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Jonny Quest Languages
© 2000-2007 Lyle P. Blosser
A number of fans have written regarding the use of non-English languages in Jonny
Quest, mostly wondering if the utterences issued were accurate or "mumbo-jumbo",
but occasionally offering some keen insight.
Episode-specific information may also be found in the Episode Guide (or by following
the link for the episode in the table below).
Tim Smith writes
"A number of JQ episodes take place in Chinese settings or feature Chinese characters.
In re-watching the series as an adult (who now speaks some Mandarin) I was surprised
to discover that the amazing detail of the art which I recalled so well sometimes
extended to authentic Chinese characters!
In the street scenes of the episodes Terror Island and The Quetong Missile Mystery,
some of the characters appearing on signs are legible. Although many of the signs
are indistinct or partially obscured, characters like "store", "rickshaw", "wine",
and "bank" can be read. One doorway is labeled "Technology Dept" (aside: the Chinese
characters for "technology" have the literal meaning "art of trickery"!). Inside
the Quetong (correctly pronounced "chya-tong") missile bunker, Race creeps past
a partially visible sign reading "... entrance/exit". He opens a door to find two
guards slumped over a table. The sign outside the door reads "Men's Lounge" or "Men's
Waiting Room". When Dr. Chu Sing Ling gets toasted by an electrified fence, the
Chinese on the sign reads "Danger, High Voltage, Attention". The Quetong guards
wear costumes sporting a single character that looks like an upper-case "T" with
a second, shorter horizontal bar. Although this is not itself a Chinese character,
if you switch the horizontal bars so the shorter one is on top, you have the character
"gan" which can mean "shield" (a case of artistic license?).
Bob Perman writes:
"Another ligature design
mentioned was the General Fong's "F." You can call it a symbol or whatever, but
I think the explanation is pretty simple. It's well-known that Alex Toth designed
the characters for that particular JQ episode, and Toth sometimes coupled letters
together in back-to-back mirror-image fashion to create interesting designs. On
Birdman, Toth did Reducto with double-R's. On Herculoids, he did Brotak (bubblemen
leader) with double-B's. On Samson, he did Kunev Khan with double-K's. So General
Fong's symbol is really just a double F laid back-to-back. An efficient and effective
design. In other words, classic Toth."
See the images of examples
referred to by Bob above, which he sent along
with his note.
Tim Smith continues
Unfortunately the spoken Chinese appears to be merely attempts at imitation.
Chinese languages are tone-based, and none of the Chinese in JQ is spoken with anything
like accurate tones. The Hong Kongers in Terror Island do not speak Cantonese, and
neither the Quetong inhabitants nor Charlie (the Star of Borneo's cook) appear to
be speaking Mandarin or Cantonese (although it's curious that the Quetong guards
speak in English to each other - recall that Race is once able to reply over the
walkie-talkie!). I suppose it should be no surprise that the accuracy of the spoken
Chinese does not match the written. It is much easier for artists to copy Chinese
characters than for voice actors to convincingly speak the many foreign languages
which appear in JQ.
Nonetheless, the series deserves very high marks for visual accuracy.
I wish I knew some Japanese so I could comment on Dragons
(Sumi: "Idawa! Idawa!"), but someone else will have to clear
that one up!"
Another fan wrote that the phrase spoken by the unfortunate man (who heard a noise
and investigated only to wind up being chased by a giant crab) at the beginning
of the Terror Island
episode was Chinese
for the equivalent of "Who's there?"
Non-English Languages in Jonny Quest
The following table lists Jonny Quest episodes in which a foreign language was used.
As information trickles in, I will update these entries to reflect whether the dialogue
actually used was accurate or gibberish. As always, comments are welcome.
Comments on language accuracy
The Quetong Missile Mystery
- Terror Island:
- At the beginning of the episode, a man working in what turns out to be Chu Sing
Ling's laboratory frantically calls for help on an intercom when the giant crab
escapes. There is also a small sign above the intercom with Chinese-appearing characters
- In the pedicab, Dr. Quest speaks a short phrase to the driver
- In the pedicab driven by Jonny, the driver repeats a short phrase in alarm when
Jonny looses control of the situation
- The "photo girl" at a restaurant speaks a few words to some henchman outside the
window while showing them who Dr. Quest is
- Several men questioned by Jade say a short phrase, possibly meaning something like
"I don't know"
- The guards on Moy Tu island speak a number of Chinese-sounding words as Race and
the boys upset their world, and also when the enlarged lizard rises from the waters
of the lagoon.
- The Sea Haunt:
A few phrases of Chinese (Cantonese, spoken in a Toishan accent) are spoken by Charlie,
the cook left behind on the trawler.
(contributed by Ray Young)
- In the freezer, he says "Go away! Go away! I'll chop your head off!"
- Later on deck, he says "Go away! Leave quickly! Leave quickly!"
Spoken language is mostly gibberish (there are some exceptions); the written language
seen is usually fairly accurate.
--Thanks to Tim Smith and Ray Young
Dragons of Ashida
Surmised from a few clues; spoken by Dr. Ashida, Sumi, and the
native who escaped from the dragons.
Richard Lyons wrote: I checked the subtitles
for the scenes where the servant appeared. In one scene, Dr. Ashida calls the servant
Himoki, and that is depicted in the subtitles. In the other, where you thought he
might be being called Kuru-something?, there were no subtitles. Checking further,
I discovered that whenever the foreign language (Japanese, Mandarin, or whatever)
is spoken, there are no subtitles. So, apparently Dr. Ashida is issuing a command,
not calling a name. I then checked a Japanese-English dictionary on-line, and discovered
that a possible meaning for "kuru" is "come" or "come over". So, perhaps he is commanding
Himoki to come get the Quests.
Brian (on the forum) wrote: It seems that
Ashida is Japanese. His name could be Japanese. [But] Ashida commands, "naga kazachi",
which has no meaning in Japanese and doesn't follow Japanese grammar rules. This
is also true of "naga kaihachi", another command, and "sukaka, sukai" with which
Sumi commands the lizards. Interestingly, "naga kazachi" and "naga kaihachi" do
seem to follow some kind of grammatical rule. Perhaps "chi" is a suffix. But not
Japanese. By the way, Sumi sounds like a Japanese girl's name.
Mystery of the Lizard Men
Valid Portuguese (but spoken with a Spanish accent); the exact words were hard to
decipher. They were mumbled by a character in delerium lying in a hospital after
surviving the sinking of his boat -- but appear to be as follows:
"Houve uma explosão...com uma luz vermelha mais
um lagarto marinho...voou para o barco"
In English, this is:
"There was an explosion...with a thin red light...
a sea lizard...it flew for (or came toward
or came at)
This is very close to what Roberts reported as he translated the words for Mr. Corvin.
Thanks to Paulo Brandão, a fan from
(Thanks to John Boyd)
Treasure of the Temple, Skull and Double Crossbones, The Dreadful Doll, Shadow of
- "Si" (yes) and "SeÃ±or" (Sir or mister): used by Montoya in "Treasure of the Temple",
Jose in "Skull and Double Crossbones", and Alvero in "The Dreadful Doll"
- "Â¡Arriba!" (Up!) used by "the chief" as a command to order his men to come up on
deck in "Skull and Double Crossbones".
- "Â¡RÃ¡pido!" (Fast!) used by Montoya in "Treasure in the Temple" as a command to the
natives rowing the boat as the Quests are being chased.
- Montoya in "Treasure in the Temple" on two occasions, when asked how far to the
lost city, answers with the phrase "No sabe". He is incorrectly using the third
person (i.e. "He/she does not know."). From the context, he clearly intends to say
"I don't know." which in Spanish would be "No sÃ©."
- Dr. Quest in "Shadow of the Condor" says "Adios" (goodbye) to Julio as they leave.
The Devil's Tower
Valid German phrases, accurately used by both Klaus and the cavemen:
"Kommen sie heir!" = "Come here, you!"
Attack of the Tree People
Spoken by the captain of the ship that rescued Race and Dr. Quest to his crew; exact
Treasure of the Temple
Unknown. Quite a bit of spoken language from the friendly native who helped the
Quest party escape from Perkins and Montoya.
unknown language 2
Treasure of the Temple
Unknown. Montoya spoke a rough-sounding language to the natives he was apparently
working with to prevent the Quests from reaching the lost city. This language sounded
different from the more fluid-sounding language spoken by the friendly native (see
Pursuit of the Po-Ho
Unknown. The language by the natives; both Dr. Quest and Dr. Hartman could at least
Indian language - exact tribe unknown
Werewolf of the Timberland
Unknown, although it seems likely this was not just nonsense; the words were very
distinct. This is heard when White Feather gives instructions to the wolf, Grey
One, to find Bandit.
Egyptian (or Arabic?)
Curse of Anubis
Unknown, although it seems likely this was genuine; the words were distinct and
some were repeated. This is heard mostly when the two henchmen are in pursuit of
Jonny and Hadji, but also from the men they spent some time with in the desert.
The Invisible Monster
Unknown. Just a few fragments, mere words, really, from the unlucky island dweller
who is about to meet the monster. It may have been that he was commanding his dog
(who was carrying on quite a bit at the monster's approach) to be quiet.
A Small Matter of Pygmies
Unknown. Another language from South America. This time from the pygmies encountered
by the Quests after their plane crashed in the southeastern part of Brazil. Mostly
angry words from the pygmy leader as things just did not go his way. It is not known
if these utterings were based on a real language or whether it was just gibberish
constructed for the episode.
In the episode "Double Danger", which takes place in Thailand, one of the locals
says "Ngu Haw" in Thai which means "Cobra". (Contributed
by Mitchell Jones.) This was confirmed using an online translation
engine which yielded the following result.
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