Buffalax much?

September 22, 2009 § 1 Comment

So I am quite behind in new media fads, but I stumbled across Buffalax the other day on youtube. Apparently it was all the rage all around the internets, as Bush said, back in 2007. Buffalaxing is the provision of spoof translations for songs from Bollywood movies and (South) Asian pop music. By spoof translations you should read massaging the phonetic stream of Hindi into recognisable but nonsense English expressions. A linguist might say deliberate ‘slips of the ear’.
Here’s an example …


While perhaps amusing to the English speaking viewer, what is this really about? Possibly the formal linguist would care to examine how English-speaking ears process the phonetic stream – interpreting the signal as English must involve assigning syllable boundaries, word boundaries and possibly reconfiguring phonetic elements of the consonants themselves. The discourse analyist/linguistic ecologist might however take another view and see buffalaxing as indicative of language attitudes. Are these spurious translations put downs to Hindi, Urdu and Tamil speakers? Is Buffalaxing evidence for the dominance of English in the new media?

Admittedly according to Wired (http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/news/2007/11/buffalax) the first song buffalaxed was in German it seems that South Asian and East Asian lyrics are most frequently targeted. Try as might though, I can’t find the sub continent striking back. There appear to be no youtube clips mishearing English lyrics in languages of India.

It seems the power or buffalaxing is so strong that all Indian pop videos to which kind youtubers have added English subtitles are assumed to have been buffalaxed:

“Kiss me like a hungry cow eats the grass.
I thought this was being ‘buffalaxed’ or something but the translation is the real thing.. my god.. ”


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§ One Response to Buffalax much?

  • masseylinguists says:

    I was just reading about ‘buffalaxing’ and I laughed SO much when I saw which video the example was. In my first year at Massey some friends and I from the hostel we lived in in town came across this video, but without the buffalaxing. We loved it for some reason and got really obsessed with it, but we used to put our own nonsense words to it too! It’s popularity eventually spread around the whole hostel and we even had some of the ag boys into it too, hehe. We used to sing to it and we learnt all the dance moves and some of the boys found the track and downloaded it and they used to have dance parties to it in their bathroom. (They had set up a really loud sound system in there and a strobe light that they used while they were showering!)

    It’s interesting that buffalaxing never results in ‘intelligent’ translations… the whole language attitude thing… isn’t it like linguistic imperialism or cultural imperialism or something? Because it doesn’t make sense to us it’s obviously stupid 🙂

    I was surprised to read that it’s most popular with Asian songs though… I’d never come across Asian ones before but I’ve seen HEAPS of English (language) ones where it’s hard to understand, mainly metal/screamy bands. You should watch this one, probably one of the best ones I’ve seen:

    Why do we think everything is sexual or about gross bodily functions if we don’t understand it???!! 😀

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