Tellah: You spoony bard!
Bard: No, wait!
"You spoony bard!" is likely the most famous phrase in the Final Fantasy series. It was, ironically, spawned upon an unsuspecting world almost entirely by accident due to mistranslation in the first North American version of Final Fantasy IV. The line is used at what is otherwise supposed to be a dramatic high point -- Tellah's attack on Edward, the "bard" with whom his daughter has run off without his permission.
The how and why
Long story short, Dark Knight Cecil Harvey has been expelled from his post as captain of Baron's Royal Air Force, the Red Wings. He's been sent to deliver something to the remote village of Mist with his buddy Kain Highwind, but it becomes obvious that what they've been sent to deliver was intended to destroy the village and the people, who can summon monsters at will, who live there. Cecil and Kain try to rescue a little girl, Rydia, who attacks them and causes an earthquake. When Cecil regains consciousness, the girl is with him but Kain is gone. He brings her to the nearby village of Kaipo so she can rest, then protects her against Baronian palace guards who show up to kill her. Moved by his heroism, she begins to trust him.
While in Kaipo, Cecil learns that his girlfriend, Rosa, has followed him there and has become ill with the Sand Fever. The ailment has only one cure, which can be found in one cave that only members of a local royal family can enter. Cecil and Rydia set out towards said kingdom in an attempt to convince the royals to help them find the cure. On their way, they meet Tellah, an old man who is very wise and skilled in both black and white magic. He agrees to help them, as he is also on his way to Damcyan. His daughter, Anna, has run off in that direction with the apparently no-good ruffian she'd been dating because Tellah didn't approve of their union.
After successfully navigating the Watery Pass, Tellah, Cecil and Rydia arrive at Damcyan only to see it attacked by the Red Wings. They rush into the castle to find Anna mortally wounded, her love by her side. Tellah flies into a rage and begins attacking the bard, whose cries for help go unheeded.
In the heat of this intense and dramatic moment, Tellah snarls "You spoony bard!" and the rest is history.
But... what does that mean?
For starters, it is a widely accepted fact that the first English translation of Final Fantasy IV was really, really awful. Among other (less famous) gems are "You must have been used by the Baron while you were amnesiac" and "Surely. But against you, Cecil!" The translation was so horrid that a few enterprising gamers took it upon themselves to get their hands on the Japanese version of the game and then translate it into English themselves. In this translation, which can probably still be found online, "You spoony bard!" has been replaced with "You son of a bitch," a far more suitable phrase given the emotion involved in the scene.
"Spoony" is, much to the surprise of many, a real word. It is usually defined as "foolish" or, by others, "weakly sentimental." It has also been suggested by some that its Japanese equivalent relates more to physical weakness, a description that fits Edward to a tee. But, as later events in the game indicate, Edward is also extremely sentimental and is prone to emotional weakness just as much as he is physically weak. In this light, "you spoony bard!" may not even be seen as a mistranslation at all.
A cult classic
SquareSoft rereleased Final Fantasy IV (along with Chrono Trigger) for Playstation in 2001. One of the highlights of this rerelease was a brand spanking new translation, complete with proper grammar and sentences that actually made sense. Fans approached the scene in which Tellah attacks Edward with some trepidation; the line had been part of the FFIV mystique for 10 years by this point. Would the game still have its unique charm with whatever they'd changed it to?
As it turned out, it would. Because when the fateful moment came, Edward was still a spoony bard.
Nintendo and Square, now named SquareEnix, also collaborated for another rerelease in 2005. Final Fantasy IV Advance was released for the Game Boy Advance system and featured, among other goodies, an additional dungeon that was unlocked after the game's completion. It too was also retranslated from the original Japanese, but was in fact a different (and, some said, superior) translation from the Playstation version. Once again, fans held their breath, but the line remained unchanged. It is obviously too much of a classic to do away with. It even makes an appearance in Final Fantasy IV DS.
locke baron says re you spoony bard!: In the Nintendo DS version, not only do they keep the "spoony" line, but the Developers' Office area, someone lampshades it - "but the bard was spoony - we checked!" (Thanks!)
But how did the original translators arrive at 'spoony?'
No one knows for sure, but it's believed that the original Japanese had Tellah talking to Edward using one of the rudest Japanese terms for "you." "Kisama" is often translated directly as "You son of a bitch" or "You bastard" because of this. What does this have to do with Edward being a tad oversensitive? Only the original translators know that for sure...
You don't even want to know how much I love this game...