Sum in ‘ksup wivit?

In The Broken Ear and Tintin and the Picaros, which tell the story of Tintin’s adventures in the fictional South American republic of San Theodoros, Tintin and friends encounter some native people in the jungle who belong to the Arumbaya and Rumbaba tribes. They speak in a what looks at first glance to be a foreign language, but when you look closer you realise that it’s English written and spelled in an unusual way.

Here are some examples:

- Ahw wada lu’vali bahn chaco conats! – Oh, what a lovely bunch of coconuts!
- Owar ya? Ts goota meecha mai ‘tee. – How are you? It’s good to meet you, matey.
- Gi’ dahda vit! – Get out of it!
- Owzah g’rubai? – How’s the grub, eh?
- Sum in ‘ksp wivit! – Something’s up with it!

These examples are from the English translations of these books, in which the translators used a phonetic rendering of Cockney English [source].

In the original French version, Hergé based Arumbaya and Rumbaba on Marols or Marollien, a Flemish dialect spoken in Brussels, which he heard from his grandmother [source].

This is an interesting way of conveying that a foreign language is being spoken while allowing readers to understand what’s being said. Do you know who these ‘languages’ are represented in other translations of these books?

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This entry was posted in Language.

One Response to Sum in ‘ksup wivit?

  1. Drabkikker says:

    Nice! I wonder how many of the translations took the same pains in transferring the numerous cases of ‘foreign’ word play that Hergé hid in his books.
    For those who read Dutch: The use of Marollien in the Tintin albums is described in scrutinous detail in D. Justens & A. Préaux, Kuifje: een Brussels ketje (“Tintin, a Brussels bloke”).