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Au revoir, Albert Uderzo – on Asterix in different tongues

27 March 2020

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Rakewell was saddened to hear of the death this week, at the age of 92, of Albert Uderzo, the French comic-book artist and, with Réne Goscinny, co-creator of Asterix. Having worked back through all of his old albums, seeking solace in the adventures of his favourite plucky Gauls, your correspondent then found himself deep in a rabbit hole of Asterix trivia – and not least the nominative gymnastics of those translators who have carried the little French warrior into their own languages.

While Asterix and Obelix themselves have almost always retained their own names, bar an accent here or there, other characters have tumbled into some wonderfully outlandish appellations. Here are some of Rakewell’s favourites:

Dogmatix, Asterix’s tree-loving terrier, was originally Idéfix (idée fixe) in the French – so the English is a fair rendering. But in early Greek translations, he was known as Katrulix (‘he who pees himself’). That didn’t go down so well; in later versions he is Idefix.

Getafix, the Nestorian village druid, is Panoramix (‘he who sees everything’) in the original and in most European translations. But in West Frisian, he is Crudenmix (‘spice mix’) and in Welsh, Crycymalix – a pun on arthritis.

Vitalstatistix, the chubby chieftain of Asterix’s village, has given translators plenty to chew on. In the French he is Abraracourcix (from à bras raccourcis, literally ‘with shortened arms’, but idiomatically ‘with fists flying’); in US versions, he became Macroeconomix; in Hungarian, Hasarengazfix (‘his belly surely shakes’).

Cacofonix, the discordant local crooner, was originally Assurancetourix (from assurance tous risques or ‘comprehensive insurance’). But in Scotland he has a local twist: Magonaglix, named after the doyen of doggerel, William McGonagall.

And finally, there is Bacteria, wife of the local purveyor of (usually rotten) fish, Unhygienix. In the original she was Iélosubmarine – a pun on yellow submarine.

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