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What can “(sesame)” mean in subtitles of “Sing” (an animated movie)? It's the scene where sad Buster Moon is walking over his destroyed theater.

This moment (no words being said):

enter image description here

MW says:

1 : a widely cultivated chiefly tropical or subtropical annual erect herb (Sesamum indicum of the family Pedaliaceae) also : its small seeds used especially as a source of oil and a flavoring agent

2 : open sesame

Obviously it's not #1.

Definition of open sesame

: something that unfailingly brings about a desired end

Since subtitles describe what's happening on the screen, I still can't get the idea.

Maybe, it's just a typo? Something like 'The same' or another phrase? If no one else sees no sense as myself, it's an answer too—at least, it's not anything I should understand.

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  • And what do the subtitles say?
    – Jim
    Oct 29 at 16:10
  • Hi @Jim, I've uploaded a screenshot, this is full text.
    – Shtole
    Oct 29 at 17:11
  • Given the picture and the circumstances, I would suspect it of being the character's thoughts and that it is a minced oath for "Shit!"
    – Greybeard
    Oct 29 at 19:11
  • Without seeing the scene, it's anyone's guess whether it's a typo (must be) or not. Verdict: typo. Oct 29 at 23:30
  • Brackets are sometimes used in subtitles for things said offscreen or in songs for words sung by backing singers. They are also sometimes used to identify the speaker. Whether any of these makes sense, you'd have to watch and see.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 1 at 11:39

1 Answer 1

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It would be best if you could include some of the subtitles that use this term.

But here is a good explanation from Literature SE:

Most likely from the Hebrew word "סיסמה", which translates to "password".

The pronunciation of the word out loud is (approximately, going off information a native speaker told me) "seez-ma" or "sees-ma".

Now this provokes the question:

In the story, Ali Baba's brother became trapped in the cave and couldn't get out. He did try other grains though... If the phrase was originally something like "password" or "password for opening" (literally), why would he guess other grains?

However, it turns out that tale wasn't originally in The 1001 Nights. It was first seen in a French translation by Antoine Galland.

Galland claimed that he heard the folk tale in Aleppo, Syria. However, some scholars argue that Galland made up the story himself,

since no documentation of the story in old Arabic records has ever been found. It does not appear in the oldest copy of "The Thousand and One Nights," which is an Arabic manuscript from the 14th century. In "One Thousand and One Nights," the storyteller Scheherazade tells "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" to her husband, the Persian king Shahryar.

(source)

TL;DR: Galland claimed it's a Syrian tale, but it's most likely he made it up. It's not in the oldest version, plus the making-it-up explains the other grains.

If he made it up, it's most likely that "סיסמה" (seesma) became "sesame".

It needs to be noted, however, that the phonetic similarity to "sez-uh-me"/"says-me" has long been harnessed by writers (and jokesters) to add a little "spice" to dialogs. And the similarity to "see-same" is perhaps even more popular with jokesters.

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  • Hi @Hot Licks, I've uploaded a screenshot with exactly the moment. It's just “(sesame)” with no additional context. All subs before and after are absolutely understandable. They are either dialogs or something like “(coughing)”, “(panting)” etc.
    – Shtole
    Oct 29 at 17:10
  • That's interesting. When I was a child, never having heard of the sesame plant, I assumed that 'Open sesame' was just a word like 'Abracadabra'; then I read a version of 'Ali Baba' in which other grains are mentioned and realised that it did refer to sesame seeds. Oct 29 at 17:10
  • Good explanation of why open sesame unlocks a secret. And why in this scene? Oct 29 at 23:32
  • From Wiki: (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoine_Galland) "For instance, there are no Arabic manuscripts of Aladdin and Ali Baba, the so-called "orphan tales", which pre-date Galland's translation. Galland had in turn heard these tales from the Syrian storyteller Hanna Diyab." Diyab was a Maronite Christian, so a question arises as to why a Hebrew word would be used. The Arabic, السمسم, is pronounced, alsimsam, which is perhaps close enough. Galland spoke Arabic - perhaps he was frenchifying it.
    – Greybeard
    Nov 28 at 20:37

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