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For years, I have been, and still am, pondering about sentence which I've heard for the first time in the 1988 movie "Twins".

Geld ist Macht, und Dummheit lacht.

This is what, in the German dub, Vincent (DeVito) tells Julius (Schwarzenegger) in prison when he wants Julius to bail him out.

English original quote:

"Money talks, and bullshit walks".

I'm well aware of the meaning of the sentence insofar as language is concerned, as I'm a native speaker. However, ever since I first watched the movie, and every time I watch it again, the meaning of that quote puzzles me.

"Geld ist Macht" is not just a well-known quote, but a well-known fact, pretty obvious and needs no explanation. What's a lot less obvious is: Why does stupidity laugh?

I hope the answer isn't just "because it rhymes", that would be disappointing.

Is this thought to be an allusion to Julius who -- meeting his brother for the first time -- keeps up a broad smile? In other words, is this supposed to mean as much as "Bail me out. Geez, you're too stupid to even realize I'm making fun of you, aren't you?".
Though it's pretty obvious that Julius is neither stupid (maybe somewhat ivory-towery) nor laughing. So that doesn't seem to make sense.

There exists a passage in Eco's The Name of the Rose in which Jorge explains how laughing should be forbidden as it distorts the human face as to look like a stupid monkey. Is the quote to be understood in such a way?

Is this even a well-known proverb with a known source? (I've never heard it prior to watching that movie, and I couldn't find anything online)

  • What's the original English sentence in that scene? – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 7 '19 at 19:10
  • No idea, never seen it in English. Let me see if I find a script or a Youtube clip... – Damon Oct 7 '19 at 19:17
  • "Money talks, and bullshit walks" - youtu.be/Mw1Z2Jlp9Qw?t=144 – Damon Oct 7 '19 at 19:20
  • That's indeed a bad translation, and just placed about the rhyiming I'm afraid. Add that to you question please. – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 7 '19 at 19:22
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When dubbing a movie you always try to translate the meaning as good as possible with mouth movements matching words. That's hard enough translating simple sentences, but how do you translate proverbs etc where there is no counterpart? Let us take a look at the movie:

As you said the original quote is

Money talks, and bullshit walks

meaning

... that cheap talk will get you nowhere, while money will persuade people to do as you like.


Now we are looking for a matching proverb, but there is none. That's why they 'invented' one:

Geld ist Macht, und Dummheit lacht.

So ... what is its meaning? Long story short, from my point of view it expresses:

Money does something, Stupidity does nothing.

or

People with money do things, stupid people do nothing.

which fits Vincent's intention that he wants Julius to take out his wallet to bail him out.

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  • When dubbing a movie you always try to translate the meaning as good as possible with mouth movements matching words. - To be precise, this is the way it is done in Europe (in those countries that do dubbing at all). In the U.S. there is not much need for dubbing, and the film industy never bothered acquiring the skill for lippensynchrones dupping. In the rare cases where films are dubbed into English, the translation is quite literal, resulting in a large discrepancy between sound and lip movement, what in turn leads to the audience disapproving dubbed movies in general ... – Volker Landgraf Oct 8 '19 at 1:49
  • ... that is at least part of the reason why Hollywood often creates remakes of successful foreign-language movies (another reason is of course to have actors/actresses more familiar to the american audience). – Volker Landgraf Oct 8 '19 at 1:52

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