Traductions de merde

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Fans of LL's Lost in Translation feature will enjoy the Facebook group Traductions de merde ("Shitty translations"), and a collection of the "Top 40 des traductions de merde" at For example, there's an echo of the famous "Translate server error" signs:

The signature example is this one, where Polish adj. = "characteristic of Poland" is turned into polish v. = "to make a surface very smooth or shiny by rubbing, cleaning, or grinding":

Another cute part-of-speech slip-up is the "(Yes We) Can Cooler":

And the Profound Congélateur de Poitrine keeps "Chest" in the right part of speech, but…

Here a phrase book translates French "Could I have a tea, please" to English "Could you give me a cup of coffee?":

The contributor comments:

En fait, les anglo-saxons prennent leur café tellement allongé, qu'ils ne verront pas la différence.

"In fact, the anglo-saxons take their coffee so weak that they won't see the difference."

And there are some where no translation is involved at all. This one ("Ca marche pour les anglais … pas pour nous." = "This works for the English … not for us") depends on the slang meaning of bite as "penis":


  1. D.O. said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 10:08 am

    Ah! But translating French "anglo-saxon" as English "anglo-saxon" is a Eurobureaucratism. Maybe it's appropriate here, because the original use was ironic as well.

  2. Roger Lustig said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 11:47 am

    One can also read "bites" and "compliments" as verbs. I don't think that last one works so well for us Anglos (Angleaux?) either.

  3. Jonathan Mayhew said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    J'ai lu "traduction de merde" la première fois comme "traductions de la parole 'merde'".

  4. Ben Hemmens said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

    I'm all for anything that reminds the world of its need for real translators ;-)

  5. errorr said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

    It should be mentioned that Nancy's Quiches are fantastic.

  6. Giacomo Ponzetto said,

    April 26, 2014 @ 6:07 pm

    The Polish sausage reminds me of a wonderful item I encountered in a US hotel. All the toiletries were made in Italy, and the hotel advertised this with bilingual packaging. The bilingualism, however, was not provided by the same Italians as the toiletries. The shoe sponge proclaimed: "ferrare la spugna" (shoe v. = "to put a horseshoe on a horse").

  7. Mr Punch said,

    April 27, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

    It's interesting that "bite" is, in French, feminine (so at least "petite" is correct).

  8. RP said,

    April 28, 2014 @ 3:17 am

    @Mr Punch,
    "Queue" and "verge", with the same meaning, are also feminine. "Con" (female genitalia) is masculine (and that goes all the way back to Latin "cunnus").

  9. Francois Lang said,

    April 28, 2014 @ 9:51 am

    @ RP and Mr Punch,
    "Barbe" (beard) and "moustache" are also feminine nouns in French, and "seins" (breasts) and "vagin" are masculine.

  10. Theodore said,

    April 28, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

    @errorr: So what is "quiche" a slang for now?

  11. Yosemite Semite said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 12:07 am

    The coffee-tea comment by the contributor reminds me of the quip attributed to Abraham Lincoln on receiving a beverage with his meal in some eating place: "If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." It lends some credence to his observation, at least in Lincoln's day

  12. Philip Anderson said,

    May 2, 2014 @ 7:34 am

    There's a portmanteau term, Sgymraeg, for mistranslations into Welsh (Cymraeg), which are very common.

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