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Argentina's dubbing decree praised and also parodied

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina--Argentines call popcorn “pochoclo,” but you wouldn't know that watching television here, where many shows are made in the U.S. and come dubbed by actors with Mexican or Spanish accents who call it “palomitas.”

In a bid to recover part of Argentina's lost cultural heritage, create more jobs and stir up nationalist pride in an election year, President Cristina Fernandez has decreed that certain broadcast TV shows must be dubbed instead into Argentina's lyrical brand of Spanish, though stipulating the language must be “neutral” enough for all Latin Americans to understand.

The move won praise from Argentine film director Carlos Mentasti, whose most recent hit, “A Chinese Tale,” beautifully captures a Buenos Aires culture clash. He complains that something important is lost when kids grow up listening to voice-overs that sound nothing like how their families and neighbors talk.

“Impregnated by television and videogames, Argentine kids often use, from a very young age, words that aren't part of our idiosyncrasy,” Mentasti said. “That's why supporting everything that's ours when it comes to culture is always positive.”

That hasn't stopped the move from being lampooned on social media around Latin America, playing on the stereotype that Argentines consider themselves more European and therefore superior to all their neighbors.

The Argentine way of speaking is highly distinctive, especially when served up in the “porteno” accent that instantly marks people from the nation's capital. Spanish here was heavily influenced by the waves of European immigrants who arrived in South America a century ago, and Argentines still employ grammatical constructions considered a bit archaic in many other Latin American countries.

A page for parodies on Facebook, fed by Twitter with the hashtag #doblajesargentinos, has earned 60,000 likes as people invent new Argentine subtitles for classic movie scenes. For example, while “Play it again, Sam” in Casablanca, directly and neutrally translated, might be expressed as “Tocala de nuevo, Sam,” someone suggested that Argentine dubbers would employ an off-color chant crowds shout at rock concerts to encourage bands to play an encore.

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