.

    "Ни Джека вы не знаете". - Да, это бы подошло, но в русском нет аналога 'нифига/нихрена" с использованием имени. Т.е. это - дословный перевод "you don't know jack".

    "Джек его знает" - опять же - смысл полностью поменяется.

    Прямой смысл на русском (я думаю) - "Вы совершенно нифига не знаете про Джека / нифига не понимаете в Джеке"
  8. eni8ma

    eni8ma Senior Member

    English - Australia
    The pun works in English because:

    • Jack is a common boys' name (in Britain, at least)
    • Jack originally came from a Middle English word, “jakke,” used to refer to any male, particularly those of the lower classes
    • the phrase "you don't know jack" has come to mean "you know absolutely nothing at all"
    To make a similar pun in Russian would require:

    • a boys' name (helps if it is a common one)
    • a phrase using a word that sounds the same, and meaning "you know nothing at all"
    Without those two requirements, you'd have to make up a fresh pun that works in Russian, but has a different basis to the English one.
  9. morzh

    morzh Banned

    That we know. Also, the Jack in the movie isn't some Jack, he is a particularly well-known Jack, Jack Kevorkian namely.

    What I am driving at with this whole discussion is, that probably the title, literally translating the saying (without even trying to use a pun), is not a particularly good title after all.
    And, maybe, instead of doing that, or trying to shoehorn that pun into Russian, we need to invent a whole new pun, involving the name, but not necessarily involving "you don't know jack" idiom.

    If Kevorkian wasn't of an Armenian ethnicity, and was, say, Jewish, I'd say "Храбрый Янкель" would work. :)
  10. eni8ma

    eni8ma Senior Member

    English - Australia
    Мы соглашаемся :)

    As someone else pointed out, it isn't even a good pun in English, unless there is some particular scene in the movie that ties the title to the common meaning of the phrase. So you might as well find a fresh pun anyway. :)
  11. morzh

    morzh Banned

    Beg to differ. Excellent pun. Kevorkian was (he died today) an extremely controversial figure, and kept pushing it despite the wrath of authorities. Something many people find strange, his "eutanasia" agenda notwithstanding.
    Go figure why a person who was repeatedly exonerated in all trials, walking on thin ice, and had already won a good deal of public sympathy, with two states legalizing doctor-assisted eutanasia, eventually put out his video, knowing too well what was going to transpire. And went to jail.

    Very appropriate title.
  12. Maroseika Moderator

    Change his name to Julio.

    Well, this is very clear. Except your final conclusion. I really cannot see any tie between the person and the movie title. But of the name, of course.
    One may title an article about Putin using an anecdote about Vovochka. Is it funny of itself, or only if itfits the subject?
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2011
  13. elemika Senior Member

    If you are going to use a word play, maybe малый - малое could work here.
    Jack: вы не знаете этого малого (Джека)
    jack: малость, самое малое, чуточка .

    Вы не знаете самого́ малого!
    Вы не знаете са́мого малого!

    and without an accent you coul read it in any way: Вы не знаете самого малого!
    Вы даже этого малого не знаете
    Вы не знаете этого самого малого (Jack, этот самый малый...)
  14. galaxy man

    galaxy man Senior Member


    Probably not, and this is why:

    Not having seen the film, and only suspecting that it is sympathetic to Kevorkian's mission, I would agree that the film title is perfect.

    It makes sense on multiple levels:

    (1) - A widely known phrase usually makes good, easy to remember title;

    (2) - When read literally: "You don't know [this particular] Jack, the negative mainstream opinion of Kevorkian is wrong, and you may want to learn more about his ideas and what he stands for.";

    (3) - Or reading it idiomatically: "You don't know anything, particularly about the tragic situation incurable patients may find themselves in.For some of them painless death might just be the desired option, and who are we to interfere with their decision?"

    Besides the primary meaning good language formulas also ring multiple overtones. Such associative richness is the essence of art, but it is sensed and valued only by those who share the particular language and culture,

    The translator does his best to relocate the message into a different cultural environment where the same overtones do not necessarily exist.

    Then, unavoidably, something will be lost in translation :)
  15. eni8ma

    eni8ma Senior Member

    English - Australia
    Good point - hadn't thought of it like that; perhaps because I sympathise with euthanasia anyway, so for me the pun did not resonate. :) I can see how what you say makes sense, though.
  16. Irikha New Member

    Попытка перевести нечто подобное с сохранением всех смыслов уже была и провалилась, помните "Как важно быть серьезным"? (The importance of being Earnest)

    При отсутствии идиомы с аналогичным смыслом в языке перевода возможна только компенсация, но тогда имя в любом случае пропадет, увы...
  17. eni8ma

    eni8ma Senior Member

    English - Australia
    Hello, you are new :)

    They recommend that you start a new thread for a new question :)
  18. Natalisha Senior Member

    It's not a question, Eni:)ma.
  19. marco_2 Senior Member

    By the way, in Poland they translated this title as "Brat marnotrawny" ("A prodigal brother") which was something absolutely different but reflected the contents of the play.
  20. jipol New Member

    I don't think that it's possible to save the pun, so maybe just something like "Другой Джек"? Or you can use a line from famous "Дом, который построил Джек" with small adjustments.

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