Stan Carey draws my attention to this imgur thread on entertaining failures in translation: the comments both on Stan’s post and the imgur thread are very much worth it. (I’ve heard the name of the site pronounced /ɪmgɚ/ though: please don’t tell me this is another gif/jif or doge thing.)
Imgur (pronounced “imager”), a popular image-hosting social website, has a fun thread on translation errors and substitutions in speech. It starts with a user saying his Russian wife asked for a roll of inches when she meant a tape measure, and the comments soon filled up with more in this vein: some poetic, some amusingly absurd, a few resulting from memory failure in the speaker’s own language.
I did not know the words for ‘ice cubes’ in German so asked for ‘very cold water with corners’ (from user slimydog)
my husband is swiss, and couldn’t think of the word “shell”, so he called them snail houses. (from user ihateyoumagicman)
I recall having a francophone geography teacher in high school who taught us about places like “Mexico Gulf” and “Fundy Bay” and important monuments such as “Liberty Statue”, much to the amusement of the class.
But it makes an interesting point that while French consistently creates constructions of the form “X de Y”, English alternates inconsistently between “X of Y” and “Y X”, so knowing which one English has opted for in a particular construction isn’t trivial.
Another memorable translation error that I’ve seen is this restaurant menu, although in this case I can’t tell whether one language is a mistake or whether they’d genuinely rather only serve chicken to English-speakers and beef and shrimp to French-speakers.
Any more examples? (Also, trepidatiously, how would you pronounce imgur?)
I’ve a new post up the pronunciation of <i>imgur</i>. Even among Imgurians usage is very mixed, and a brief survey suggests the “official” pronunciation is dispreferred by, or unknown to, most people: