Buffalaxing

Buffalaxing refers to the art of producing humorous videos by taking (usually) a non-English source video and giving it subtitles for what it sounds like in the language of the buffalax producers. Typically, buffalaxed videos are parody versions of snippets of motion pictures, TV broadcasts, or musical performances which are originally in a language incomprehensible to producer and which feature such Others as Bollywood characters or oriental pop singers. Hence, a new video is created, with new meanings generated not only via the subtitles but also through their co-occurrence and juxtaposition with the original image and audio.

More specifically, in order to create new content, the buffalax producers use the so called mondegreen or soramimi technique – the deliberate mishearing of something said or sung – to provide the original footage with new subtitles in his/her own language which are as closely homophonic as possible with words said or sung in the original footage. Buffalaxing is part of a more general informal off- and online entertainment culture in which homophonic translation are used as a means for transforming a text in one language into a near-homophonic text in another language, usually with no attempt to preserve the original meaning of the text.

Buffalaxed videos are part of translocal YouTube cultures. The videos are seen as a discursive space offering semiotic resources with which people evaluate their experiences relating to superdiversity. The particular target of buffalaxing in focus in their analysis is the oriental Other. In superdiversity the oriental Other is no longer an easily classifiable member of a familiar and recognizable social, cultural, or ethnic category, but something much more challenging, complex, and nuanced. The authors show how the Other – whose language is often incomprehensible to westerners, but who has become an increasingly recognizable and proximal figure to them through popular culture, media, and everyday encounters – is made to speak in buffalax videos to western audiences in ways which index complexity, ambivalence, and a range of ideological stances.
The three YouTube films shown in this website are:

  1. An influential American video Crazy Indian Video… Buffalaxed! (a.k.a. Benny Lava); and two Finnish videos,
  2. Niilin hanhet (‘The Geese of the Nile’); and
  3. Terojen Koettelemus (‘The Trial of the Two Teros’).

The transcripts that go with these videos subsequently present (a) the original lyrics (in Tamil, Kurdish, or Hindi), (b) the translation in English, (c) the buffalaxed lyrics (in English or Finish subtitles), and (d) the English translation of the subtitles.

© Sirpa Leppänen and Ari Häkkinen
Leppänen, Sirpa and Ari Häkkinen (2013), Buffalaxed Super-diversity: Representations of the “Other” on YouTube. Diversities, a special issue ed. by Jan Blommaert, Ben Rampton and Massimiliano Spotti. Göttingen: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity.

Benny_lava EXAMPLE 1 | Crazy Indian Video… Buffalaxed!

Lyrics: Original + Translation + Buffalax

The-Geese-of-the-Nile EXAMPLE 2 | Niilin hanhet (‘The Geese of the Nile’)

Lyrics: Original + Translation + Buffalax

Terojen-koettelemus EXAMPLE 3 | Terojen Koettelemus (‘The Trial of the Two Teros’)

Lyrics: Original + Translation + Buffalax (this video is not available in Germany)