In the original "Back to the Future" movie, Doc has his famous "1.21 Gigawatts" scene. But I noticed today that the French version actually is translated "2,21 Gigawatts" (deux virgule vingt et un Gigawatts).

I have two minor arguments for lip syncing : In the French version doc actually pronounce "Gigowatts", so exactitude was not a main worry for the translation team. Also, the French wikipedia page mention that it was a lip syncing problem, but the cited sources make no mention of this. So no definitive proof.

in short : Was this change made solely for lip syncing ?

EDIT : To be clear, I am talking about the change of value from 1.21 to 2.21. The change of the dot to the comma is normal in French

  • 1
    I used "," here because the actor actually pronounce "virgule" in the french version But the question here is for the change of value, from 1.21 to 2.21 Gigawatts
    – Edelk
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 17:59
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    Yeah, just to clarify the question as the first two comments hook up at the comma: Given the transcript is correct, he literally says "two comma twenty and one Gigawatts", i.e. 2,21 GW, which is a) the common continental notation (with comma instead of point) and b) a different value. The question is solely about b). Great find, btw! Looking forward to see the answers. Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 18:59
  • 4
    Per the (French) BTTF wiki; "For lip sync reason, the French DeLorean requires an extra jigowatt to travel through time-- 2.21 gigawatts"
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 21:24
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    I'm not sure why anybody would think "deux" is a better lipsync match for "one" than "un" would be.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 22:02
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    For clarity's sake, I'd pick one decimal presentation for the question and remove the edit note - it's clearly distracting from the point.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


Purely for lip-sync.

Deux is closer to the lip form of one (the mouth shape is actually almost identical between deux and the first part of one).

Not sure how they managed to lipsync "virgule" with "dot" tho :))

As for the "Gigowatts" there is a lot of speculation even on the English version. Doc reads it as Jiga-watt, a j sound, which is considered acceptable just like GIF but is a strongly debated subject, mostly since GIGA is a common magnitude factor (unlike GIF which is an acronym created by someone who called it "J"IF himself) that is normally read with a hard G.

Many believe that Back to the future was trying to bring a unit that sounded both big and correct (watt) but without actually being correct so that it remained pure fiction. If that is true, the translation of Gigawatt to Gigowatt in French could be for the same reason (since in french it would be read with as Jigawatt anyway). Would be interesting to see if they also did something like that in other languages; it could confirm the "fake unit" theory that many believe.

  • 1
    Do you have any source for the lip sync part ? I tend to agree with it, but I still sounds a bit strange
    – Edelk
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 9:26
  • I've always assumed that Christopher Lloyd mispronounced "gigawatts" because the unit prefix "giga-" got very little use in regular English until consumer electronics started to feature storage in the gigabyte range, and his pronunciation mirrors that of common English words that begin with "g-" (like "gigantic" and "gym"). Yes, other words begin with a hard "g," but I doubt Lloyd or anybody else spent more than 10 seconds mulling the pronunciation of the word. At best, he considered a few cases that came to him immediately, made a decision, and moved on.
    – Tom
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 4:26

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