Off topic: For fun: \'upside-down\' glossary (how NOT to translate something!)
Thread poster: Domenica Grangiotti

Domenica Grangiotti  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
English to Italian
+ ...
Dec 6, 2002

This is just for fun, to end a very tiring Friday in a lighter tone.

I though it might be fun to create a sort of \'upside-down\' glossary, i.e. how NOT to translate something, what something does NOT mean!

The idea came to my mind on thinking about the 11 years I worked for a huge multinational Company that chose English as lingua franca, so that everybody could speak to everybody else.

Just imagine the funny (to say the least) language I heard/ read.

Two umparalleled pieces of NON-English:

* Champions of the series:

the Italian was campioni, meaning prototypes, of course - not champions!

* Ethernet mixed up with Eternit (asbestos): the Managing Director stated very firmly that he was not going to allow anything illegal in the Company, because everybody knew that Eternit was very dangerous! while all we were trying to do was looking for an alternative to CANBUS!

Terrifying, isn\'t it?

Do you have anything similar to share?

Unfortunately, as far as know, the authors of these two \'pearls\' are still out there \'managing\' the Company.

Enjoy a wonderful weekend, you all.


Radek Podolski

Local time: 15:49
English to Polish
+ ...
EN > PL traps Dec 6, 2002


we have several of those, 2 most famous are:

1. eventually -> ewentualnie, but that actually means \"finally\"

2. actually -> aktualnie, but that actually means \"presently\"


PS. under no circumstances one should mix up defection defection and defecation icon_wink.gif


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:49
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
The Bowels of the Earth Dec 6, 2002

This is a poetic or literary (but never technical) expression meaning deep underground.

\"Bowels\", of course, usually means something quite different.

Someone I know once transcribed an item from a radio Moscow news bulletin as follows:

\"The bowels of Krasnoyarsk Territory produce 2,000,000 cubic metres of natural gas a day.\"


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Carlos the Czech woman for Deep Dec 7, 2002

was what a computer-translated motocross website gave for \"Carlos Checa para Honda...\"


schmurr  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Italian to German
+ ...
...and then there is Dec 7, 2002



Libero_Lang_Lab  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:49
Member (2006)
Russian to English
+ ...
Jack - that's a classic Dec 7, 2002

A friend of mine, when we were studying for the year in Russia in 1990 got involved in the production a student review, taking charge of the set design. Her Russian wasn\'t as good as it is now. Things weren\'t going well with the preparations, and she was in a bad mood. With raised voice, she demanded that the Russian set designers show her the backdrops - or that\'s what she thought she was asking. What she probably should of said was something along the lines of: \"pokazhite mne zadniki\". Instead she opted for: \"pokazhite mne zadnitsi\" - which translates loosely as: \"show me your backsides\". This caused a certain amount of confusion.


GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish, too Dec 10, 2002


On 2002-12-06 20:49, raad wrote:

we have several of those, 2 most famous are:

1. eventually -> ewentualnie, but that actually means \"finally\"

2. actually -> aktualnie, but that actually means \"presently\"

Curiously, these are problems in SpanishEnglish, too. The first has a different meaning than in Polish, while the second is the same.

1) eventual, eventualmente in Spanish refers to something that might possibly happen in the future. This can make a mistranslated sentence mean the opposite of what it is supposed to, since in English, something that will happen \"eventually\" is a slow but sure thing.

2) actual, actualmente in Spanish is current, currently.


Kay Fisher (X)
German to English
+ ...
on the subject of stage directions... Dec 13, 2002

I\'m currently helping out on the backstage staff of an austrian operette (in Austria, so in the original German). This morning I was looking through the stage directions and realised that someone has not only provided a translation of the first song into english, but has also attempted to translate the stage directions (or maybe someone else did the stage directions as the song translation is passable). Try these for size:

dubious translation: \"A map in his hand\"

The character in question is arriving home from the stock exchange; why might he be carrying a map? because... the German original states \"Eine Mappe im Arm\" (a \"Mappe\" is a folder or file, not a map).

In the middle of a long piece of (instrumental) music there is a cue for the character to sing \"after former comment\". Or is there? Nobody is singing or talking at this point. Eh??? Double checking the original German you get something completely different \"nach vorne kommend\" i.e. \"moving forward\". He\'s supposed to sing while moving to the front of the stage. Unless he\'s singing in english in which case he waits for a non-existant spoken cue.

I didn\'t get past the first song, can\'t wait for more howlers to show up...


PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
English to Polish
+ ...
actually... Dec 13, 2002

actually, there is another direct translation danger which will eventually cause someone embarrassment somewhere:

preservatives in English is what you add to jam so it doesn\'t go bad. prezerwatywa in Polish means \"condom\". So this one is only dangerous going EN > PL.

now, going the other way, there is \"profilaktyczny\", which in Polish is used for describing preventive actions, medicines etc.

but when you say \"prophylactic\"... you end up a certain creek without a paddle.

I don\'t know. These just came to my mind on a frosty Warsaw Friday morning.


Gillian Scheibelein  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:49
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
how offal Feb 8, 2003

In an article dealing with waste disposal that had been written in English by a Hungarian researcher working in Germany:

Household refuse collected from the city offal was sorted......

Offal? The poor chap had obviously wanted to look up Innenstadt (city centre) in a dictionary and had looked up Innereien (offal) instead. And the title: Sorting of City Offal Waste!


Nicole Tata  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:49
English to German
+ ...
Lucky Pig Tomatoes Feb 8, 2003

Has anyone else come across this howler? It is machine translation, of course. Input the German ‘Glücksautomaten’ (gaming/slot machines) and all it takes is for the compound word to be split in the wrong place: Glück-sau-tomaten = Lucky pig tomatoes!!

And on the subject of machine translation, I came across a ‘square meter responsible’ in a text on quality management, and couldn’t make any sense of it. You guessed it, the original German was ‘QM-Verantwortlicher’. Nothing at all to do with Quadratmeter!!

Keep digging them up.




Katherine Zei  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
Italian to English
+ ...
Intractable-intrattabile Mar 11, 2003

The English word intractable has very little to do with the Italian \"intrattabile\".

If a person is intrattabile in Italian, it means they have a bad attitude. Intractable macroeconomic problems however happen quite frequently.

I once received a ten-minute tongue-lashing from an Italian ex-boss who thought he knew English well enough to teach it to a native speaker. He derided me on my use of the word intractable, before i photocopied the page in the Oxford dictionary and left it on his desk.

Note that he is an ex-boss...


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:49
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Impregnable, unbearable and inconceivable. Mar 11, 2003

There is a joke about a foreigner in England who wanted to tell someone that his wife was unable to have children. He tried:

\"My wife is unbearable\" (unable to bear children?)

When this was not understood, he said:

\"My wife is impregnable\" (unable to become pregnant?)

Still no luck, so as a last attempt, he said:

\"My wife is inconceivable\" (cannot conceive?)

But actually, \"unbearable\" means she is so horrible that he can\'t stand her; \"impregnable\" means there\'s no way of getting in (usually applied to a fortress or something of that sort); and \"inconceivable\" means she is so weird that you just couldn\'t imagine what she is like.


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For fun: \'upside-down\' glossary (how NOT to translate something!)

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