I caught Clint Eastwood talking Spanish on the Telefutura Network the other night. Somehow, Inspector Callahan's amenazas came off just as threatening as ever, despite a dubbing job that sounded like the lines were being read by an overly polite opera tenor with a lisp. What I couldn't get past, however, was the translation of the title. "Dirty Harry" had been converted into español as "Harry El Sucio." Which immediately got translated back into English in my Spanglish mind as, "Harry The Dirty." Telefutura's title reduced Eastwood's archetypal bad ass cop, into law enforcement's equivalent of Charlie Brown's bath-challenged amiguito, Pig-Pen.
I pictured Harry El Sucio giving himself away to criminals as he approached preceded by a tell-tale cloud of filth. The direct translation, you see, was the problem. You have to go for meaning over technical tit-for-tat word swap in situations like this or you fumble the connotation completely. "Harry El Bad Ass," would have been much more on the mark. But Spanglish has a ways to go before being embraced by uptight title translators.
It would have been a nice compromise, though. You keep the Spanish construction of putting the modifier after the proper noun Harry. You add the male gendered article 'El' to give it a royal flavor (Richard the Lionhearted meet Harry El Bad Ass), and you use an English idiom "Bad Ass" to convey the true essence of the character you can't wait to hear say, "¿Te sientes afortunado, punk?" A Spanglish hater (no faltan, believe me) might insist on translating "Bad Ass" into Spanish, which would give us "Harry El Culo Malo" (notice the adjective 'bad' comes after the noun 'ass' in Spanish). But my inner Spanglish sounding board, instantly plays this back in English, por desgracia, as "Harry Hemorrhoid," and rules out the option as improper for an anti-heroe who wants to be taken seriously.
One thing's for sure, Harry should stay Harry. Word on the internet is that Harry in Spanish would be Enrique. I can't confirm that. I can confirm that I have no interest in seeing a movie called, "Dirty Enrique." Enrique is a name for a singer who'll never be as talented as his famous father, not a name for a too cool for school cop toting a .44 Magnum "capaz de volarte los sesos de un tiro."
See, this is the way a properly wired Spanglish mind processes information -- constantly analyzing English and Spanish in terms of each other, scrutinizing translations, combinations, confabulations. Your brain is in a constant loop between the two operating systems, your two cultures, your two realities. Granted, most of the time it's unconscious. Uno ni se da cuenta, really, that you're doing it. It's just that cuando you have both languages inside you, vives en los dos a la vez. It's very quantum, como quien dice.
It can be a little dizzying to always be filtering the world in a Spanglish default mode. Pero, would I want it any other way? ¡Jamás! Which by the way is one of my favorite Spanish words, meaning "never" or "never again" or "when el infierno freezes over."
There's a lot of passion in the word jamás; you can feel it when you say it, spewing up like magma from way inside your gut. It's pronounced with a soft 'j' (like an 'h' in English), not with the jelly 'j' in pajamas. You can hold that soft 'j' sound as long as you like, depending how much you are feeling it in the moment, and then nail the sentiment with a dramatic accented stress on the last syllable. It's very cathartic. 'Never' can also be translated into Spanish as 'nunca,' of course. But 'nunca,' isn't nearly as strong a word. It only means never. Whereas 'jamás' means never ever ever ever ever. So never say 'nunca' when you mean 'jamás.' Not to be confused with Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, by the way.
Every time I hear some breaking news about Hamas, it always strikes me as extremely ironic that a terrorist group would call itself Never Again. Because the headline is always that: "Never Again Does It Again." Speaking of which, one other thing que me fascina is the way that Spanglishistas prefer the Spanish 'j' spelling to signify laughter over the English 'h' spelling. Even though they sound exactly the same, whenever I see it dashed off in an email, a blog or a text, nine out ten times, a Latino writer, even when writing in English, will opt for 'ja ja ja' versus 'ha ha ha.' Which I always find ja-larious. But there's no doubt that writing 'ja ja ja' instead, significantly boosts your Latino Index score. It might even make up for the fact you can't play soccer.
So, I humbly submit, as I try to tie up all the loose ends here in the last stretch of this column, that you join me in lobbying Telefutura and all Spanish language television networks broadcasting the dubbed version of "Dirty Harry," to do the right thing, and properly rename the flick: "Jarry El Bad Ass."
¿Why? ¡Porque because!