Studiolum over at the excellent Poemas del río Wang has dug up a German-Russian lexicon, published in 1942 by Mittler & Sohn for use by Germany’s armed forces, which introduces itself thus:
The war has demonstrated the simplicity of the means with which the German soldier can make himself understood anywhere. The correct words, juxtaposed without regard to grammar, are almost always adequate.
I doubt whether Hitler’s Spanish troops on the Eastern Front, the anti-Stalinist División Azul, were as well equipped. The Spanish had perfectly good linguistic tools at that stage, not least because of Soviet participation in their Civil War, but the evidence accumulated on this blog suggests that in Spain dictionaries have often been misused, underused or simply ignored.
And who’s to say that the outsights resulting from this approach are any more damaging than the insights achieved by more careful folk? Maybe all you miserable multilingual pedants out there should consider offering your clients hilariously fucked translation as a means of relaxing communications and increasing brand recognition. Just don’t ring the Wehrmacht.
Apologies to other as yet unpublished contributors: I’m working through a number of backlogs.
- Worst ever Spanish covers of English-language songs?
I haven’t talked to any of the perpetrators, but I have little doubt that the principal cause of what we regard as fucked translation is a misunderstanding as to its function: whereas English-speakers expect to encounter a linguistic resource, the aim of Romance-dialect-speaking businesses, politicians and civil servants in providing English translation is often symbolic …
- Fucked translation of the month
Congratulations to Begur, a council just over the Spanish border from France, which provides four languages on its welcome board telling you where you are. The Catalan and the Spanish are spelt wrong, the third language is probably Occitan (which most French tourists don’t understand), and the English is correct but casual. (Of course this …
- La Razón doubles body count in Florida deaf mistranslation stabbing
Carlos Ferrero Martín points me to this story about the terrible potential consequences of not matching what is meant and what is understood when drunk-signing with armed gang members. La Razón, never to be outdone, converts two victims into four. Fucked translation: deux points.
- The economic case for fucked translation
Via LS an anonymous cartoon of the gulf between what we (would like to) think we have said and what we (are understood to) have actually said:
Why don’t we say what we think? Why do the inventors of magnificent flying machines gibber like madmen? Why, in our case, do excellent Spanish bars produce hilarious English menus?
I think …