Friday, September 14, 2007

Spungoes home: Cowbogs away

For some reason I usually watch television with the subtitles playing even when the volume is turned up. This yields some interesting incongruities between the two texts: written and spoken. Sometimes it's a simple little difference like "then what?" (written) and "then what happened"(spoken). Or "do we have a case?"(spoken) and "have we got a case?"(written). Or "Not while I'm running the show!" (written) and "Not as long as I'm running the show!" (spoken) (examples taken from Seinfeld episode 122: "The Caddy").

Those are understandable. It's the type of variation that occurs in almost every report of an exchange. We tend to overlook strict phrasing and syntax and we report the semantic equivalent. What was that? becomes what did you say? and I've got becomes I have.

In episode AABF08 ("Sunday, Cruddy Sunday") of The Simpsons Homer finds out his Super Bowl tickets are fake. One of the indications that they're counterfeit (besides the fact that they're printed on some sort of cracker) is the team name on the passes.

When the line about the team name was delivered I heard the character say "There's no such team as the 'Spungoes'" but the subtitle read "There's no such team as the 'Cowbogs'."

My guess is that a subtitle script is provided separate from the sound file and the two sometimes diverge when there is a late change to the dialogue. Any idea why this line changed? I think I like "Cowbogs" better than "Spungoes"--or is it possibly complicated by the argument that "Cowbogs" could just be a typo or a misreading; so "Spungoes" makes Homer (and his travel agent "Wally Kogen" voiced by Fred Willard) more obviously foolish?


  1. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who watches TV with the subtitles on!

    the inconsistency between written and spoken doesn't bother me - but all the spelling errors drive me insane!

  2. The worst was an episode of Frasier in which Niles took out print ads for his practice, describing himself as a "Jung" therapist specializing in couples, and then was deluged with, let's say, the sort of business he wasn't expecting when they "got one letter wrong!" (the ad read "hung") In the subtitles, he started as a "young" specialist.

    This didn't even make sense. What one letter could screw up "young"?

  3. Ohhh...and what makes that worse is that they traveled so far for that joke and it really puts the plot on the line.

    But maybe the writers deserved it. To ignore the convention of the phrase "Jungian therapist" in order to setup the punchline makes it a cheap joke.

    Nobody says "Jung therapist" ...okay some people do. Google™ reports 24 hits (but provides only 16). While "Jungian therapist" gets 9,580 hits.

    Similar to the Luann joke you wrote about with the CHAPTER 5 6-9/CHAPTERS 6-9 joke with the implausible setup.


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