A little language humour – because translators aren’t all the same…
Perhaps not quite as the author intended?
Language humour is a funny thing, and we think you may enjoy the following fine examples of the translator’s art… If you see others you’d like to share with us, please drop us a line at Share your language humour
We’ll be updating this fine selection occasionally, so do drop by again… meanwhile but in the why not check these out?
- Today’s is a throwaway society, but we were surprised at a European translation agency’s claim: “OUR TRANSLATORS ARE DISPOSABLE WORLDWIDE…” Not a career with prospects then!
- Do you know the Latvian for strikes, boycotts and lock-outs? “Streiki”, “boikoti” and “lokauti” True!
- And we also winced at a German sales brochure, offering: “Our garage doors will raise your eyebrows…” – Ouch!
- Spanish tourism is catching the trend for spicier holidays, with a tourist map offering: “For those who love to be close to nature the camping guide will fulfil their desire” – excitable race, the Spanish!
- And this excerpt from a French travel brochure is worth reading: “[the town] finds her rest only well after midnight, fully decided in having a share in all of life’s jubilations, hoping never to let fall a crumb along the wayside” – sounds like quite a place!
- Back-translating some Arabic (not ours!) for an aerospace manufacturer, we were pleased to correct references to “the pit where cocks fight”. Yes, they meant the cockpit…
- Still up in the air, a translation of a Czech pilot training manual assures that “the rubber pedals will yaw the plane left and right”. Our pilots insist on rudder pedals , which give better control.
- Back on the ground, some new sportswear boasts “This item… with his particular structure, prevents wind from going through” – a feature doubtless welcomed by fellow gym users! Thanks Angela!
- But you don’t have to be “foreign”: seen in a UK TV mag; “… our chef will be preparing lime and lemon mouse…” Crunchy…
- The jaw-breaking “Spaghettis with clamps” was on offer in a Spanish restaurant – we hear the maitre d’ arranges dental appointments for the right tip…
- Another restaurant colourfully offers “rape in the sailor’s style” – but don’t panic, “rape” is in fact Spanish for “monkfish”. It’s usually important to translate ALL the words… Thanks to Mar Brotons for this!
- Still on the subject of eating, we were delighted to find “sausage shaped dogfood” translated as “food for sausage shaped dogs“. “I’m just going to roll Fido before supper, dear…“
- Restaurants continue to serve up delight – Victoria Crompton e-mailed us this unappetising gem spotted by a friend on an English menu while dining in China: “prawns in their own urine”… research revealed the original meaning was “prawns in brine” …
- These immortal words on a donkey ride advert in Thailand:- “WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?”
- This heartfelt sentiment greets you in a Moscow hotel room: “If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.” (this one’s showing its age a bit, but there’s no point Russian these things…)
- Husbands beware the laundry in Rome, which offers: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.“
- Reassuringly the skilled translator can still achieve wonders with a good dictionary. A tailor in Rhodes recommends you “Order your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict order.” Apparently they don’t get many complaints – or repeat orders…
- If you fancy a naughty weekend under canvas in Germany, be warned: “ IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.”
- Further limiting campers’ enjoyment, another Black Forest site warns “The playing with big balls is prohibited inside the Place.” – thanks to Peter Dean of Leeds for passing this on…
- More open-mindedly, a Swiss hotel advises guests: “BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE.”
- A Scottish country sports website shared this one – “wildlife stalking” (using hunting skills to get close to eg deer) translated as “harassment of animals.” – always make sure you understand the subject before you translate it!
- And finishing on the fly, a Copenhagen airline ticket office boasts: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”
Finally, the following merits mention…
- A new customer shared with us his attempt to contact a business in China. On calling the number, he heard an answering m/c in Chinese, and a beep. He left a message, but got no reply. Again he called, with the same result. This continued over subsequent weeks, running-up an extensive bill. Eventually he found himself with a Chinese speaker, and called once more. He was discomfited to learn the distant voice was advising “We are sorry, but that number is not recognised”.