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This is from the movie Dunkirk's dialogue. The translator translates 'The enemy had something to say about it' into 'Calais fell to the enemy' in Korean.

As I understand the phrase 'have something to say about it', it means that a speaker wants to say something to a certain person. Why did the phrase translate into 'collapse'?

You've missed it.
You've missed it.
Is that the last one?
Aye, sir.
Break the line.
Come on! Come on!
[Collins]
Dunkirk's so far. Why can't they just load at Calais?
[Fortis Leader] The enemy had something to say about it.
[Collins] Ah, down here we're sitting ducks.
[Fortis Leader]
Keep 'em peeled. They'll come out of the sun.
[sailor]
Up the line.

Original image of dialogue

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The words in the original script are an example, inserted by the scriptwriters, of the 'British understatement' and 'stiff upper lip' stereotypes. These were possibly more accurate in 1940 than they are now.

The stiff upper lip ethos meant that British people, when things got bad, or very bad (as they often did) during the war, did not start wailing and crying and proclaiming emotionally how bad things were. They quietly got on with their jobs.

You can consider 'the enemy had something to say about the British Army using Calais as an evacuation port' to mean 'the enemy has taken action to prevent the British Army using Calais as an evacuation port, including surrounding a whole brigade of British troops there, killing 300 of them, and occupying the port'. It's a form of stoical understatement. I imagine it might be tricky to translate the exact implied meaning of the words used into languages of other cultures.

Consider the following:

Son: I want to take the family car out with my friends to buy beer and then go to a party 50 miles away.

His sister: I think Dad might have something to say about that.

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  • Thank you very much for an explanation. German wants to give a message to England with bombing the port.. I need to search the background thoroughly..Thank you! May 29, 2022 at 13:16
  • @jungwonkim - not exactly. The Germans didn't want to 'give a message'. They wanted to occupy the port. May 29, 2022 at 13:42

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