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Why Is Uncle Paintbrush so Funny? The Case of YouTube Translation of a Syrian Kurdish Wedding Song into Finnish

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2019

Extract

In late 2009 and early 2010, a craze for a YouTube video titled “Niilin hanhet” (“The geese of Nile”; The Kassitus 2009) and its star, a Syrian Kurd singer who became known as Pensselisetä (“Uncle Paintbrush”), swept Finland. It was not the quality of the performance that made the video stand out from the plethora of YouTube productions, but its subtitling in Finnish. “Niilin hanhet” is an example of a practice known to YouTube users as “buffalaxing.” Named for the YouTube user who pioneered the practice, buffalaxing is a type of phonemic translation that results in rather silly, grammatically incorrect, and salacious phrases that generally—but by no means exclusively—are considered funny by the YouTube audience. In the case of “Niilin hanhet,” lines like “The geese of Nile of my own ass” and “I protect my ass with dusty trips” result from a deliberate mishearing of the Kurdish language as Finnish. More particularly, the outcome is a Finnish text that combines homoerotic imagery with allegedly comedic—and potentially xenophobic—content.

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Copyright © 2018 by the International Council for Traditional Music 

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