e.g. 'Mister Potter'

Shouldn't this have been 'Herr Potter'?

Is this a modern thing, English dubbed into German thing or...?

  • First of all, "Mister" has also its entry in the Duden. Secondly, titles, nicknames, etc. are rarely translated.
    – Em1
    May 29, 2012 at 10:13
  • Side-note: Spock from Star Trek is usually referred to as "Mr. Spock" in German. LLAP
    – splattne
    May 29, 2012 at 11:21
  • 3
    Since not everybody reads Harry Potter, it might be a good idea to tell us, how they translated it instead. From Em1s comment, I conclude, they didn't translate it at all. It's unclear from the question. May 29, 2012 at 12:26
  • I did. Sorry if it is not clear. They left it as 'Mister Potter' May 29, 2012 at 19:58
  • The film (Order of the Phoenix), not sure about the books May 29, 2012 at 19:59

2 Answers 2


"Mister" is usually not translated, especially not in movies. Same is true for "Sir" (for what we do not have a real equivalent in German; "mein Herr" would come into mind).

The main problem in movie dubbing is to speak lip-synchronously. "Herr" has one syllable, your mouth stays open while speaking. "Mister" has two syllables and your lips close for the "M"-sound. It would be awkward to see "Mister" and hear "Herr".

So if the dubbing people have a easy possibility to avoid this problem, they will use it.

Over the years we got so used to the English forms of address, that probably most books do not translate it either. Out of my head, I cannot say if the translated books I have, use "Mister" or "Herr". But I've picked five books randomly from my shelf and all use "Mister" instead of "Herr". You see, I do not even recognize it any more.

  • 1
    I agree: Practical considerations and the fact that we got used to it are probably the main reasons. In some cases I also think it would just sound silly, especially if the story takes place in an obviously English speaking country - Harry Potter is a point in case. I also remember seeing "Eyes Wide Shut", where Tom Cruise stands in front of the closed gates and gets passed a letter through the bars. There's a close-up - and I remember feeling the illusion shatter around me: The letter was adressed to "Herrn Harford" - instant, though unintentional, metafictionality :)
    – Mac
    May 29, 2012 at 11:39
  • 1
    How do we know whether the question is about the movie or the book? Because it has been in TV recently? This should be clarified in the quesion, I think, since a) not everybody knows the TV-program b) In few weeks nobody new to the discussion will remember, whether it was in TV at that date. But for the translation of the book, synchronization aspects won't play a role. May 29, 2012 at 12:32
  • @userunknown: I guess you missed my last paragraph. My point is that people are so used to "translate" Mister with Mister (because of movies/TV) that they also do it in books. May 29, 2012 at 15:22
  • No, I didn't missed it, but from position in the text and the content, it looked more as a sidenote to me. You don't even mention "Harry Potter" being one of your books. Beside that, I find failed logic in your reasoning. If you didn't recognize the use of "Mister", maybe because there is no "Mister". Maybe you would have recognized it, if you had read it. Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. May 29, 2012 at 15:31
  • @userunknown: true, therefore I fixed that part. May 29, 2012 at 17:51

I have neither read the books, nor seen the movies, so I can only guess:

They wanted to keep a British flavour to the original, and therefore stayed with "mister" instead of using "Herr". This is quite common in dubbed movies, e.g. in Matrix the translators chose to keep "Mr Anderson" for agent Smith addressing Neo.

That said, especially movie and TV series dubbing often is bad. The Simpsons in particular are infamous in that respect, and another vivid example is the dubbing of "Alice in Wonderland", that I have seen on TV recently ("Farewell" => "Fahre wohl" instead of "Leb wohl", "wonderful" => "wundervoll" instead of "wunderbar").

  • Könntest Du mir den Unterschied zwischen "wunderbar" und "wundervoll" erklären? May 29, 2012 at 10:42
  • @JohnSmithers "wunderbar" wird häufiger verwendet als "wundervoll", somit hielt ich fälschlicherweise "wundervoll" für einen Anglizismus (analog zu "Sinn machen", "weil" + Hauptsatz statt "denn"). books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Residuum
    May 29, 2012 at 11:29
  • Und was ist an "fahre wohl" falsch? May 29, 2012 at 12:33
  • 1
    @userunknown: "Farewell" ist ein ganz normaler, idiomatischer Ausdruck, auch heute noch. Bei "fahre wohl" ist das definitiv nicht der Fall ... außer vielleicht, wenn man billig eine pseudomittelalterliche Atmosphäre schaffen will :)
    – Mac
    May 29, 2012 at 13:03
  • 2
    @Mac: "billige pseudomittelaterliche Atmosphäre" sind gar garstge Worte, werter Herr! Mir dünkt ihr weilet noch nie auf Mittelatermärkten oder Tafelrunden des Rollenspiel, auf dass ihr abgehärtet werdet! (oder so ähnlich).
    – 0x6d64
    May 29, 2012 at 13:07

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