Dec
01
2012

Reading Practice: the Dead Parrot Sketch in Japanese

Reading Practice: the Dead Parrot Sketch in Japanese

Month Python’s dead parrot sketch. It’s deservingly one of the most famous sketches in all comedy, in which John Cleese (Mr. Praline) attempts to return a dead parrot to a stubborn pet shop owner. I hope we’ve all had the opportunity to watch it and have laughed until our eyes watered and our stomachs hurt (if you haven’t, watch it now!).

Recently, I came across a translation of the dead parrot sketch in Japanese, and was so pleased with it that I decided to try to make it available and accessible to Japanese learners. The translation is very smooth and natural, so consider this a fun exercise in understanding “real” Japanese and translations that, although accurate, are often far from literal. I hope you’ll also find it a refreshing departure from your textbook dialogues.

I’ve added a large number of tool tips to the sketch below, so if you don’t understand something, try hovering over it with your mouse. :-) If you’ve got a question on something not explained in a tooltip, please comment and let me know. I’ll try to either answer directly or add tooltips where necessary.

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Mr. Praline: 失礼、ちょっと言いたいことがあるんだが…。ちょっと、お嬢さん。
Hello, I wish to register a complaint. Hello, Miss?

Shopkeeper: お嬢さんって、どういう意味どういう意味: what is meant BY something. Many learners would say 何の意味, but that would be asking the literal meaning of the word お嬢さん
What’cha mean, “miss”?

P: ああ、失敬literally: ”(I was) rude.” But without です or しました following it, we get the feeling the apology is slightly superficial.風邪をひいてしまってねThis TE form isn't a command. It's the continuous form, so grammatically speaking the sentence is incomplete. The logical completion of the sentence has already been said: 失敬。私は苦情を言いに来たんだ。
I’m sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint.

S: すみませんが、昼休みなもんで[Noun + なもんで: ”because it's...”] - The shopkeeper has omitted ”please come back another time”. Also note that な here is a form of だ/です
Sorry, we’re closing for lunch.

P: 気にするな。まだ30分もたっていないと思うが、さきほど貴店きてん : 貴 is an honorary prefix/kanji. The speaker could have said この店 or あなたの店, but the keigo term 貴店 helps convey the speaker’s sarcasm.からオウムを購入した。そのオウムのことでひとこと言いたい。
Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot that I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

S: ああ、ノルウェイジャン・ブルーね。何か、まずいまずい is an adjective you might not find in your textbook. It can mean ”bad” (of either food or a turn of events), ”awkward” or ”poor quality” ことでも?The speaker has omitted the verb ある from this sentence.
Oh yes, the Norwegian blue. What’s wrong with it?

P:まずいことがあったから、こうして言いに来てるんだ”I'll tell you what's...” doesn't work when translated literally, so the sentence is changed to something like ”(of course) there's a problem, that's why I came to say it.”オウムオウム means parrot. The kanji is 鸚鵡, in case you want to impress someone.が死んでる。これが、その「まずいこと」だ。
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead. That’s what’s wrong with it.

S: 何を言うんですか、休んでるんですよ。
No, no. It’s resting. Look.

P: いいかねThis expression is like saying ”look here” or ”got it”, with a very authoritative tone.。このオウムが死んでいることは、見れば分かる。今だって”even now”. Note that this だって is similar in meaning to でも.ご覧の通り”exactly as you see”だ。
Look my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.

S: だから違いますって。死んでません。休んでるんです。
No, no. He’s not dead. He’s resting.

P: 休んでる?
Resting?

S: そうですともとも at the end of a sentence indicates a rather polite-sounding affirmation, intended to show the speaker’s unequivocalness. It is used when replying to a confirmation or clarification question.。ノルウェイジャン・ブルーは珍しい鳥でしてね。この羽根羽根 (はね): ”feathers”. 羽 by itself is also read はね, but people tend to interpret just 羽 to mean ”wing”. It’s merely a tendency, though. Both 羽根 and 羽 can mean either feathers or wing. 翼 (つばさ) can only mean ”wing”.の美しいことと言ったら…と言ったら(ない) is an advanced (JLPT N2-N1) exclamation, used for emphasis. ”There’s no words to express the beauty of the plumage.”
Yeah. Remarkable bird, the Norwegian blue. Beautiful plumage, idn’t it?

P: 羽根のことを言ってるんじゃない。このオウムは、完全に死んでいる。
The plumage don’t enter into it. It’s stone dead.

S: いいえ、眠っているだけです。
No, no. It’s resting.

P: そうか。眠っているなら、起こそうじゃないか。オハヨー、オウムちゃん。お目々を覚ましたら、おいしいイカイカ is squid. The (rarely-used) kanji is 烏賊, in case you were interested.をあげますよ~。オウムのポリーちゃん~。
Alright then. If it’s resting, I’ll wake it up. Hello Polly! I got a nice cup of fish for you when you wake up, Polly Parrot.

S: ほら、動いた。
There, it moved.

P: オウムじゃない。あんたあんた is a slightly condescending term for ”you”. We can clearly see that Mr. Praline is upset with the shopkeeper now.が鳥かごを押したんじゃないか。
No he didn’t, that was you pushing the cage.

S:押してません押さなかった or 押しませんでした would not work here. The simple past tense implies that some conditions were in place and ~ had a possibility of occurring. 押していません is a flat-out denial, much better suited to responding to accusations. Note also that this TE-いる is different from the progressive (~ing) form. Literally: ”(I am) not in the state which results from pushing.”
I did not.

P: いいや、押した。オハヨ~、ポリーちゃん~。オウムのポリーちゃん~、起っきしましょうねぇ。ポリーちゃん~。これを死んだオウムと言わずして、何と呼ぶI really like this expression. ”What would you call it if not...”. It’s kind of a set phrase.
Yes you did. Hello, Polly! Poooollyyyy! Polly parrot, wake up! Poooolly! Now that’s what I call a dead parrot.

S: いいえ、気絶”きぜつ: knocked out/unconscious”したんですよ。
No, no. It’s stunned.

P:あのなあのな is very similar to いいかね above, taking an authoritative ”look here, now” tone. It's possible to say あのな or あのね non-authoritatively, but you have to be extremely careful about context and your intonation.、死んでることは今ので”with/from (what happened) just now” (今、ここで見せたことで)、じゅうぶん分かっただろ。このオウムは明らかに死亡してるの。私がさっき買いに来たとき、オウムが動かないのは、喋り続けてクタクタに疲れてるからだってThis だって is different from the one above (the one similar in meaning to でも). This is the verb だ, plus the quoting marker って (= と).、保証したじゃないか。
Look my lad, I’ve had just about enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased. And when I bought it not half an hour ago, you assured me that its lack of movement was due to it being tired and shagged out after a long squall.

S: フィヨルドが恋しい~が恋しい: to miss/long for ~のかも。
He’s probably pining for the fjords.

P: フィヨルドが恋しいだと?何だそりゃ。だったら、家に着いたとたん~TA+途端(とたん): just when/after ~、オウムが仰向けあおむけ: laying flat and facing upward.になって床に落ちたのは、どう説明してくれるHow will you explain this to me?
Pining for the fjords? What kind of talk is that? Look, why did it fall flat on its back the moment I got it home?

S: ノルウェイジャン・ブルーは仰向けで寝るのが好きなんですよ。きれいな鳥でしょ。それに見事な羽根。
The Norwegian blue prefers keeping on its back. It’s a beautiful bird, lovely plumage…

P: 失礼を承知で”while knowing that it was discourteous (to you)”, this is how ”took the liberty to...” got translated.調べさせて貰ったがね、どうしてオウムが最初にいた止まり木perchにずっと立っていられたのか、分かったよ。理由は一つ、オウムが止まり木に釘付けされてた釘付け is treated as a noun here, so the されてた is a conjugation of する, not of 付ける. The speaker could also have said 釘付けられた, which would be using 釘付ける (a verb).からだ。
Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot, and I discovered that the only reason it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there.

S: そんなの、当たり前じゃないですか。そうでもしなけりゃ、柵をこじ開けてこじあける: to wrench open、ブーンと飛んでっちまう。
Well of course he was nailed there otherwise he’d have muscled up through those bars and voom!

P: いいかね、このオウムに4000ボルトの電気をかけたってThis usage of ~TAって appears only in spoken Japanese, and is equivalent to ~TEも. (かけても)、飛ぶわけがない。これは、完ぺきにご臨終なの。
Look matey, this parrot wouldn’t “voom” if I put 4000 volts through it. It’s bleeding demised.

S: いやいや、恋しいんです。
It’s not. It’s, it’s pining.

P: ホームシックなんかじゃない~なんかじゃない: it’s not anything like ~ (used for a sweeping negation)お亡くなりになったお亡くなりになる: an honorific way of saying ”to die”んだ。このオウムは、この世を去ったhas left this worldの。事切れてことぎれる: ”things have cut off/ended”, this word isn't any dictionary I could find, but the meaning is clear from context.しまった。息を引き取りhas taken back his breath神の御許God's (神の) honorable (御) underneath (許), but ”underneath” is not meant literally. 神の御許 is ”a place near God”逝かれた逝く (いく): it’s the verb 行く, but 逝 is used when the destination is the afterlife.。これは「こ : a prefix used before names of people to indicate that the person is deceased.オウム」。死体A corpse/cadaver/dead body。命尽きて尽きる (つきる): to be used up, all gone永遠の眠りについてる”has fallen into eternal sleep.” I personally would have gone with 安らかに眠っている since it's a translation of ”rests in peace”。釘付けされてなきゃ、今頃はひな菊ひなぎく : daisyいっぱいのお墓おはか: graveの下でおねんねねんね is a ”cute” word for sleeping. Maybe a little like ”Nappy time”. Putting お before it is unusual and helps show that the speaker is using the word sarcastically.してたはずなんだ。オウムはその生涯に幕を閉じhas closed the curtains on life. その is not necessary here, but using it portrays the parrot and the parrot’s life as two separate entities.昇天しょうてん: ascended to heavenなされたなさる is an honorific equivalent to する, again the speaker is using keigo to convey sarcasm. Using the passive ~Aれる is also a keigo form, and grammatically speaking you’re not supposed to put it on a word that’s already keigo in nature, but many Japanese still do.の。これは「もと: ”ex-” prefix, as in ex-girlfriend/boyfriend.オウム」。
It’s not pining, it’s passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff. Berift of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies. It’s flung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This! is an ex-parrot.

S: 分かりましたよ、お取り替えしましょ。
Well, I’d better replace it, then.

P: この国で何か買おうと思ったら、性根尽き果てるまでしょうねつきはてるまで: until your perseverance has reached it’s limit文句を言うはめになる~はめになる: an advanced expression (JLPT N2-N1), indicating some result that the speaker is dissatisfied with.
If you want to get anything done in this country, you’ve got to complain until you’re blue in the mouth.

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Okay, I’ll stop there. Hope you enjoyed that and please do comment with any questions you have! :-)

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