Wowing Donald Duck in Italian

One of my hobbies is collecting foreign-language comics featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck. These are not translations from English, but are written and published in a variety of European languages, especially Italian. Although such comics are widely retranslated and published throughout Europe, Latin America and in many other places, these characters are far more popular abroad than in the US, and only rarely are these stories translated into English.

Action comic readers are familiar with interjections and sound effects like “ugh,” “oof” “pow.” Italian Disney comic writers seem to love this sort of thing, and often include such words and sounds more or less directly borrowed from English. Since Italian is a flowing language in which words usually end in vowel sounds, the punchiness of English slang creates a powerful contrast with the surrounding vocabulary in comic strip dialogue. 

Writer Carlo Panero seems to be particularly taken by this sort of thing judging by “Paperino e il Popolo del Sole” (”Donald Duck and the People of the Sun” in Topolino issue no. 3,094, published in 2015. (“Topolino” is what Italians call Mickey Mouse.) 

Some of these are merely respellings to follow Italian patterns, like uao  for “wow” but others like burp, groan, and plop are taken directly over from English without modification, which suggests a widespread knowledge of American comic-speak.

I imagine the effect is to impart a strong American tone to the dialogue, though if Italian readers think English speakers say things like  sbonk, sgrunt, and sgurgle they are mistaken. There are plenty of English words beginning in SK- or SC- but none beginning in SB- or SG-. Sgrunt is especially common in Italian Disney comics.

But I also imagine Italian readers think these American-sounding words are funny.

Here’s an alphabetical list of all such words and sounds occurring in this single thirty-page story with translations or explanations following in parentheses. 

All I can say is “Wow!”

aaah (aaah)
ah ah ah (ha ha ha)
argh (argh, arrgh)
bla, bla, bla (bla bla bla)
burp (burp)
eh, eh (heh heh)
eh? (huh?)
gasp (gasp)
glab (gulp)
glom (gulp)
glu, glu, glu (glug, glug, glug)
glub (exclamation made when feeling dizzy)
groan (groan)
grumpf (grr)
gulp (gulp)
mumble (mumble)
plop (plop)
sbonk (bam)
sgrunt (grunt)
sgurgle (gulp?)
sob (sob)
slurp (slurp)
tsk (tsk, tisk)
uack (ducklike quacking sound of amazement, usually rendered “waak” in English)
uao (wow)
uhm (um)
urgh (oof—sound made while living heavy weight)
urgle (sound of astonishment)
yawn (yawn)

If you’d like to sample European Disney comics in English, check out IDW, which regularly publishes selected stories originally written in Italian, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, and several other languages.

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