An inscrutable comic strip

From Dana Kuhar on Twitter, yesterday’s Baldo en Español by Hector D. Cantú and Carlos Castellanos:


Not just not funny; it’s inscrutable, entirely baffling.

Baldo is written for Latinx readers, and it turns out that looking at Baldo en Inglés dispels the puzzle:


Ah! Baldo is written in English, then translated into Spanish, in this case without attention to the point of the English cartoon — which hinges crucially on the pronunciation of -OUGH words in English. Oi.

(To be fair, I have no idea how I’d translate #2 into Spanish. Since the matching of spelling to pronunciation in Spanish so much more regular than this matching in English, it’s hard to devise a Spanish parallel to the -OUGH case in English. Looks like the kid should be directly asking (in Spanish) about why TOUGH, COUGH, and DOUGH don’t rhyme in English.)


5 Responses to “An inscrutable comic strip”

  1. Mitch4 Says:

    Nabokov, who delighted in wordplay, somewhere reports his enjoyment of finding or constructing translation-matching triplets of similar words in English and Russian. I can’t remember or reconstruct the frame story for it it any detail, but it involved a newspaper printing an item with a politically embarrassing misprint – then running a correction note, which sadly had a different misprint.

    The triplets were “crown – crow – cow” in English and “korona – vorona – korova” in Russian. (You can see how the story might work if the news item was about a prince trying to hold onto his crow, sorry, his cow.)

    Not exactly a pun by my lights, but certainly some kind of wordplay.

    • Robert Coren Says:

      I remember mention of those triplets in the “index” at the end of Pale Fire. It’s possible that there’s a more extensive discussion (with reference to the newspaper article) somewhere in the “notes”. I’ll try to remember to hunt up my copy and see if I can find the reference.

  2. Robert Southwick Richmond Says:

    I’d say this is impossible to translate into Spanish, because Spanish has a nearly phonemic orthography (if you’re from Madrid, anyway).

    It’s often obvious that Baldo is written in English, though this is the worst example I’ve ever seen. They should do a different strip entirely in cases like this one.

    Dr. Seuss wrote a book “The Tough Coughs as he Ploughs the Dough”.

  3. Joshua K. Says:

    Not only did the translator fail to do anything about the fact that this was a joke about English orthography, they also seemed to forget how they translated “tough” between panel 1 and panel 2.

  4. Mitch4 Says:

    This entry is linked and described in
    along with a later English / Spanish pair of Baldo strips where the punch panel does not try for an exact translation but instead both versions give some kind of word play on a fairly familiar maxim. (It would be “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”)

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