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Day 44: Across Languages… Does that sound right?

Day 44: Translation Faux Pas?

Day 44: Translation Faux Pas?

Words across languages, meaning words in one language that are heard as different in another language, can open travel up to some funny situations. Take today, for instance, when I was walking through a mall in Sydney to discover the beaut in the photo to the right. I giggled and nudged Pat, who then giggled and said, “We HAVE to take a photo of that.”

Thus today’s photo.

My initial response was that the owner must be Asian or from another place and didn’t understand the negative connotation. Perhaps it was simply someone’s name.

Because of this, I’ve been trying to rack my brain to think of words that are normal in one language, but have a completely different meaning in another. When a Russian person says “no”, it actually means “but”, and the same goes for the word “ma” in Italian.

But what I’m looking for are words that have a negative connotation in another language. Do you have any good ones for me?

You may also enjoy my watching a movie abroad (with no subtitles) post, or maybe even my post about bizarre bazaar finds.


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19 Responses to Day 44: Across Languages… Does that sound right?

  1. Ruth February 14, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    I will never forget a Japanese student asking me how my period was, (he meant semester).

    I find it really interesting that even between Canadian and Australian English there are malentendus like that. Ask Pat if he has a difference between a bloody nose and a blood nose.

    • Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Haha, I’ve heard the period thing before! So awkward and funny!

  2. ayngelina February 14, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    In Colombia there is a bus company called Coolitoral:

    Am I the only one taking it to a bad place?

    • Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Haha, I am so with you! 🙂

  3. Magda February 14, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    In Polish the informal word for ‘yes’ is actually ‘no’ (format word is ‘tak’) and I know it confuses lots of visitors 🙂

    • Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Oh yes! So confusing… and strange!

  4. Scott February 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I once knew an Australian girl who got a real kick out of the fact that in America we have a company of plumbers called “Roto-Rooter”.

    • Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Haha, oh yeah! I’ve heard someone comment on that before 😉

  5. Bethany February 15, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    This is a hysterical post Brooke and it’s so true! There are so many strange words!! The one I can come up with is something my cousin told me (after she lived in the UK for 7 years). It is unfortunate we have fanny packs in the U.S. in any case but in the UK the word fanny means vagina. hehe… so when my cousin said fanny pack she left all of her friends totally confused at what she was talking about.

  6. Rebecca February 15, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Fanny pack is one that the Commonwealth gets a kick out of.

    I got in the habit of saying “bumbag” really quickly. Another fun word that I brought home (and thankfully most people here know what it means anyway).

    • Brooke February 15, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      haha – yet another good example 🙂

  7. Molly February 16, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    I was with a bunch of Dutch friends in an American school and they were talking about bums. I had to warn them the teachers might not be too happy at hearing “Lekker kont” which I found out means, “nice ass.”

  8. Abbey Hesser February 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    One of my favorites was a conversation I was actually having in Spanish. What I meant to say was “I’m embarrassed.” But as I fumbled to remember the word for embarrassed in Spanish, I pulled out “estoy embarazada.” Sounds right, right? Wrong.

    It means “I’m pregnant.”

    I took the embarrassment to a whole new level.

    • Brooke February 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      Haha, yes, I think I’ve said the same thing in Spanish!

  9. Annie February 18, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    Haha this is a hilarious post! I came over to read the comments and see what people came up with! 🙂

    The bumbag/fanny pack debate is so much fun for me. I like to turn to my Scottish friend Lynsey at random times and just whisper “… fanny pack…” she giggles and shouts “BUM BAG!!” haha.

    In regards to Abbey’s we learned that really fast in high school Spanish since all of my teachers were pregnant (all 3 years…) but when I first started learning Italian I hesitated assuming it was the same. Nope. “Sono imbarazzata”. Funny how it can be so different and other things so similar! <— BTW my boyfriend just told me if you say that phrase alone it means you are constipated!! haha.

  10. Tim Van Autreve February 23, 2011 at 4:47 am #


    World English Dictionary
    jizz (dʒɩz)

    — n
    a term for the total combination of characteristics that serve to identify a particular species of bird or plant

    [origin obscure]

    So that totally makes sense for a clothing store.

  11. Teegan March 13, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    I was quite happy to learn that paw paw (another name for papaya) means poo in Indonesian. I feel that justifies my years of refusing to eat it 🙂

  12. Rish August 8, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Just read this post.

    I have a friend who was teaching her class of Korean kids how to make fresh salsa dip for nacho chips for a camp activity.

    Everytime she said “salsa” the class would laugh.

    Later, I informed her that “seolsa” in Korean (pronounced similarly to “salsa”) means “diarrhea.”

    So much for an appetizing snack!

    • Brooke August 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

      Oh dear god! That’s awful and hilarious — thanks for sharing hehe

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