This post is also available in: Spanish
One of the best parts of any episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race is when she tells the leaving queen to “sashay away.” In English, it’s not terribly mean — and it rhymes. Everybody knows that rhyming lessens the meanness! (Assuming it’s not, you know, battle rap.)
But while Netflix Portugal’s translation does indeed rhyme, it’s way more vicious. In this version, RuPaul’s subtitles tell queens “Adeus, vai-te embora, ninguém te adora.” Which, translated means “Bye, go home, nobody loves you!”
Dang. Just think how mean that would sound if it didn’t rhyme.
— phil (@phi_lipi) July 11, 2017
These words are a little shocking from RuPaul’s mouth (or, well, the text below her mouth). Especially considering one of her most famous quotes is “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Though, we suppose the implication is that the queen is being rejected because no one loves them, and thanks to the transitive property, that means they don’t love themselves?
But still — even if it’s true, you don’t say that to someone!
To be fair, translation is really tricky. It’s not just a matter of translating the words. A trip to Google Translate will show you that. There’s also loads of contextual clues and cultural references that’ll be easy to miss.
For example, one famous translation error is in the Italian version of George Orwell’s novel 1984. In the original text, the opening line is “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” In English, that says a lot — English speakers tend to relate to 24-hour time as militaristic. We even call it “military time”!
However, in early Italian versions, the translators didn’t understand the reference, and translated it as the clocks striking “one.” (Recent Italian editions fix this.) While technically correct — 1300 hours is 1:00 p.m. — it removes all context. It takes a subtly surprising line that gives insight into the world of the novel and makes it ordinary.
Other countries have their own translations of “sashay away.” For example, in France, it’s “défile jusqu’à la sortie” — “parade to the exit.” It doesn’t rhyme, but at least it’s less likely to make someone cry.
It’s worth noting too, this isn’t the translation for all Portuguese-speaking countries. In Brazil, English expressions are more common, so they leave “sashay away” untranslated.