Twitter user @LaserBlade tagged me with a question about The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom last night:
Since I’ve been fervently playing Tears of the Kingdom, and I’m always looking for excuses to write, I decided to take a look into it. I had only dabbled in Breath of the Wild‘s Japanese script, so I didn’t know the answer offhand. Luckily, it was pretty easy to check.
If you’re not familiar with either game, there’s a long questline in BotW which revolves around recruiting tradespeople to work for the Bolson Construction company to build a merchant hub called Tarrey Town. The one hink with this questline is that not only does each worker need to have specific qualifications (as a jeweler, minister, etc.), but their names must also end in -son.
While -son is a perfectly common name ending in English (Jason, Orson, Wilson, etc.), in Japanese it’s a bit rarer. As it turns out, the original Japanese script requires Link to recruit workers whose names end in ダ (da). In Japanese, you’ll commonly see names like Maeda ending in –da. So, while in the English script employees are named things like Hudson, Pelison, and Fyson, their Japanese counterparts are named エノキダ (Enokida), ププンダ (Pupunda), and ペーダ (Pēda).
Naturally, the different hiring criteria means “son and done” isn’t really applicable to the エノキダ工務店 (Enokida Kōmuten, Enokida Building Firm), which leads us to LaserBlade’s question: what was it in Japanese? Let’s take a look at Hudson’s introduction to the company:
Enokida proudly declares his company’s motto to be ダダっという間に ダダっと解決！ (dada ttoiu ma ni dada tto kaiketsu!). This is a little complicated to break down because of the wordplay involved, but I’ll do my best!
Tto is a variant on the quotation marker と (to), which can indicate that what preceded it was a quote the same way quotation marks do in English, with いう (iu) being the verb “to say”. That’s not applicable to every instance of to or even toiu, but it’ll get us where we need to go in this case.
Another tricky point is that the first half of the catchphrase is cut short, assuming Japanese players will understand where it’s going because it’s invoking a common phrase. That phrase is 間に合わせる (ma ni awaseru) and conveys that something will be done in time for something else. With that, the first half of the phrase comes out to something like, “Before you can say ‘dada‘”. Basically, the job’ll be done before you can even say that really short phrase, so pretty fast!
For dada tto kaiketsu, dada is being used as a mimetic word, or sound effect. Combined with the lack of an iu, I’ve found it’s best to translate this kind of phrase as “With a […] sound”. Add on 解決 (kaiketsu, resolution/settlement), and Hudson is saying the way his business will solve your problems will invoke a “dada” sound!
In other words, the Enokida Building Firm’s motto is something like, “Before you can say ‘dada’, we’ll hustle and get it done!” That doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and relies on the unique way onomatopoeia is used in Japanese, which is notoriously difficult to translate. I’d say “son and done” works well enough as a Westernized company catchphrase, especially considering employees like Pelison elaborate on it in their dialogue:
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If you want another example of onomatopoeic speech that was tough to translate, how about this article on Tifa’s infamous “Dilly-dally, shilly-shally” line from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children? Or, for another Zelda article, I wrote about how a mistranslated hint in Link to the Past has led to a lot of confusion over the years as to just how to get the game’s final bottle. You can also head over to our master list of articles and pick one from your favorite game series.