HAVE you ever been to Walsall? It sits on the Vistula and more than 2.5m people live in and around it.

Its historic centre is even a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Doesn’t sound like the Walsall you know, despite, as we can all agree, it being the jewel in the crown of the West Midlands.

Well you’re right – and reader Lorrayne Smith spotted why.

When out watching the football in the pub Lorrayne saw the subtitles changing the capital of Euro 2012 host nation Poland from Warsaw to the birthplace of Cum on Feel The Noize hollerer Noddy Holder – the above mentioned Walsall.

It’s not just the odd typo – she also spotted the standard phrase Dear Oh Dear mangled down to Dear Odia which sounds more like a letter to a centurion’s wife.

But how do the subtitles get written?

Pre-recorded subtitles are done before transmission and appear in time with the programme.

Live subtitles on the news etc are made by a stenographer typing words phonetically as they listen to a show. There is also a speech recognition software package which turns someone’s words into subtitles as they’re spoken into a microphone.

And this appears to be where the problems occur.

There are now countless sites on the web chronicling the shortcomings of the subtitling system with examples ranging from the unusual to the downright bizarre.

Even Examiner columnist Barry Gibson got on in the act a few weeks ago, snapping a caption on the Beeb rather than a subtitle – but it appears someone’s mind was somewhere else.

The aforementioned caption suggested there were to be ‘navel cuts’ and was accompanied by footage of some sort of ironclad seagoing craft.

I can imagine them at the MOD, moustaches all a-quiver, as the news comes through: “Sir, the Treasury has demanded a 30% cut in belly buttons.’’

“The troops won’t have it, lad, you hear me, they just won’t wear it! A British belly button is as much a part of this army as shiny shoes and wearing a helmet with grass sticking out of it.’’

Subtitles are designed primarily for the deaf and hard of hearing but out of the 7.5m people who use subtitles on a regular basis, about 6m have no hearing problems.

Another common use for subtitles appears to be for those learning English as a second language.

But, having the experiences we’ve had above I’m not sure that subtitles would be suitable at all.

“Hello there can I get a Twix and a copy of the Examiner please?’’

“Yes twins and eggs, ham in peas.’’


“You have a sore E?’’

“No, I just want a chocolate bar’’ and on we go, no doubt ending in fork handles.

Subtitles have become sexy in recent years. I use the term sexy in the media way – so stenographers, stop going red!

The rise of foreign dramas such as The Killing and Borgen have changed the way these humble words are thought of.

Who would have thought that reading while watching the telly could have been interesting?

It’s amazing how to begin with the subtitles are intrusive but after about 15 minutes you forget they’re there and you forget you’re reading them. I was convinced I spoke Danish after watching the first series of The Killing.

Can we extend subtitles further after their recent triumphs? EastEnders would be first up for me.

But here’s one for the BBC execs to chew on ... how about we put subtitles on the radio!