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Fehler
​Subtitle Mash-up: “Hopefully the pantyhose hold up!”

Subtitles error at the austrian swearing-in ceremony
©Screenshots: Flo P Schmidt

When the special broadcast programming of the rather formal swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected government of Austria claimed the regular schedule slot of a telenovela on January 7, 2020, the unintended consequence was one of the most charming mistakes in recent television history. Due to a logistical error by the broadcaster ORF, the solemn ceremony was subtitled in the on-demand version with dialogues from the campy telenovela Alisa – Follow Your Heart. With hilarious results.

By Goethe-Institut Los Angeles

The erroneous subtitles had the Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen giving statements like “Yesterday my sister almost drowned here,” or “I'm a little tense right now. Let me have the donor list.” Viewers witnessed how the Federal President addressed Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with implausibly jovial sentences like: “Well... you... chick?” and saw how Kurz appeared to reassure Van der Bellen: “You can start here. As a waiter."

  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "You can start here. As a waiter."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "You mean, cause you're really nuts?"
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "Interested in the job as a cleaning lady after all?"
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "I hope the pantyhose holds."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "I don't want it."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "What would you name that chick."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "I'm a little exhausted. Now give me the donor list "
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "My sister almost drowned here yesterday."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "Just so this doesn't happen again, you'll get swimming lessons."
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "Mom won't mind?"
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "So nice to have all the kids under one roof!"
  • Screenshot: wrong subtitles at swearing-in ceremony of Austrian chancellor Screenshot © Flo P. Schmidt / Twitter: @FloPSchmidt
    Subtitles read: "Too bad Alisa didn't get that job."
A cornucopia of oddly fitting howlers was generated by the subtitle mix-up. So, viewers could seemingly read the reputed disappointment on Van der Bellen’s face when the oddly subtitles declared “Too bad Alisa didn’t get the job,” and “My favorite would have been Rupert.” Which Alisa? Did she run for office too? Viewers must have wondered. And who is this Rupert? There was inexplicable talk of swimming lessons and chickens according to the subtitles while Kurz actually delivered his oath of office, and the television audience was understandably excited when Van der Bellen pleaded at the podium “Hopefully the pantyhose hold up…”

On Twitter and other social media platforms, screenshots of the subtitled scenes promptly went viral and the German-speaking internet balled up with laughter at the involuntary comedy special. The ceremony may have lost some of its dignity, but, in turn, it gained an unsolicited appreciation from an audience that also was happy to forego earnest ridicule, as the entertainment value of this mishap was simply a priceless treat.

The broadcaster ORF explained the incident and apologized, slightly embarrassed, in a tweet from the press spokesman Martin Biedermann: “The ORF regrets the incident and apologizes for it.” Social media responded swiftly and sympathetically: “No problem. Thanks for the chuckles!” While it may not be exactly suitable for an official state ceremony, this crown jewel of subtitle mash-ups left us wanting more of it.

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