The Trials of the English Language & Culture
Actual English Subtitles Used in Films Made in Hong Kong:
- I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way.
- Fatty, you with your thick face have hurt my instep.
- Gun wounds again?
- Same old rules: no eyes, no groin.
- A normal person wouldn't steal pituitaries.
- Damn, I'll burn you into a BBQ chicken!
- Take my advice, or I'll spank you without pants.
- Who gave you the nerve to get killed here?
- Quiet or I'll blow your throat up.
- You always use violence. I should've ordered glutinous rice chicken.
- I'll fire aimlessly if you don't come out!
- You daring lousy guy.
- Beat him out of recognizable shape!
- I have been scared shitless too much lately.
- I got knife scars more than the number of your leg's hair!
- Beware! Your bones are going to be disconnected.
- The bullets inside are very hot. Why do I feel so cold?
- How can you use my intestines as a gift?
- This will be of fine service for you, you bag of the scum. I am sure you will not mind that I remove your manhoods and leave them out on the dessert flour for your aunts to eat.
- Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist for a thorough extermination.
- Greetings, large black person. Let us not forget to form a team up together and go into the country to inflict the pain of our karate feets on some ass of the giant lizard person.
A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In
English," he said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages,
though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However,
there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."
A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
Cracking an international market is a goal of every growing
corporation. It shouldn't be that hard, yet even the big multi-nationals
run into trouble because of language and cultural differences. For
When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used
the same packaging as here in the USA -- with the cute baby on the
label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put
pictures on the label of what is inside since most people can not
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America,
it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the
company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car
in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The
company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male
genitals". Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel,
which means horse.
When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, "Fly in
Leather," it came out in Spanish as "Fly Naked."
Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it was
read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."
When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were
supposed to say "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." However,
the company's mistakenly thought the Spanish word "embarazar" meant
embarrass. Instead the ads said that "It wont leak in your pocket and
make you pregnant."
An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish
market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw
the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."
Chicken-man Frank Perdue's slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a
tender chicken," got terribly mangled in another Spanish translation. A
photo of Perdue with one of his birds appeared on billboards all over
Mexico with a caption that explained "It takes a hard man to make a
Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an
American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a
notorious porno mag.
When Vicks first introduce its cough drops on the German market, they
were chagrined to learn that the German pronunciation of "v" is "f,"
which in German is the guttural equivalent of "sexual penetration."
Not to be outdone, Puffs tissues tried later to introduce its
product, only to learn that "Puff" in German is a colloquial term for
Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John products in French Canada as Gros
Jos before finding out that the phrase, in slang, means "big breasts." In
this case, however, the name problem did not have a noticeable effect
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name
into Schweppes Toilet Water.
The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la.
Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands
of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole"
or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke
then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic
equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness
in the mouth."
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the
Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from
Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin'
good" came out as "eat your fingers off."
The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free,"
got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel
so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."
Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered
English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex
tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company
changed its name.
A 4th grade teacher collected well known proverbs. He gave each kid
in the class the first half of the proverb, and asked them to come up
with the rest. Here is what the kids came up with:
|Laugh & the whole world laughs with you...||cry and you have to blow your nose. |
|When the blind lead the blind...||get out of the way. |
|Better to be safe than...||punch a 5th grader. |
|Strike while the...||bug is close. |
|It's always darkest before...||daylight savings time |
|Never underestimate the power of...||termites. |
|Don't bite the hand that...||looks dirty. |
|No news is...||impossible. |
|A miss is as good as a...||Mr. |
|You can't teach an old dog...||math. |
|If you lie down with dogs, you...||will stink in the morning. |
|Love all, trust...||me. |
|The pen is mightier than...||the pigs. |
|An idle mind is...||the best way to relax. |
|Where there is smoke, there's...||pollution. |
|Happy is the bride who...||gets all the presents. |
|A penny saved is...||not much. |
|Two is company, three's...||The Musketeers. |
|None are so blind as...||Helen Keller. |
|You can lead a horse to water but ...||how? |
|Children should be seen and not...||spanked or grounded. |
|If at first you don't succeed...||get new batteries. |
|You get out of something what you...||see pictured on the box. |
|There is no fool like...||Aunt Edie. |
Reviewing a new book by the literary critic George Steiner, Anthony Gottlieb writes:
"He is scathingly skeptical about computer translation:
it will never, he thinks, be able to emulate our linguistic gifts. To
see how bad these programs really are, I fed some of Steiner's sentences
into an English-German translation program, then fed them back into a
German-English one. The results were not impressive: 'After the axiomatic
moment ontological of the confidence, attack comes,' was one. On the
other hand, since Steiner's original was, 'After the axiomatic moment
of ontological trust, comes aggression,' I'm not sure it's entirely the
(New York Times Book Review 12 Apr 98)
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:
We take your bags and send them in all directions.
From a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.
In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency:
Take one of our horse-driven city tours -- we guarantee no miscarriages.
Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand:
Would you like to ride on your own ass?
A Compilation Of Actual Student Bloopers Collected By Teachers From 8th Grade Through College
- Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in
hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot.
The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live
- The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book
of the Bible, Guinessis, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.
One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother's son?"
- Moses led the hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened
bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on
Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever
- Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.
- The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we
wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.
- Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of
- Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people
advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.
After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.
- In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits,
and threw the java.
- Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History calls people
Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.
- Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul.
The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be
made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."
- Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing
the fiddle to them.
- Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was cannonized by Bernard Shaw.
- Finally Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for
the same offense.
- In midevil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer
of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also
- Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple
while standing on his son's head.
- It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg
invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was
the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure
because he invented cigarettes and started smoking.
- The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare.
He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made
much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies,
comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and
Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo's last wish was to be
laid by Juliet.
- Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He
wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote
Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.
- During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great
navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His
ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.
- Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim's
- One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks
in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the
post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer
had to pay for taxis.
- Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented
Congress. Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the
Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing
two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot
stand." Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.
- Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure
domestic hostility. Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right
to keep bare arms.
- Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's
mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built
with his own hands. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the
theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture
show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane
actor. This ruined Booth's career.
- Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time.
Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.
Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the
autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.
- Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large
number of children. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the
most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half
German half Italian and half English. He was very large.
- Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he
wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone
was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.
- The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and
catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power,
but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn't have any children.
- The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire
is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the
longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman
who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.
- The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and
inventions. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers
to spring up. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Madman Curie
discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.
Last Updated: Sun, May 20, 2001