The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 3 (2022)

An intercultural pragmatic approach to English-Russian and English-German renditions of the formulaic „That’s what she said”-punchline in telecinematic discourse

Monika Kirner-Ludwig,Aleksandra Soboleva


This paper takes an intercultural approach to identifying and discussing rendition strategies of one specific punchline recurrent in scripted telecinematic discourse: That’s what she said. While this formulaic punchline demonstrates a relatively high salience in the US, particularly in oral and scripted genres, it issues more than one challenge to translators seeking to render it for other speech communities in a manner that acknowledges and retains the source pattern’s complexity as a discursively triggered and formulaic pragmatic idiom. We shall focus here on two specific target cultures, i.e. the Russian and the German, in demonstrating the challenges that this complex and linguistically as well as cognitively multi-faceted formula poses for its appropriation into either cultural sphere. Our study is based on a self-compiled parallel dataset of context-embedded source occurrences of That’s what she said and their renditions into German and Russian, thus offering immediately contrastive insights into the rendition strategies that translators have been employing to interculturally transfer this highly evasive idiomatic formula from one speech community to others.


Ariza, M. C. G. (2004). ‘A case study: Spain as a dubbing country’. Translation Journal 8 (3), no pagination. Retrieved March 10, 2021 from

Attardo, S. & Chabanne J-C. (1992). ‘Jokes as a text type’. Humor: International Journal of Humour Research 5 (1/2), pp. 165-176. DOI:

Bădoiu, Z-L. (2015). ‘Do you speak culture?’ Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, Series IV. Philology and Cultural Studies 2, pp. 109-120.

Baker, M. (2001). In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation. London: Routledge.

Baker, M. & Hochel, B. (1998). ‘Dubbing’, in Baker M. (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 74-77.

Bassnett, S. (2007). ‘Culture and translation’, in Kuhiwczak P. & Littau K. (eds.), A Companion to Translation Studies, Clevedon/Buffalo/Toronto: Multilingual Matters, pp. 13-23.

Bassnett, S. & Lefevere, A. (1992). Translation – History – Culture. A Sourcebook. London/New York: Routledge.

Béal, Ch. & Mullan, K. (2013). ‘Issues in conversational humour from a cross-cultural perspective: comparing French and Australian corpora’, in Peeters, B., Béal, Ch. & Mullan, K. (eds.), Cross-culturally Speaking, Speaking Cross-culturally, Newcastle upon Thames: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 107-139.

Bednarek, M. (2010). The Language of Fictional Television. Drama and Identity. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Briechle, L. & Eppler, E. D. (2019). ‘Swearword strength in subtitled and dubbed films: A reception study’. Intercultural Pragmatics 16 (4), pp. 389-420.

Calude, A. S. (2008). ‘Demonstrative clefts and double cleft constructions in spontaneous spoken English’. Studia Linguistica 62 (1), pp. 78-118.

Chiaro, D. (2010). Translation, Humour and the Media. London/New York: Continuum.

Conway K. (2012). ‘A conceptual and empirical approach to cultural translation’. Translation Studies 5 (3), pp. 264-279.

De Waard, J. & Nida, E. (1986). From One Language to Another: Functional Equivalence in Bible Translation. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson.

Di Giavanni, E. (2016). ‘Dubbing and redubbing animation: Disney in the Arab world’. Altre Modernità, pp. 92-106.

Dynel, M. (2012). ‘Garden paths, red lights and crossroads: on finding our way to understanding the cognitive mechanisms underlying jokes’. Israeli Journal of Humour Research 1, pp.29-85.

Dynel, M. (2009). ‘Beyond a joke: types of conversational humour’. Language and Linguistics Compass 3 (5), pp. 1284-1299.

Fawcett, P. (1996). ‘Translation and power play’. The Translator 1 (2), pp. 177-192.

Fedorova, I. (2011). ‘Kinokontekst v inokul’turnoj srede: k probleme postroeniya modelej kul’turnyh perenosov’ [Movie script in foreign language environment: Problem of cultural transfer modelling]. Perm University Bulletin 1 (13), pp. 61-70. [In Rus.].

Giora, R. (1991). ‘On the cognitive aspects of the joke’. Journal of Pragmatics 16, pp. 465-485. DOI:

Goddard, C. (2017). ‘Ethnopragmatic perspectives on conversational humour, with special reference to Australian English’. Language & Communication 55, pp. 55-68. DOI:

Gorshkova, V. (2006). ‘Perevod v kino’ [Translation in cinema]. Irkutsk: IGLU. [In Rus.].

Goryachev, A. & Prutskov, A. (2017). ‘Rap-battl kak dosugovyj mediazhanr: strategicheskij aspekt’ [Rap battle as a leisure media genre: strategic aspect]. Strategic Communications in Business and Politics 3, pp. 87-90. [In Rus.]

Gottlieb, H. (1998). ‘Subtitling’, in Baker M. (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, London/New York: Routledge, pp. 244-248.

Götz, D. & Herbst, T. (1987). ‘Der frühe vogel fängt den wurm: Erste überlegungen zu einer theorie der synchronisation (Englisch-Deutsch)‘. Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 12 (1), pp. 13-26.

Hejazi, N. & Hamidi, S. (2019). ‘Dubbing humour into Persian: the case of The Incredibles 2’. Journal of Language and Translation Studies 52 (1), pp. 159-189.

Hockett, Ch. (1977). The View from Language: Selected Essays. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

House, J. (2015). Translation as Communication across Languages and Cultures. London/New York: Routledge.

Heydon, G. & Kianbakht, S. (2020). ‘Applying cultural linguistics to translation studies: a new model for humour translation’. International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies 8 (3), pp. 1-11. DOI:

Keesing, R. M. (1985). ‘Conventional metaphors and anthropological metaphysics: the problematic of cultural translation’. Journal of Anthropological Research 41 (2), pp. 201-217.

Kim, E. (2013). ‘K voprosu transliruemosti yumora sketch-shou (na materiale perevoda “A bit of Fray and Laurie”)’ [Towards the question of translatability of sketch show humour: the case of A bit of Fray and Laurie]. Irkutsk State Linguistic University Bulletin 22 (1), pp. 256-261. [In Rus.].

Kirner-Ludwig, M. (2018). ‘Trying to make it fit… That’s what she said. An argument for a new category on the formulaic continuum’. Journal of Pragmatics 137, pp. 76-91. DOI:

Kiddon, Ch. & Brun, Yu. (2011). ‘That’s what she said: double entendre identification’, in Lin, D., Matsumoto, Y. & Mihalcea, R. (eds.), Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Portland, Oregon: Association for Computational Linguistics, pp. 89-94.

Knospe, S., Onysko, A., & Goth, M. (2016). Crossing Languages to Play with Words: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. 1st ed.. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Krongauz, M. (2019). ‘Pereosmyslenie teksta i motiv prevrashcheniya v malom zhanre internet-poezii („poroshok”)’ [Text re-interpretation and the motif of transformation in a short form of Internet poetry (“poroshok”)]. Baltic accent 10 (4), pp. 109-126. DOI: [In Rus.].

Kurz, Ch. (2006). Filmsynchronisation aus Übersetzungswissenschaftlicher Sicht: eine Kontrastive Synchronisationsanalyse des Kinofilms ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘. Hamburg: Kovač.

Kviatkovsky, A. (2013). Poetichesky Slovar [Poetics dictionary]. Moscow: RGGU [In Rus.].

Lederer, M. (2003). Translation – The Interpretive Model. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Levisen, C. (2018). ‘Dark, but Danish: Ethnopragmatic perspectives on black humor’. Intercultural Pragmatics 15 (4), pp. 515-531. DOI:

Low, P. A. (2011). ‘Translating jokes and puns’. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 19 (1), pp. 59-70.

Luyken, G. M. et. al. (1991). Overcoming Language Barriers in Television. Dubbing and Subtitling for the European Audience. Manchester: European Institute for the Media.

Maitland, S. (2017). What Is Cultural Translation? London/New York: Bloomsbury.

Martinez-Sierra, J. (2006). ‘Translating audiovisual humour. A case study’. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 13, pp. 289-296. DOI: 10.1080/09076760608668999

Medlin, M. M., Brown, M. & Sacco, D. F. (2018). ‘That’s what she said! Perceived mate value of clean and dirty humour displays’. Personality and Individual Differences 135, pp. 192-200. DOI:

Meier, M. R. & Medjesky, Ch. A. (2018). ‘The Office was asking for it: “that’s what she said” as a joke cycle that perpetuates rape culture’. Communication and Critical/ Cultural Studies 15 (1), pp. 2-17. DOI:

Nida, E. A. & Taber, C. R. (1982). The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: Brill.

Norrick, N. R. (2016). ‘Language play in conversation’, in Bell, N.D. (ed.), Multiple Perspectives on Language Play, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 11-45.

Pahlke, S. (2009). Handbuch Synchronisation – Von der Übersetzung zum Fertigen Film. Leipzig: Henschel.

Pérez-González, L. (2009). ‘Audiovisual translation’, in Baker, M. & Saldanha, G. (eds.), The Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 2nd ed., London/New York: Routledge, pp.13-20.

Piazza, R., Bednarek, M. & Rossi, F. (eds.). (2011). Telecinematic Discourse: Approaches to The Language of Films and Television Series. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Pisek, G. (1994). Die Große Illusion. Probleme und Möglichkeiten der Filmsynchronisation. Dargestellt an Woody Allens ‘Annie Hall‘, ‘Manhattan‘ und ‘Hannah and her sisters‘. Trier: WVT.

Popa, D. (2005). ‘Jokes and translation’. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 13 (1), pp. 48-57.

Ranzato, I. (2011). ‘Culture specific humour, sounds and laughter: strategies in audiovisual translation’. Testo a Fronte 45, pp. 7-27.

Rojo, A. & Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I. (2013). ‘Cognitive linguistics and translation studies: past, present and future’, in Rojo A., Ibarretxe-Antuñano, I. (eds.), Cognitive Linguistics and Translation: Advances in Some Theoretical Models and Applications. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, pp.3-29. DOI:10.1515/9783110302943.3

Shchurina, Y. (2014). ‘Internet-memy: problema tipologii’ [Internet memes: the problem of typology]. Cherepovets State University Bulletin 6 (59), pp. 85-89. [In Rus.].

Sinkeviciute, V. (2017). ‘It’s just a bit of cultural […] lost in translation: Australian and British intracultural and intercultural metapragmatic evaluations of jocularity’. Lingua 197, pp. 50-67. doi: 10.1016/j.lingua.2017.03.004

Suls, J. (1972). ‘Two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and cartoons: an information-processing analysis’, in Goldstein, J. H. & McGhee, P. E. (eds.), The Psychology of Humor: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues, New York: Academic Press, pp. 81-100. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-288950-9.50010-9

Tatanova, L. (2018). ‘Stilisticheskie aspekty angloyazychnyh rap-battlov’ [Stylistic aspects of English-speaking rap battles]. Inovatsionnoe Razvitie 6 (23), pp. 93-96. [In Rus.].

Tsai, C. (2015). ‘Reframing humour in TV news translation’. Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 23 (4), pp.1-19. DOI:10.1080/0907676X.2015.1043923

Valdeon, R. & Vidal, C. M. C. (2019). Routledge Handbook of Spanish Translation Studies. London: Routledge.

Vermeer, H.J. (1990). Skopos und Translationsauftrag. Aufsätze. Heidelberg: Institut für Übersetzen und Dolmetschen.

Wechsler, R. (1998). Performing without a Stage. The Art of Literary Translation. North Heaven: Catbird Press.

Wierzbicka, A. (2010). Experience, Evidence, Sense. The Hidden Cultural Legacy of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yahiaoui, R., et al. (2020). ‘Translating irony into Arabic – who’s having the last laugh? Dubbing Monsters Inc.: Egyptian vernacular vs. modern standard Arabic’. The European Journal of Humour Research 7 (4), pp. 32-46.

Zagudullina, M. (2016). ‘Ponyat’ logiku pikabu: puant kak formula uspekha vyskazyvaniya’ [‟Toward the logic of Pikabu”: pointe as a formula of success in the smart communication]. Medialinguistics 5, pp. 35-37 [In Rus.].

Zabalbeascoa, P. (2005). ‘Humour and translation – an interdiscipline’. Humor: International Journal of Humour Research 18 (2), pp. 185-207. DOI: