Comical - And Not So Comical - Mistranslations in History

We've sourced a few different articles all discussing mistranslations in different spheres: commercial advertising, political and diplomatic communications, healthcare communication, etc. Some of these mistranslations are comical and lighthearted, but some are far less trivial.

Take a look through these articles:


mental_floss: 9 Little Translation Mistakes That Caused Big Problems

Mistranslation Highlights:

- The 71million dollar medical malpractice case around the mistranslation of the word "intoxicado" from Spanish to English where a boy could have avoided becoming a quadriplegic. Read more about the case here

- St. Jerome's mistranslation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. Moses's head is described as having "radiance" or, in Hebrew, "karan" when he descends from Mount Sinai. However, as Hebrew is written without the vowels, and St. Jerome had read "karan" as "keren," or "horned." This error - a horned Moses - was propagated into hundreds of subsequent translations. From this mishap comes hundreds of years of the racist "horned Jew" depiction.

- When companies started to encourage the celebration of Valentine's Day in Japan in the 1950s, a mistranslation in marketing defined a unique culture surrounding Valentine's Day practices in Japan.


BBC Culture: The Greatest Mistranslations Ever

BBC discusses language mistakes in history. The article includes the story of US president, Jimmy Carter, stating ‘I desire the Poles carnally’ during a speech given in Poland in 1977.


Business Insider: The 11 Worst Foreign Ad Translation Fails

This is a particularly comedic article. Gems include: translation of the American Dairy Association's classic "Got Milk" ad into "Are You Lactating" in addition to Purdue Chicken's "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" ad into "It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused" and "It takes a virile man to make a chicken pregnant". Both of these unfortunate translations occurred in the Mexican market.