Bombed in Translation

As translators, much more subtitlers, we come across many weird/funny translations all the time. It’s not only because doing quality checking is a part of our work, but also because the nature of our work doomed us to focus on the subtitles while watching any movie or TV programme. Believe me sometimes it’s so annoying that you can’t enjoy the movie unless you switch them off. So, if you’re at the cinema and suddenly hear people shouting: NOOO! Don’t jump to conclusions about someone being harassed, it might as well be a group of translators who spotted a wrong line.

It has to be said that by writing this I’m not excluding myself or anyone from making these mistakes. We all might have made stupid mistakes whether or not we were aware of them. It happens all the time, I write something then I realize it’s utterly ridiculous and I wonder how I could’ve possibly written such a thing.

So, being exposed to all kinds of translation and translation mistakes, I tried to remember some of the funniest mistranslations that I came across, whether those I or another translators spotted before being shown on TV or those that were actually seen on the screen. Enjoy these…

Flea market:  سوق البراغيث

4 wheel drive: سيارة بأربع عجلات

Brand new: جديد خرنج

Which of these ties sucks less?:  أي هاتين الربطتين تمتص أقل

I made you a cow: جعلتك بقرة

Do you have pot (Marijuana)? هل لديك مبولة

It’s a school night: إنها مدرسة ليلية

Dumbass: مؤخرة غبية

I’m on board! (count me in): أنا على متن القارب

Spelling bee: نحلة التهجئة

Soap opera:  إعلانات الصابون

Now we’re talking!: إننا نتحدث الآن

The sensible way: الطريقة الحساسة

First aid: المساعد الأول

Tell me about it!: أخبرني عن الأمر

Douchebag: كيس الزبالة

Zipper: الزمام المنزلق

TGIF: تي جي آي إف

ربيع الأول: Spring I

قبل أن يسلم الروح: Before he gave up the ghost

تغييرات: Changements

Those are the ones I have for now, and mind you; I’m not making anything up…

هذه هي الوحدات التي لدي الآن، واعقلوا أنتم، إنني لا أصنعها إلى أعلى…

Ok, that last sentence was obviously a joke 😀

Originally Posted on Saturday, August 16, 2008 on


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