German episode titles analysed
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

German episode titles are never just plain translations, there is a long tradition of giving them completely new (sometimes awfully wrong) names. What happens if you take the German Firefly episode names and translate them back to english?

Format: english -> German title (translated back to english)

1. Serenity (not translated)

2. The Train Job -> dark deeds
Seems okay. As usual there was no real need for change at all.

3. Bushwacked -> far from civilization
This one of the bad examples of German episode titles. This is such an overused phrase and plain hollow. You could use this title vor every single episode of every sci-fi show ever made.

4. Shindig -> The Duell
This is something they often do - they just spoil something within the title. I understand that "Shindig" couldn't be translated literally, but calling it "The Duell" right from the start kills a lot of the fun

5. Safe -> In the nick of time
Speaking of spoilers... this is just ridiculous. They tell you the ending of the episode right there in the German episode title! What are these guys smoking?

6. Our Mr. Reynolds -> Mr. Reynolds
They cut out the "our" and with it the ironic undertone of the title. Again without a reason.

7. Jaynestown (not translated)
Hooray, they did something right by doing nothing at all

8. Out Of Gas -> The fight for survival
The German title is once again boring, overused, generic and spoiling. Why are they doing this? I have no idea.

9. Ariel -> False play
This is another fine example of this bad German tradition. Again - there was absolutely no reason to change the title at all. Especially not to this misleading semi-spoiler.

10. War Stories -> In the hands of shanyou
Typical German title: plain wrong in every aspect. It spoils, it is generic and it is misleading.

11. Trash -> Antique robbery
While the original title is funny, clever and equivocal, the German version is just a discription of the events to occur. It gives you the wrong impression right from the start.

12. The Message -> The Message
Yes, they really just translated it this time. I have no idea why. But I am happy with it, you bet your bottom dollar!

13. Heart Of Gold -> Ladies of easy virtue
The original title gives the girls a positive image, while the German titel implies the exact opposite. Besides it's one-dimensional, boring and so on.

14. Objects in Space -> The Bounty hunter
What a wrong title! What a misleading spoiler! All the poetry of the original title completeley destroyed. The German "namegivers" (I don't know what they are really called) should have a talk with Joss Whedon someday about this mess.

As you can see, the German titles are often really bad. Again: they do this with every foreign tv show.

Comments highly appreciated - fire at will



Wednesday, December 28, 2005 4:46 PM


Well honestly I didnt expect anything else after seeing the episode titles of Buffy and Angel .. I mean how can someone call Smile Time - Angriff der Mörderpuppen??( It translates to "attack of the Killerdolls" for those who dont understand german) and there were even worse things which i cant remember right now.
That is exactly why i always try to watch the epis in their original language.. it gets so much lost without it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 2:41 PM


Every US or Brit would be surprised how we manage to afflict their sweet language in our everyday life. Classic example: What the hell is a 'handy'?

"handy" is used for "mobile phone" in Germany. A typical misuse of an English loanword. For us this thing really is a "handy". It's sort of embarrassing to twist a world language like this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 12:43 PM


I have a sister (American, born and raised) who teaches English in Germany. She has lots of stories (funny, sexy not so much) about translation and transliteration problems she's come across over the years.

She was home for the first time in over two years this past Thanksgiving, so of course I made her watch some Firefly (TTJ and OMR) and she loved it! Especially the language, she said, not surprisingly. She has a multi-region DVD in her computer, so I gave her my backup set to take with her. I'm pretty sure there's a new fan in the Marburg area!

It was kinda funny though - every time she talked about a jar (jelly jar, home-canned peaches, etc.) she'd call it a glass, and then catch herself "No, it's a glass jar!" After almost 20 years in Germany, her English is slipping!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 11:59 AM


It is always interesting how much can get lost in the translation (or subverted as misleading titles seem to do). It is always a blessing when you can see the material in the original language (and understand it fully), and occassionally there are very good translations available.... Maybe you should straighten out the German production company and they'll fix it in the future?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 11:19 AM


Is this a German subsidiary of FOX TV doing this?

If so, there is no question that they would do everything they possibly could to screw it up.


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