Soramimi (空耳?, "mishearing; (feigned) deafness", literally "air ear") or Soramimi kashi (空耳歌詞?, misheard lyrics); is a Japanese term for homophonic translation of song lyrics, that is, interpreting lyrics in one language as similar-sounding lyrics in another language. A bilingual soramimi word play contrasts with a monolingual mondegreen or homophonic transformation.
An example would be the Moldovan band O-Zone's song "Dragostea din tei" (マイヤヒー maiyahī, named from the words in the opening of the song), known on the web as the Numa Numa song. The refrain of the original song (in Romanian) is:
- Vrei să pleci dar nu mă, nu mă iei...
- ("You want to leave but you don't want, don't want to take me...")
- Bei sa, beishu ka, nomanoma-yei!
- ("Rice, is it, rice wine, drink it drink it yeah!")
Mike Sutton, a mondegreen director on YouTube with the username "Buffalax", has uploaded several non-English music videos edited to include subtitles of the written English approximation of the video's original language's sound. "Benny Lava", Sutton's subtitling of the video for Prabhu Deva's song, "Kalluri Vaanil" from the Tamil movie, Pennin Manathai Thottu, received considerable praise. Both the terms "Buffalaxed" and "Benny Lava" are now synonymous with mondegreens, "words or phrases misheard in ways that yield new meanings."
Buffalax's account was closed in early 2011 for copyright violation complaints, and the videos (including those that were not copyright violations) were all deleted, however, videos have been remade and cleaned up - often replacing the sound and/or video with better copies - and re-uploaded by other users.
The Dutch song "Opblaaskrokodil" by Ome Henk has been turned into an animutation called "The French Erotic Film", where the word "Opblaaskrokodil" becomes "Old blue Scot called Dil".
The Palestinian patriotic song "Blādi, blādi" ("Motherland, Motherland") was intentionally "misheard" into Russian (as blyadi, blyadi = "whores, whores") and uploaded to YouTube with Russian subtitles. The resulting video became an instant hit on Russian-language websites and blogs with more than 2 million views, and a number of phrases from the Russian version (especially "No money, long bumblebee") became instant catchphrases. Below is the example of the chorus:
|Arabic (transliterated)||Russian||Russian (transliterated)||Russian translated|
("blādi" in the original is dialect for standard Arabic bilādī بِلَادِي = "my country".)
In another instance, a Russian-language cover of Tic Tic Tac, a popular soca/disco hit by Carrapicho, phonetically rendered the first phrase of the chorus, Bate forte o tambor (Portuguese for "beat the drum hard"), as Мальчик хочет в Тамбов (Malchik Hochet v Tambov = "A boy wants to go to Tambov").
The song What Can I Do by Smokie from their 1976 Midnight Café album became an instant hit in the USSR because many Russians heard the song's title line as Vodku naidu (Водку найду) = "I shall find some vodka".
German ("Agathe Bauer")
In German popular culture, Mondegreens are often called 'Agathe Bauer Songs'. This comes from the Snap! song The Power, the refrain of which ("I've got the power") sounds like the German name Agathe Bauer. German radio station RTL 104.6 runs a segment where listeners call in with their own Agathe Bauer songs, which are played on-air. Another German term for soramimi is Verhörer.
Dutch ("Mama Appelsap")
In Dutch, the act of finding misheard lyrics in songs is sometimes referred to as "Mama Appelsap" (literally "momma applejuice"). The name "Mama Appelsap" refers to the song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson. The chant "Mama-se mama-sa ma-ma-coo-sa" (Jackson's imitation of Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango) can appear by Dutch speakers as if it sounds like "Mama say mama sa mama appelsap". The item became a running joke on national radio station 3FM, when DJ Timur Perlin hosted a program titled "Mama Appelsap", whereby listeners suggest various Dutch phrases and sentences purported to have been heard in songs.
In Danish, where the word "translation" is oversættelse (literally "over-setting"), such a lyrical mistake is called an under-setting (undersættelse). Danish artist Benny Vigan Madsen has made a number of illustrated soramimi clips of national anthems, most popular among which the Red Army Choir's version of the USSR anthem, where the final line Nas k torzhestvu kommunizma vedyot ("It leads us to the triumph of Communism") becomes Pasta med sprut. Nå, kunne vi sparke en røv? ("Pasta with booze. So could we kick an ass?")
In Hebrew, the act of finding misheard lyrics in songs is known as "Timlul" (lit.: "Transcript"). Soramimi clips in Israel were almost exclusively the work of amateurs publishing their work on the internet, and were popular mainly during the mid-2000s, with the most transcripted musical act being Era. For instance, in one such transcript of the song Hymne, the opening line "In tu pate del cat" becomes Timtum Al Emet Ratz ("Stupidity for real runs"); "I manitores solitudi me" becomes Ima, Likro Le Soli-Dolittle? ("Mom, should I go call Soli-Dolittle?", with Soli ostensibly being a relative of Dr. Dolittle); and the repeated "Senzo" is misheard as Samsung, which led to the piece being dubbed The Samsung Cantata (הקנטטה של סמסונג). Another soramimi flash clip of an Era piece was based on Ameno, where "Dorime" became Dori Met (דורי מת, Dori is dead).
Though the Era transcripts were the majority, there were a few others that became well-known. These included a transcript of Dragostea Din Tei that interpreted the song's repeated "Maya"s as a reference to Maya Buskila (with accompanying visuals), and a transcript of Adiemus where "a-ya doo a-ye" became Hayagur Ra'ev ("The Yagur is Hungry"; "Yagur" is not actually a word, but phonetic and linguistic cues heavily suggest that it is supposed to be some kind of bird).
A number of internet videos exploit soramimi for Carmina Burana, juxtaposing the music with images appropriate to the supposed lyrics, for example showing four cans of tuna for "O Fortuna". Soramimi transcription is also commonly used in animutations for comic effect.
In Mandarin Chinese, there is a joke based on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" which goes:
- nǎyígè ǒuxiàng zuì xǐhuān shuō "bǐlēi"?
- Which idol most likes to say "got a pen?" (literal)
- Which Pop Star always asks for a pen? (translated)
- Answer: Michael Jackson. "Beat it!" sounds like "got a pen?"
In Romania, the children's song "Pula Pula" ("Jump Jump"), by Brazilian gospel singer Aline Barros became a sensation, getting airplay on major radio stations and spawning several YouTube parody videos with Romanian soramimi lyrics, as "pula" means "penis" in Romanian and it is heavily repeated in the chorus.
In Poland, "Decade of Therion", a 1999 song of death metal band Behemoth, became a popular Internet meme when given soramimi lyrics. The English phrase "We transgress the context of commonplaceness" has been interpreted in Polish as "Łyżwiarz wie, że kotek odkopał prezent" ('The ice-skater knows that the pussycat has dug up the present').
In Serbo-Croatian, the title (and refrain) of Queen's song "Another One Bites the Dust" is often deliberately misinterpreted as "a Radovan baca daske", meaning "and Radovan (a male name) is throwing the planks". Similarly, The Police song "Message in a Bottle" is interpreted as "mesečina, bato" ('moonlight, o brother').
In Brazil there are loads of soramimi involving Indian film music, mainly with Prabhu Deva acting, including Kalluri Vaanil from Benny Lava fame (known on Brazil as "Vai Rivaldo", referring the famous soccer player, captain of 2002 Brazil national football team on Japan and Korea). Also a very popular one is with Tunak Tunak Tun, called on Brazil Tônico com Guaraná (Tonic with Soda)
In Italy, the art of taking an Indian (or any other non-Italian) music video and giving it subtitles for what it sounds like in Italian, became popular. One of the songs that have been most successful is the soramimi version of Pariya by Shahram Shabpareh, called in Italy Esce ma non mi rosica ("She goes out, but it doesn't bothers me").
In France, a popular occurrence of misheard lyrics is found in the Metallica song "The Unforgiven". The original lyrics go : "New blood joins this earth // And quickly he's subdued" which is misheard in French as : "Nous battons des œufs // Et pouic! pouic! ils se tournent" (we whisk eggs, and kwik! kwik! they turn). Les Bidochons is a band that sings in French songs by English-language bands with similar-sounding lyrics. They started with songs from the Sex Pistols but also did the Stones, the Beatles...
- Mondegreen - where the lyrics are misheard within their original language.
- Animutation - where soramimis and mondegreens are given visuals for humorous effect.
- Contrafactum - reworked song, with same music but different lyrics
- Hatten är din - an Internet viral video where the entire lyrics of a song were "translated" soramimically.
- Homophonic translation - where a text in one language is translated into a near-homophonic text in another language, with no attempt to preserve the original meaning.
- Phono-semantic matching (PSM), camouflaged borrowing in which a foreign expression is matched with a both phonetically and semantically similar pre-existent native items.
- Translation of sung texts
- 空 means "empty" (as in "karate") when read "kara". But here, it is read "sora", and with this reading means "sky", "heaven", "air".
- Lucas, Dean. "Famous Pictures Magazine - Numa Numa". Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- This video can be found at http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/maiyahi. Its explanation: http://www.mimo-jp.com/japan/maiyahi.htm.
- This particular soramimi video featured an animated version of the popular Shift JIS art cat Monā, and inspired Gary Brolsma, whose own video sparked the Numa Numa phenomenon.
- "Gary Brolsma & The Numa Story". Gary Brolsma & New Numa!. Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- "My Loony Bun Is Fine, Benny Lava: The web's hottest clip", The Toronto Sun, April 28, 2008, p. 33.
- Monty Phan (2007-11-06). "Buffalax Mines Twisted Translations for YouTube Yuks". Wired News. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
- Spreekt Johan Cruijff Arabisch? on Nu.nl
- "Agathe Bauer Songs: Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want To Have Fun | 104.6 RTL Comedy". 104.6rtl.com. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
- "Wishydig". Wishydig.blogspot.com. 2009-10-23. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
- "Pula-pula-pula Romanian subtitles". YouTube. 2008-01-21. Retrieved 2011-07-11.