Yesterday I was out with some friends and we were talking about the power of music in movies. I couldn’t tell you what we were listening to, but we all agreed it’d make a great chase scene or fleeing-fro-your-demons music.
And then we came upon the topic of silent movies. Whereupon I learned that in Spanish they are called, peliculas mudas, which had I not known otherwise, I’d have translated as mute films.
The difference between muteness and silence to me in English is somewhat volitional. Our actors in silent movies, could talk, but prefer not to. Spanish-thinking (not speaking) actors are struck aphasic, unable to utter a sound. But in Spanish when someone berates you, or you decide to say nothing in the face of adversity, “me quedé muda” translates as I didn’t say anything, not I couldn’t say anything.
Prone to linguistic and lexical geekery as I am, I’ve spent many of my recent awake hours thinking about the difference between muteness and silence as I perceive them, and also the difference between quedarse mudo and guardar silencio. And then what occurred to me (somewhat late perhaps) was that in fact, people in silent movies are speaking, we just can’t hear them. Which makes them neither silent nor mute. Just unheard. Which is totally different.
Now I’m curious what they’re called in other languages, with translations, please. Whatcha got?
No help on the other languages help, but what of selective mutism?