All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language. Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest howlers found in translation, taken from Lingo24’s latest top ten list of business translation blunders. We hope you enjoy them.
If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.
1. Magical drink
Pepsi launched a new product in China and translated “Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation” with “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave” in Chinese. Needless to say they couldn’t provide any evidence for this claim.
2. Hair dung
Clairol released a new curling iron named “Mist Stick”, including in Germany, where “Mist” is slang for manure.
3. Going nude
American Airlines’ Mexican first-class passengers thought they were getting something more exciting that just a comfy seat when they read the airline’s new ad. The airline was trying to promote its “Fly in Leather” slogan to its wealthier consumers. Instead it wondered whether they’d be interested to “Fly Naked” (vuela en cuero).
4. Infertile pens
Parker pens are famous for not leaking in your pocket and that’s just what the company told its Mexican customers in a new advertising campaign. Unfortunately, what should have read “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” became “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”. The Spanish false friend “embarazar” (to impregnate) let the translator astray.
5. Costly mistake
German doctors forgot to “cement” the artificial knee joints of 47 patients in a Berlin hospital. The product’s manual stated it was “zementfrei” (not requiring cement), instead of giving the instruction to “cement the joints”. Costly remedial procedures followed – as did large claims for compensation.