Censored subtitles that affect the watching experience

I’ve been subbing in a project, and to my understanding (based on the story, the characters, their expressions etc, I don’t know the language that well) the actors use really offensive terms sometimes (it’s not a rom-com, obviously) but the English subtitles are really, really watered down.

Since I don’t know the original language, I can’t convey what the actor says and means and I have to translate what I see. I think this really takes away from the experience of watching the movie/ drama and enjoying it.

Maybe just use the right word and place asterisks in some letters, so I get to decide?

For example, I can’t have a detective fighting with a gangster and calling him poopyhead or something. It’s an intense, bloody scene and the useless polite words are worse than the actor breaking character.

inb4: If some subbers don’t want to use offensive language maybe they should just choose a different project, because their decision to change the meaning affects all the subsequent languages.


I think it’s because some of the viewers are sensitive to swear words and such, so the team decides to use stars (*) or the number/pound sign (#). I was on a project where there was mild swearing, but the viewers didn’t like it, so we had to finish the rest of the drama using stars for swear words. It took out the comedic-sense for me, but it’s not me who’s really watching the drama, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. But honestly, doesn’t this site say that only adults/teens can watch it? I remember someone telling me that I was young to be on this site, so the age “requirement” is 18, I believe. By the age of 18, shouldn’t we be at least “tolerant” of mild swearing due to the past amount of exposure to swearing? This is just what I think, and I do know that some people just aren’t used to swearing.


Why watch a 18+ movie if you’re sensitive to swearing?! There’s both sex scenes and violence, so censoring the subs is ridiculous, honestly.

It’s ok to hear it but not to read it?

I fail to see the logic behind this.

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For me as a viewer and a subber, I understand you fully.
As a viewer I know what story I can take and which I don’t. If one changes the actual words into “softer” ones, that is kind of disrespect for the original work. Since someone wrote that dialogue! Someone actued it! Someone recorded it! It went through many hands till it finally appears on screen.

That’s why I always wonder …

Are those viewers who complain buying books about crime and give it to someone else to sensor these books for them? I am getting emotional about this topic since a writer thinks long and hard, what words to select and use … But, well then, most of the so called classical literature is nothing for their eyes.

Or watching a play, let’s say from Goethe, just read the nice little poems, the sweet ones …
Why do authors write/wrote so much … When only the nice stuff is wanted?
It doesn’t make sense for me either.


On the contrary, as a Korean-English subber, I typically see subbers using much harsher curse words in English than what is actually said in Korean. I think that’s because most subbers don’t actually know what those cuss words mean and they are just using the most common cuss words in English, such as btch, SOB, fck, etc.

As for me, I try to come up with the closest equivalent cuss words. Sometimes, there is nothing close and I just have to go with the meaning behind, like sleaze-ball for 쪽제비 같은놈 (weasel-like dude).

When they actually say the word for btch or SOB in Korean, then I have no problem translating those words the way it is but with asterisks in between the word. The problem is though the Korean word for 년 (Nyeon) could mean, a btch, a woman, or brat or just a girl, all depending on the context. For example, a mother could be calling her daughter 미친년 (Michin Nyeon - crazy girl). So is the mother actually calling her own daughter a crazy btch? No!! In this case, the proper translation that’s has the closest meaning would be something like “crazy brat!” But subbers who are not 100% fluent in Korean just assumes that Nyeon always means btch, which is not true. The same thing goes for 놈 (Nom) or 자식 (Jashik - an offspring). A lot of people think that it means bastrd or son of btch. But it actually could mean bast*rd, a guy, dude, jerk, slime-ball, etc., depending on the context.

So it actually irks me to see those words always translated as harsher and more common English cuss words than that they actually intended to mean it.


Some of the most acclaimed classic works of art would cause many people to blush… That doesn’t take away from their worth, though.

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Context is always important, so thanks for pointing out the opposite problem.

There are some curse words in Greek that are pretty offensive, but they are so common an outsider would think they are much more mild. So it’s important to know what is the equivalent not only as a word, but also culturally.


Disqus censor made me think that subtitle editor would also be censored. I just never bothered to not put stars. A lot of things are half curses too so that also motivates starring for me.

Maybe as experiment I will stop but really nothing has really called for the expletives yet. They’re called vile things, but not much more.

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I don’t mind asterisks, only when complete words are omitted or replaced.

  • Son of a Btch
    (well…) Son of a B
    tch without-the-star


  • *)&&#($(

are different things.

If it’s obviously meant for a mature audience (nudity, gore etc), I don’t see the need for using asterisks at all.

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Totally agree the use of an asterisk is better and we should be able to use some ‘‘bad words’’ that can sound so funny in certain scenes and omitting that word takes so much away from the drama.

When doing subs in Spanish they gave us certain words to replace some ‘‘simple curses’’ and I’m like: now the scene is no longer funny, but what can we do?

I think there is a difference between the ‘‘F’’ word that I don’t like or find funny at all (too vulgar in my opinion). But there are some curses like son of a bth that with the actor’s facial expression and movement (running after the person) becomes such a hilarious scene.

I always use an asterisk and keep the original word unless the word is offending or degrading the other character (that case would be in abusive relationship dramas).

When it comes to a funny drama ‘’–watering down the words’’ take the magic out of the scene. The words play a major role in the scenes taking them away is not only a copyright issue is also unfair to the writer.

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If my language moderator in a drama wants me to censor, I’ll do it the way they want, because on board the captain’s word is the law. But I might choose not to work with them in the future.


It’s totally ridiculous and selfish, because it means making decisions on behalf of other people.



LOL But the other way around isn’t?

I will really never understand, why people watch cruel scenes, but are worried about “some” swearing words. It seems you could possible explain that to me?

I can’t explain, because I both watch cruel scenes and hear the curse words. I don’t want them changed.

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Okay, sorry.I take it back. I am getting a head ache and read your comment wrongly …
I think, I should get some fresh air.
Have a nice day.^^

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And now I’m going to put a twist out there.

I live in Scandinavia and here watching sex on TV is more or less fine, but strong curse words are very uncommon :smile:


Soooo… it’s a “show don’t tell” thing? :slight_smile:

The use of Viki is supposed to be for over 18 (yes, it was me in that discussion), but the dramas and most films are all for over 15 (if you watch carefully you will see it in the first few seconds on the screen).

Sex scenes and violence? Weeeellll… Both are pretty tame in kdramas, and even more tame in c-dramas. Taiwanese ones are a bit more realistic but still not comparable to what we call sex and violence in Western entertainment.
In films everything is a different, but viki is not really so much about films, there are very few of them.

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I meant content where the age rating is specifically 18+. I don’t see the point in turning “a**hole” into “dude” when heads are being bashed into walls.

Most dramas don’t contain much swearing anyway, so there’s no need for me to translate something “offensive”. It’s another type of content for another type of audience, there’s room for everyone.

I’m so acquainted with the first few seconds (network and rating), that I sometime whistle the jiggle. :slight_smile:

P.S. If there’s a discussion in the forums about the appropriate age for Viki users, I’ll make very, very certain to stay away from it. :slight_smile:

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We had a wonderfully educational discussion some time ago about this. I was curious about those insults we hear all the time in k-dramas.

**개새끼 gaesaekki (pronounced kaesaekki)**Everybody, including gangsters and people who really really despise and hate each other, seemed to use kae-saekki (-ya) as the harshest insult in the world. So I dug more only to find out that it literally means. ʺSon of a dogʺ Derived from 개[gae] meaning ‘dog’ and 새끼.(= baby). And that “saekki” is indeed used lovingly by mothers for their babies!
미친새끼 mi-chin-sae-ki (usually translated as crazy bastard, crazy asshole). Literally “crazy baby”. Does not mean literallly bastard, as in “illegitimate child”. It’s just a generic insult.

For women:

미친년 mi-chin-nyeon Crazy girl/crazy bitch /crazy wentch. "Combination of the verb미치다[michida] ‘to be crazy’ and 년[nyon], pejorative slang for ‘girl’ (but not necessarily of loose morals)
Try to sub in context. "
기지배/기집애/ gi-ji-bae (prn. kicchi bae) usually translated as “you girl” or “wench”
It is almost a synonym of ‘girl’. It does not mean bitch or who*e! It’s not considered as a nice word, and people don’t like being called that, but it’s not taken as an insult. Much more common among not-so-well-mannered or uneducated people. You can use this word toward people you are very familiar with: usually between girls who are close friends (from kids to middle age), or a mother to her daughter. You use this word when you don’t like what your close friend or daughter does. When scolding or blaming, but sometimes in a friendly, joking way.

So all these are really milder than the translations. What is really offensive are all the Korean insults which start from “shib…”, which involve intercourse and such.

I usually avoid swear words in dramas. I don’t like either hearing them nor reading them. And reading is not the same as hearing, it is much more impactful than hearing. If you hear it, it immediately goes away, but the subtitle will stay on for your eyes to “enjoy” and sink in for a few seconds more.
I find asterisks ridiculous: saying without saying, it’s hypocritical and coy and … just bleah! You might as well write the whole thing! If we really want to substitute, frankly I prefer to do it like in comic books, #$%^!!@*&%! Because this implies “the worst insults you can imagine”, and it’s fun!
I have gone to great lengths to make lists of alternatives to the usual 2-3 insults people use in real life, which are used so often and so freely that they have totally lost their meaning.
However, I give free rain to translators in films. For instance there was a film, “Fasten your seatbelts”, where one character curses all the time, very heavily. And another one, “Sunny” (one of the most wonderful films I’ve watched here, I warmly recommend it) where one of the girls was known as the Queen of Swear Words and she was so inventive! Of course you cannot censor these, the film would lose all impact.