Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"You should have come yesterday" | Translation Analysis

It's time to look at another phrase plucked from the English version of Shenmue and see what lies behind its translation.

Translation Analysis: "You Should Have Come Yesterday"

The location is at the Abe Store down the road from Ryo's house, which has been serving toys and snacks to the children in Sakuragaoka for years.

The friendly store owner, Setsu Abe, often teases Ryo with various nicknames (which we'll devote a post to in the future), which he doesn't really like but it's a handy place to try for some rare prizes with the Shenmue Raffle.

Setsu Abe, owner of Abe Store
Setsu Abe waits patiently as Ryo considers speaking.

The Scenario:

After making his qualifying purchase of a packet of caramels, Ryo draws a raffle ticket from the red box. He's hoping for at least a Mr Yukawa figure...

Setsu Abe: OK, Little Ryo, try your luck!

Ryo, grimacing slightly at the nickname, draws a ticket. Unfortunately, it's not a winning ticket.

Ryo: Oh, too bad.

Setsu Abe: Oh well. You should have come yesterday.

"You should have come yesterday."
Ryo stares grimly at his losing ticket.


In the English version, Abe-san's words to Ryo that he "should have come yesterday" could be taken to mean that perhaps his luck would have been better the day before. Perhaps she had a lot of winners on that day.

The English version sounds fine, but actually has a slightly different meaning to it than her words in Japanese.

The Original Japanese 

First, here is a literal translation of the original Japanese sentence:

Setsu Abe: For shame! Come back the day before yesterday!

Abe-san's line in Japanese
Come back... the day before yesterday??
Well, that advice seems even less helpful than the English version! To understand her real meaning, some explanation is in order.

The phrase "Come back the day before yesterday" is a fairly obscure and old-fashioned expression which is spoken towards things or situations that you don't want to see ever again. By telling them to come back "the day before yesterday" you are effectively saying that you want them to go away and not to come back at all.

An example of its use might be on catching a spider that has been crawling inside the house. As you toss it outside into the garden (since killing spiders is believed by some to be bad luck), you might utter this phrase.

In the raffle ticket situation, Abe-san is of course not directing this to Ryo, but towards the bad luck which has resulted in him drawing a losing ticket.

Alternative Translation

If the translators had decided to remain closer to the feeling of the Japanese words, maybe we would have seen something like this:

Setsu Abe: For shame. Bad luck, begone!

Hmm... perhaps it would sound a bit over the top. What do you think?

If you enjoy translation analysis, check out these previous related posts:

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  1. Really interesting. I love this page.

  2. Great post Switch. I'll put my coin in, here's a few variants that could work...

    What a shame, we had lots of winners yesterday.

    Ah that's a shame... today isn't your lucky day

    Oh well, good ridence to bad luck

  3. Hi Switch, great post ! May I suggest you another article ?
    Is it true that in the Japanese version Master Chen (and Yuanda Zhu ?) calls the Phantom River Stone, "Phantom Taohe green stone" ? (according to a post from Kiyuu in 2005)

    1. Hi Trent, indeed, as you say it is called differently between the Japanese & English versions. I'll make a short post about the difference. Thanks for the suggestion!