Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Nov 26, 2009

When in Rome, Sweden and Tokyo, if you translate a phrase from dictionary, wait and watch for a few seconds..... and then run for your life !!

Funny Translation Errors !

If you're reading this page, you may also be interested in Yahoo's  realtime machine translator at

Apart from its numerous practical uses (for instance, translating the only page that met your search criteria, but which happened to be in Portuguese), the most entertaining use of it is to translate text to another language and back. For example, the following table shows the results of translating "the linguistic fun page", a pretty straightforward, idiom-free phase:

For today's post for my blog I tried to translate from English: Welcome to my blog , titled " post card from deepak" into different languages.

The results make me instantly happy :

  • French: Bienvenue à mon blog, intitulé " ; carte postale de deepak" ;
  • Spanish: Recepción a mi blog, titulado " postal del deepak"
  • German: Willkommen zu meinem Blog, betitelt " Postkarte vom deepak"
  • Portugese: Boa vinda a meu blogue, intitulado " cartão do deepak"
  • Italian: Benvenuto al mio blog, nominato " cartolina da deepak"

However, but my joy can be short lived, because someone knowledgeable in that country and culture might find it either perfectly right or funny, insulting, vulgar and offensive! ( I therefore beg the pardon well in advance as I have made the point that I was trying to make) 

There are dozens of web pages but one (courtesy-> is enough to mention today,

Please read on :

  • Chinese:

  • The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, ko-kou-ko-le, which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth".
  •  When translated into Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off".
  •  In a Hong Kong supermarket: "For your convenience, we recommend courageous, efficient self-service". 

  •  Outside a Hong Kong tailor's shop: "Ladies may have a fit upstairs".
  •  In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: "Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists".
  •  On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: "Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life".
  •  English:              
  •  Here is an excerpt from an email i received from Robin A. Weinberg,
  • While I was reading the funny translation page I remembered a slogan I saw in Australia. Burger King is called Hungry Jack's down there and their slogan (at least when I visited - summer '93) is 'Resistance is Futile'.
  • French:
  •  Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts". In this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect on sales.
  •  Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno mag.
  •  Excerpt from an email i received from Stephen and Max Furnell,
  • In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
  •  Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking.
  •  In a Bed & Breakfast in France: The genuine antics in your room come from our family castle. Long life to it.
  •  In a Bed & Breakfast in France: Please avoid coca watering, cream cleaning, wet towels wrapping, and ironing drying.
  • Italian:
  •  In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.
  •  Instructions on a packet of convenience food from Italy: "Besmear a backing pan, previously buttered with a good tomato sauce, and, after, dispose the cannelloni, lightly distanced between them in a only couch.".
  •  In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
  •  Japanese:
  •  The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free," got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty".
  •  Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company ultimately changed its name.
  •  A warning to motorists in Tokyo: "When a passenger of the foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.".             

  •  In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.
  •  In a Tokyo hotel: Is forbitten to steal hotel toweles please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read this notice.
  •  In a Japanese hotel room: Please to bathe inside the tub.
  •  In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
  •  Diversion sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop - Drive Sideways.
  •  English text on products made in Japan solely for Japanese consumers:
  • Message printed on an eraser: "Mr. Friendly Quality Eraser. Mr. Friendly Arrived!! He always stay near you, and steals in your mind to lead you to a good situation.". On the bottom of the eraser is a further message: "We are ecologically minded. This package will self-destruct in Mother Earth.".
  •  A range of products by a company called Cream Soda used to have the slogan: "Too fast to live, too young to happy".
  •  Spanish:

    When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go". After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.

  • When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". However, the company's mistakenly thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that "It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant".
  •  An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato".
  •  Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken", got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A photo of the owner with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused".
  • In an Acapulco hotel a sign read "The manager has personally passed all the water served here".
  •  The Mitsubishi four wheel drive marketed in Australia as the "Pajero" was the cause of great emabarassmentt in Spain where "Pajero" means is a foul word. 
  • Other languages:
  • Czechoslovakia: in a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no miscarriages.
  •  Denmark: in a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
  •  German/Austria: a sign in a hotel catering to skiers read "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension".

  • On a Vienna hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.
  • German/Germany: in a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.
  • A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest: “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 that purpose.”
  • Greek/Greece: in a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.
  •  Polish/Poland: on the menu of a Polish hotel: “Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.”
  • Portuguese/Brazil: Ford had a problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang, bad word. Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.
  • Romania: in a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
  • Russian/Russia: on the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.
  • In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
  • A translated sentence from a Russian chess book: A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.
  • Serbia: in a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
  • Sweden : In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
  • Switzerland: in a Swiss menu: "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for".
  • In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today - no ice cream.
  • Taiwan: the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead".
  • Thailand: in a Bangkok dry-cleaners: Drop your trousers here for best results.
  • In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.
  • Yugoslavia: a sign in a hotel read "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid. Turn to her straightaway.".
  • Yugoslavia: in the Europa Hotel, in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, you will find this message on every door: "Guests should announce the abandonment of theirs rooms before 12 o'clock, emptying the room at the latest until 14 o'clock, for the use of the room before 5 at the arrival or after the 16 o'clock at the departure, will be billed as one night more.".
  • Unknown (South Africa? France? Australia?): in a Rhodes tailor's shop: Order your summers suit. Because in big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

 PS ( According to a company spokeswoman the coca cola story is not entirely accurate. Although Coke has to endure this oft-told tale, it has also, as the spokeswoman confirmed, so far been able to maintain the same brand name all over the world. (While we’re on the subject, the “No Go” Chevy (GM) Nova story is also apparently myth.)

Now you may ask why all this funny stuff today? and also : is there a way out?

The answer is a translation agency service in London called  Today Translations!

It offers several special services, like on-line translation of the on-going telephonic talk and it has strength in about 160 different languages!

Their website boasts as below:

"We are  a technical and commercial translation company, based in the City of London, that understands your need for speed. That works to a fair price and respects your reputation. And that, through a global team of 2,600 linguists, can handle an astonishing two million-plus words translation per month.

It’s an extraordinary capacity. And, with repeat business running at 87%, quality and customer satisfaction are high, too. The aim is bulletproof translation delivered on time and on budget.

Read for example their advice under the heading: "Communication and behaviour - Egypt"

  • show Since there are plenty greeting styles in Egypt, it is safest to wait for your counterpart to initiate the greeting, especially at a first meeting.
  • Arab men usually walk hand in hand although Western-style Egyptians rarely do this. If an Egyptian holds your hand, accept this as gesture of friendship.
  • The left hand is considered unclean in Egypt. Unless you are handling something considered dirty, always use the right hand. Avoid gestures with the left hand.
  • Pointing is considered extremely rude.

  • Do not cross their legs when sitting. Moreover, showing the bottom of your foot is considered offensive.
  • The "thumbs up" sign is offensive in Egypt and the entire Arab world.Strict Muslims won't touch alcohol or pork. If you invite an Egyptian to a social event, make sure there is a selection of non-alcoholic drinks available.
  • Don't 'wipe out' your plate. Leaving a small portion of food means you have had enough.
  • When eating in an Egyptian home, adding salt to your food is considered an offence.
  • Egyptian cotton, sports (football, boxing) and achievements of the past are popular conversation topics.
  • Women (inquiring about female members of your counterpart's family) and Israel are topics to avoid.
  • Presents are acceptable but make sure you give or receive them with the right hand and never with the left. Using both hands is acceptable.Small electronic devices, chocolates and fashionable compasses are popular gifts.

The firm was last week in news for a novel service, offering parents-to-be the chance to check the meaning of prospective baby names.

Read on ....

What's in a name? More than you might think
Tue Nov 17, 2009
LONDON (Reuters) - A London-based translation firm is offering parents-to-be the chance to check the meaning of prospective baby names in other languages to avoid inadvertently causing their offspring future embarrassment.

Celebrity couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might have thought twice about naming their daughter Suri if they'd known that it means "pickpocket" in Japanese, "turned sour" in French, and "horse mackerels" in Italian, suggest Today Translations.

For 1,000 pounds ($1,678), the company's linguists will carry out a "basic name translation audit" of names, checking their meaning in 100 languages, or more for an additional cost.

While open to everyone, the firm said it expects the service is likely to attract celebrity clients, who are known for giving their babies unusual names.

Other celebrity baby names it has checked include Kai Rooney, the newborn son of English soccer player Wayne Rooney, whose name means "probably" in Finnish, "pier" in Estonian, and "stop it" in the west African language of Yoruba.

And while musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale may have known Zuma meant "peace" in Arabic when choosing their son's name, they may not have been aware it also translates as "Lord frowns in anger" in the Aztec language of Nahuatl.

Some unusual celebrity baby name choices are beyond easy translation however, the company admits, such as Jermajesty -- the son of Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Steve Addison)

In India, there are various dailects, languages and cultural variety. How nice would it be to have such a guide !!