Foreign media were as horrified as American media at the chaos of Tuesday’s first presidential debate, and one paper in particular — Japan’s Asahi Shimbun — even took the time to translate “shitshow.”
That was the not-so-delicate term chosen by CNN anchor Dana Bash to describe the showdown between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden.
The Asahi Shimbun, widely regarded as one of Japan’s most respected broadsheet newspapers, ran a live blog highlighting notable moments in the debate. As of Thursday, the blog was headlined “The Worst Debate in History,” and CNN’s comments were included to represent media opinion. The paper translated “shitshow” as “kuso mitai na shō” — literally, “a show that is like shit.”
Saori Ibuki, a reporter for BuzzFeed Japan who previously interned at the Japanese edition of HuffPost, shared this translation on Twitter, as well as a glimpse at how Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, aired the chaotic debate for local audiences.
“People in Japan who watched it on NHK ... had to watch three men shout over each other while three interpreters interpreted over each other simultaneously,” she wrote in response to another tweet of a New York Times story from Friday headlined, ”‘I Feel Sorry for Americans’: A Baffled World Watches the U.S.”
A number of voices responded to Ibuki’s tweets, which went viral.
Some argued that the overly literal “shitshow” translation failed to communicate the nature of the debate and offered more creative alternative translations, such as “a festival of shit.”
Others pointed out that the interpreters on NHK were still using relatively formal Japanese and not quite communicating the tension that existed between Trump and Biden on stage.
The Asahi Shimbun translation of “shitshow” was included in a Politico story that rounded up debate stories from various news outlets around the globe.
Germany’s public broadcaster Deutsche Welle deliberated over the word “clusterfuck,” another term used to describe the debate, and defined it as “a complex and utterly disordered and mismanaged situation: a muddled mess,” according to Politico.