Manolito Gafotas (1999)

As Marina García Mérida points out, the first film revolves around incidents in Manolito’s life developed in the following books in order of publication: Manolito Gafotas, Pobre Manolito, ¡Cómo molo! and Manolito on the Road (52). Manolito Four-Eyes, US English version, has published the first three books without translating the titles (as Manolito Four Eyes, Manolito Four Eyes, the second volume and Manolito Four Eyes, the third volume). It is important to point out that this film is subtitled but not dubbed. In our analysis of the textual translation, we referred to sexual/body references, national and political references, insults, titles, physical violence, gender, death, drugs, taboo/slang, weight, scatology, terror, and disabilities. Not every category gets a mention on the AVT versions of Manolito, but it is worth mentioning that the textual translator of the first book translated the dedication ‘Para Antonio Muñoz Molina, mi vida,’ as ‘For Antonio Muñoz Molina, my life.’ This simple literal translation strips the dedication off its colloquial substance, by choosing to foreignize the term of endearment with a literal translation.

 Sexual/Bodily References

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
de culos no rear end not with asses on it
pezoncitos none available two nipples
pito none available[1] prick/dick
super prostate prostate (or omitted) super prostate
tetitas tummy (scratch Boni’s tummy) tits

These examples show a tendency towards prudery on the English textual translations available of the three first books in contrast with the subtitles available in this first film. This tendency is consistent with the double standards as a norm in Children’s written and audiovisual fiction, where written translation – and creation for that matter – tends to be more cautious than its audiovisual counterpart. There is a reference to the neighbour’s dog, Boni, in which the bodily reference is substituted for a different bodily reference that is aligned with target culture expectations.

National/Political References

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
Yihad Ozzy Yihad

The same can be said about one of the most controversial examples of national references in the series, the nickname of the head of Manolito’s gang. We can see that the subtitles show the name in the source text without any remorse or political correctness, whereas the textual transforms it into a less politically charged nickname while maintaining the reference to divinity that the Arabic word has.


Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
calvo bald Baldy
chivato none available sneak
Gafotas Four Eyes / Fat Glasses (omitted)
el imbécil The bozo the moron
Susana Bragas Sucias the One and Only Susana

The one and only Susana Dirty Underpants

Susana dirty drawers


tío pesao or pesao annoying, pain-in-the-neck, pains, you grump moaner / nuisance
vago de las narices lazy layabout

Such consistency with children’s fiction norms is not found in the use of insults where the subtitle sometimes omits the insults or attenuates it (Gafotas, baldy, moaner/nuisance, sneak). The main exception is the translation of Manolito’s brother’s nickname, where the subtitle employs effrontery as a tactic and the textual version attenuates the insult. Susana’s nickname and the colloquial approach to the word lazy seems to resonate more with Manolito’s idiolect and orality in their subtitled versions. An interesting example that can be included in this category is

La portera lo será su madre (Nighttime business) Go jump on the lake


Although it is not completely an insult, it is the response to an insult. Being called ‘portera’ in Spanish denotes that the passer-by using this adjective to describe Manolito’s neighbour, Luisa, believes she is too inquisitive. In the book, the passer-by alludes to the fact that the neighbour’s door is open at all hours of the night for Luisa to stick her nose into other people’s business. However, in the English textual translation this was misinterpreted adding a sexual connotation to the insult that it did not have in the source text, at least, explicitly.

Physical violence

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
capón To calm him down, a little calming down clip in the ear
colleja (dar una colleja) to chew someone out, lecture (or omitted)


wallop, and to wallop


Me ha dado en toda la oreja none available thumped me on the ear

The most relevant examples in terms of this dichotomy of textual vs AVT in children’s literature is unmistakably in these examples referring to physical violence. The nature of the film does not give the AVT translator the licence to rewrite any example of physical violence, because it appears on screen and erasing it would render the final product absurd. Scenes deemed inappropriate for children up until the eighties would have undoubtedly been erased from films or eliminated in a final cut for different countries. Nowadays it is more common to simply censor the product if the target culture cannot stomach cultural differences or moral disparities when it comes to products for children.


Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
Pareces un detective, joé none available you’re a fucking detective


Joder none available fucking hell
Joder es que es la hostia (omitted)

If attenuation of dubious parenting practices was a strategy in the previous set of examples, when it comes to the use of taboo words or slang, the textual English translation tends to eliminate these utterances, presumably to promote a polite use of language in children. The subtitles omit one instance, but accommodate the other two examples to equivalents in the target culture. It is also relevant to say here that there are significantly fewer taboo words in the books text than in the script, perhaps demonstrating that authors as well as translators experience a certain degree of restrain when typing for a book format as opposed to scriptwriting for children.


This category presents us with contradictory results too. In some instances, the textual versions display a wider range of vocabulary aligned with the topic and the linguistic variety and vocabulary choices of the source text characters. Such is the case of the examples below:

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
calzoncillos underwear, pants shorts
tres chorizos (caca) manure, crap, poop, chorizo three salamis
está meando to pee (or omitted) takes a leak


to fart, farts farts
Tiene mocos Boogers, boogies, stuffy nose, stuffed-up nose, snotty nose
Bar el tropezón Stumbles bar (omitted)

These next examples show instances only available in the script and not in the book, where the AVT translator(s) have tried to 1. Use a target language equivalent, 2. Create a similarly humorous instance that includes the scatological reference or 3. Omitted them.

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
tropezones de vómito none available (omitted)
Estoy mala, en los días que se te corta la mayonesa none available


on the rag, the curse
Huele a choto stinks to high heaven
La que no está acostumbrada a bragas, todo le hace yagas Bare butt, knickers bother

In the next example, both textual and AVT versions decide to leave aside the scatological intensifier, not that common in the target language culture.

Mola que te cagas awesome (pool) he’s neat


In the example below, the AVT version is equivalent to the term in the source text, avoiding as in the example above the scatological reference because the target language expression does not have commonly use it. The textual version decides to use the scatological term even though it sounds very foreign and fails to describe what Manolito and his friends were doing in the swimming pool. It could be said that it is a case of overcorrection. Bearing in mind that one of the main criticisms that Lindo’s series has had in the United States is that it was too scatological, it seems that the textual translation is trying to reinforce that notion in an example where the scatological reference is not needed or intended.

pedorretas acuáticas aquatic farts aquatic raspberries

Other colloquialisms from the films

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
La voz de Manolito
Mola por dentro y por fuera To be cool (molar), to be a whole lotta cool (molar mogollón) he’s neat inside and outside
rollo de vida deadly pain, pain-in-the-neck, real drag, bore galore (rollo repollo) one hell of a life

In our previous article about Manolito, it was highlighted that the peculiarities of Manolito’s stream of consciousness as narrator in the books impoverish the character’s identity and linguistic autonomy. In film, the audiovisual aspects of Manolito’s behaviour contribute to develop and fix his depiction so this could be the reason the textual translations provide a wider variety of translations for these commonplace expressions in Manolito’s speech.

Source Text/Script Textual Translation Subtitles
La voz de la madre de Manolito (Catalina)
de los nervios So nervous edgy
El desayuno ya me lo estás dando tú none available there’s no breakfast here
Es que… vamos. For God’s sake
Me voy y me quedo más ancha que larga I walk out and I won’t look back
Montó un pollo scream down at me kicked up hell
No he nacido para fregona none available I’m not a skivvy
sin tonterías no messing
Tengamos la fiesta en paz cut it out
Y dale hijo give it a break son

In the films, Manolito’s mother’s voice takes a significant role in her fabulous depiction by Adriana Ozores and Elvira Lindo’s script. Most of the idiomatic expressions she uses are part of a mother linguistic repertoire and in the only two examples in which they appear in the textual translation and audiovisual translation, the subtitles seem to capture her speech more accurately, in terms of preserving the orality and the indexical features of her motherhood and social status.

Let us know turn to examine and comment on some of the examples from the second film, produced only two years later and not only subtitled but also dubbed. There are some interesting insights arising from the comparison of these two formats of AVT.

[1] When we insert the note ‘none available,’ it means that this instance does not appear in the three translated books, but it does in the script; or vice versa, unless otherwise stated.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

AVT in the English versions of the Manolito Gafotas Films Copyright © 2023 by Pilar Alderete Diez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book