Even when two people apparently speak the same language, regional variations or a lack of local knowledge can lead to total misunderstanding.
The BBC recently reported that 1990s rap star Vanilla Ice will be appearing in a pantomime version of Peter Pan in Chatham on the north Kent coast.
In an age of globalisation, this news spread rapidly around the internet, especially in the United States. But you might expect that the US news reporters could have double checked what a pantomime in the UK actually involves.
For the benefit of non-British readers, pantomime is a raucous musical comedy, usually of traditional children’s stories, usually performed in the Christmas season. As wikipedia describes pantomime:
“a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, topical references, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo.”
The audience is encouraged to join in, with cries such as “He’s behind you” or “Oh yes, it is!”. The lead roles in these slices of Christmas slapstick are often taken by household names who have been famous in other fields such as TV, singing or even boxing. For example Anthea Turner, David Hasselhoff, Leslie Grantham, Jane Asher and Nigel Havers have all taken a turn in this popular brand of theatre entertainment.
Unfortunately for transatlantic commentators, pantomime of this type is not common in the US – leading them to assume that Vanilla Ice will be performing a silent mime version of Peter Pan:
“As a pantomime, Ice can only use his bodily and facial contortions and moves in order to act out the role.”
“The musician has signed on to play a silent version of Captain Hook in a performance of ‘Peter Pan’ at the Kent Central Theatre in England.”
“Learning the art of being a mime is the only logical move after effectively slaughtering the rap game and reality television… If you’re not excited to see Vanilla Ice communicate the role of Captain Hook using only facial expressions and hand movements than you obviously don’t have good taste in theater.”
“Vanilla Ice is taking one old adage to heart: silence is golden!”
“Playing a mime villain definitely trumps Ice on Dancing On Ice”
While pantomime itself is often seen as a bit laughable, here at the office we can’t help finding the mental image created by this total misunderstanding even funnier… “Oh yes, it is!”
• In addition to multilingual translation, WorldAccent provides document localisations into American English, British English, etc.