It feels that I am often confronted with the question “How do you translate _______?” or “How do you say ______ in Spanish?” And my answer is usually ” It doesn’t translate”, which usually frustrates the person doing the questioning and it is followed by a lack of credibility and a bunch of questions to prove me wrong. While 85% of the times I use this answer is a strategic response to laziness or my unwillingness to become the flesh and blood Ultralingua app, there are times that it simply DOESN’T translate. Break a leg might be a nice thing to say in English, but it is mean as heck in Spanish since its meaning is literal (You’ll feel bad when you see your Mexican token friend going up the stairs on crutches). Cultural understanding is relative and not absolute. Things are not apples to apples. So saying that every women has a little black dress in her closet might not seem true in Mexico, yet works in post-Breakfast at Tiffany’s USA. Having said that, using the wrong translation in advertising is simply bad. Here are some samples of ads that should stay in English:
Vectra Bank – FYI or CYI – We don’t have this!
The Economist – We don’t have peer pressure (we drink tequila shots on our own will)
OXY – Elephant in the room? – It doesn’t translate quickly enough.
Harley Davidson – Crotch rockets? That translates boringly to “fast bikes” so the line will say “I thought fast bikes were an STD.” Dumb.
Pilot light pen – SHARK translates to TIBURÓN, so there is no pointy A to get.
There is no word of the day today since I am feeling lazy about translating.