Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume.7 Number.1 March 2016                                        Pp..295 – 309

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Attenuating Obscenity of Swearwords in the Amateur Subtitling
of English Movies into Arabic

Abed Shahooth Khalaf
Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication
Universiti Putra Malaysia

Sabariah Md Rashid
Department of English, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Selangor, Malaysia


The interlingual subtitling of swearwords poses problems to translators due to differences in the degree of tolerating the obscenity of such words by various speech communities. To account for the perplexities incurred in the intercultural transference of swearwords, translators adopt attenuation strategies that facilitate their mediating role between cultures. In line with this, the present study attempts to identify the strategies adopted by Arab amateur subtitlers to mitigate the obscenity of swearwords in English movies. It utilizes a corpus-based approach to identify the factors affecting the decisions made by these subtitlers. The content analysis method was used in categorizing swearwords and in the translation comparison process, Toury’s (1996) ‘coupled pairs’ model was adopted to identify attenuation strategies. The findings revealed that the common strategies used to mitigate the obscenity of swearwords are deletion, change of semantic fields, register shift and the use of archaic words, using euphemistic expressions, generalization and linguistic substitution and ambiguity. Moreover, cultural norms play a significant role in choosing the translation strategy to handle swearwords.
Keywords: amateur subtitling, attenuation, swearwords, translation behavior

Cite as: Khalaf, A.  S. , & Md Rashid,  S. (2017). Attenuating Obscenity of Swearwords in the Amateur Subtitling of English Movies into Arabic. Arab World English Journal, 8 (1).


Mr. Abed Shahooth Khalaf is currently a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Modern Languages
and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia. He obtained his MA in Translation from
Yarmouk University, Jordan in 2000. Prior to his enrolment as a PhD candidate, he worked as an
Assistant Professor of English/Arabic Translation at the Dept. of English, College of Education,
University of Anbar, Iraq. His research interests focus on audiovisual translation, translation
problems and impoliteness.