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In the movie Pulp fiction, the character Mia Wallace tells the following joke:

"Three tomatoes are walking down the street: a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind and poppa tomato gets really angry, goes back and squishes him, and says, 'Catch up!'"

I assume this joke only works in English, so how was it translated into non-English language markets?

I'm interested in examples in a few languages. It doesn't have to be a comprehensive list.

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    I don't really understand the downvote here .... understanding how movies are translated for different markets is certainly on-topic.
    – iandotkelly
    Jul 9, 2023 at 20:35
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    Note that the joke was deliberately bad.
    – user97401
    Jul 10, 2023 at 1:59
  • I would presume that in some cases it wasn't translated directly. Most likely they substituted a completely different joke in the other language. The exact nature of the joke has no plot relevance. It doesn't need to be a joke about tomatoes. Any joke would do in its place. Any translation is an adaptation to a greater or lesser extent. Substitutions of obscure cultural references for more familiar ones is common.
    – Pete
    Jul 11, 2023 at 11:53

2 Answers 2

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In french, it works with citron (lemon) and orange (orange):

"Papa Citron (orange), Maman Citron (orange), Bébé Citron (orange) traversent une rue de Paris (sic) où la circulation est complètement folle bébé citron (orange) se fait écraser par une voiture et papa Citron (orange) lui crie Presse-toi, Citron (orange) !"

It's the same story, and the translated punchline ("Presse-toi") means: "Hurry up!".

Lemons and oranges can be squeezed ('citron pressé' means 'squeezed lemon'), and people 'hurged', but the pun can't really be translated using tomatoes at my level of English :)

Translation and some (in French) explanations

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  • In the actual translation they are still tomatoes but the punch line is different: daddy tomato slaps baby tomato and ask: "what's your problem? your face is all red" - kaakook.fr/citation-2783 (or maybe its different in other French translations like in Quebec, I am quoting the French one)
    – coredump
    Jul 10, 2023 at 15:11
  • The "explanations" link talks about "sous-titrée" (subtitles) when quoting the "Presse-toi" version of the joke. @coredump - was is the French dub where you heard your "actual translation" with the "tout rouge" joke? Subtitles and dubs are often translated slightly differently - maybe this is an interesting example where they're translated completely differently? Jul 11, 2023 at 9:32
  • @user56reinstatemonica8 you are right I was thinking about the dub version, I have not watched the subtitled version yet
    – coredump
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:38
  • I can't help with the French version (only the translation), haven't seen it...
    – OldPadawan
    Jul 11, 2023 at 9:58
  • If the punchline of the joke would be somebody saying: "Don't put me under pressure!", then I can imagine it could easily be translated into many languages and it would work with all kinds of food items.
    – Draakhond
    Jul 12, 2023 at 15:15
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The German word for "ketchup" / "catsup" is just the English loan word "Ketchup", pronounced just like in English.

In the German dubbed version (I never read the subtitles), the pun is translated literally … which makes it not a pun anymore but simply a non-sensical story with no punchline.

It kind of works, as the idea behind the story is that Fox Force Five was a bad pilot that didn't work, and thus the pilot having a bad pun that doesn't work and isn't funny fits the theme.

But it does feel jarring and out of place, and at least to me, it immediately felt like a bad translation and detached me from the movie for several minutes / scenes.

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  • How common would you say these kind of jarring bad translations are in big budget movies? Jul 11, 2023 at 13:10

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