Blind Idiot Translation: Live-Action TV
Internal message of the television-group of the phase (Live Action TV)
Clicks on here redistribution and in the main page
- Fugitive Alien Several dials/meters on the Bacchus 3 are labeled hilarious things, such as: Space Speed, Cabin Air Presser, Tenperature, Sunny Side, and Other Side, while members of the Bacchus 3 wearing jumpsuits emblazoned with the badge "Security Guard". The computer actually shows a shipping manifest!
Hey, that truck is going to Utah!
- In a House episode online with Spanish subtitles, Dr Cameron describes a wound as "pus-y", i.e. oozing pus; the subtitles said the wound was a vagina. While the word is spelled the same ("pussy") and pronounced differently, one would have thought the context would have clued them in.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Faith, Hope and Trick", Mr. Trick says "It's the modern vampire who sees the big picture". The Latin-American Spanish translators misheard the word "vampire" and the meaning of "big picture". So the dubbed Mr. Trick said: "Es por el... 'Imperio Moderno'. Es una buena película". (translated: "Its because of the 'Modern Empire'. It's a good movie".)
- The Latino translations of Buffy are pretty hit and miss in general. Xander's "Shoot me. Stuff me. Mount me." in The Pack becomes "Mátame. Relléname. Disécame." (Kill me. Stuff me. Stuff me." (The first means to fill something, the second is specific to taxidermy; stuff an animal or dissect a cadaver). When Spike talks about Woodstock, first his vampire interlocutor says "I'll cut you throat" (no, no typo; the translation was "Voy a cotárte cuello"; note the lack of a possessive before "cuello"), then Spike talks about how he fed off a hippy then spent like six hours "watching my hand on my foot", rather than watching his hand move.
- In an episode of Law & Order, there was a case being investigated when it links to a kid who got Crash Bandicoot (1996) as a present. (It Makes Sense in Context). Anyway, the Latin-American Spanish translators didn't know the franchise's name. So, in the subtitles, when they say "Crash Bandicoot" it was translated as... "El Canguro que Choca" (literally, "The Crashing Kangaroo"). Let's see just how wrong this is on many levels.
- The Latin American dub of The Big Bang Theory translated "Facebook" as "Pagina de la cara" (Face page).
- The Latin American sub also translated "String Theory" to "Teoría de Primavera" (Spring theory, spring the season).
- The dub was awful bad, things like "The Big Bran Hypotesis" to "La Hipotesis del Gran cerebro" (Big Brain Hypotesis), "transgendered" to "transgesores" (transgressors), it seemed like they rushed making the translation and never check if it was accurate (aside changing many jokes to something completely unrelated)
- The Italian dub of the first episode of the series was done on a rush according to the director, and many lines were translated in a very wrong way. In the most blatant example, the whole thing of Sheldon and Leonard playing Klingon Boggle all night and having no company becomes "playing Risk all night and having a lot of people around in the house, hosting giant tournaments of Scrabble".
- Also happened in universe.
Sheldon: Why do you have the Chinese character for "soup" tattooed on your right buttock?
Penny: It's not "soup", it's "courage".
Sheldon: No it isn't. But I suppose it does take courage to demonstrate that kind of commitment to soup.
- In another episode in the Italian dub, when Sheldon and the others are talking about The Legend of Zelda, they translated all the titles in Italian. There are two obvious problems with this: first, the titles of the Zelda games were never translated in Italian. Second, Twilight Princess was translated as "La principessa di Twilight"... as in "The princess of Twilight", rather then "La principessa del crepuscolo", which is the proper translation of the monicker used in the Italian translation of the game itself.
- There is a bootleg of the Ninja Sentai Kakuranger movie which translates "Kakurangers" as "Cuckoo Rangers" and contains the line "Go to Sam Hill, Cuckoo Rangers!"
- The Hong Kong Subs for Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle seems to have been translated from Japanese into Chinese and then English. All the characters' names (except Rei) were turned into Chinese names, the monster names are all messed up (Kelbeam turned into Jilubo), and the subtitles have ridiculous translation errors ("Who is him?")
- Another infamous example by Hong Kong Subs was Kamen Rider Ryuki, in which in one episode, someone said, "Don't Molest the Lawyer". This too became a minor meme within the fandom.
- In cultures where most people speak fluent English as a second language, "Blind Idiot" Translation can be used to create easy, deliberate comedy. For example, one of the most famous sketches by the finnish comedy troupe Kummeli involves a band (Kornit Murot, which in itself is a "Blind Idiot" Translation of "corn flakes" into "corny cereal") taking the lyrics to Every Breath You Take and blind-idiot translating them into finnish (the seminal ending line "I'll be watching you" becomes "Mä tuun kellottaan sua", or "I'll come and clock you").
- A somewhat legendary Finnish translation of Star Trek interpreted the line "The odds are against us", as if the Odds were a species.
- That's the whole reason for the existence of the Star Wreck spoofs, which use a lot of the mistranslated terms from this.
- On one episode of Lovejoy, a certain character had served as Sub-Lieutenant in Royal Navy. The Finnish translation understood the rank as sukellusveneluutnantti (literally "submarine lieutenant") instead of correct aliluutnantti ("junior lieutenant").
- The people who do the Swedish subtitles for the Discovery Channel programs must not have access to dictionaries or to the Internet while they work. Nor does it look like they ever actually read what they have written to see if it makes logical sense in context. One particularly hilarious example was from a program on the Battle of Britain - the RAF vs. the Luftwaffe. What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, for one thing, you could choose to translate the word "dogfight" literally, and let your viewers picture for themselves actual dogs zooming through the skies over the English Channel.
- A common mistake that often appears in the American show MythBusters, the expressions "turn on" and "turn off" is "tänd"/"släck" (eg. lights) "sätt på"/"stäng av" (eg. tools), but the translators makes up new expressions like the most common "stäng på" (shutting on the tool) and mixing all the words differently.
- The Latin-American translations of the Doctor Who series 1 DVD boxes - namely, the episode synopses - are remarkably unbelievable... because their blatantly automated means of translation is incapable of modifying proper nouns. Giving them a read may lead you to believe that there is a villain named "Earth"!
- The German dub of series 1 took blind idiot translation literally and made the new regenerated Doctor say "Blaue Zähne? Das ist merkwürdig" ("Blue Teeth? That's weird.") making no sense whatsoever because he had no blue teeth visually and how could he even be aware of this without ever having seen his new self in a mirror? The original phrase was "New teeth? That's weird," which might just mean that the translator misheard "new" as "blue".
- Speaking of the German DVD boxes of Series 1, on the English edition we find a point in the menu called "Destruction of the Lair". The German translator was obviously looking for a typo where there wasn't one and had no clue whatsoever what a "lair" was, so he/she went with the next best idea s/he had and translated it as "Den Lügner entlarven" (How to reveal the liar).
- The writers of the German subtitles also seem to be deaf and/or clueless. In "The Empty Child", Captain Jack Harkness says something among the lines of "a sailor carries love into every port." The German subtitles read as follows: "Ein Seeman trägt Liebe in jede Pore." ("A sailor carries love into every PORE".)
- Poor translation in the original English version: in "The Doctor Dances" a German bomb is labelled "Schlechter Wolf", which is an attempt to translate the Arc Words "Bad Wolf" into German. "Schlechter" means "bad" as in "poor-quality" or "past its sell-by date", the correct German translation would be "Böser Wolf".
- The Norwegian broadcast of the 2nd seasons finale of LOST has the word "hostiles" translated to "gjestehusene" becauase the translator misheard the word as "hostels".
- Also from Norway, in the season 1 episode "Hearts and Minds," the translation states that Boone and Shannon are half siblings, instead of step-siblings. This mistake would not be that big of a problem if said step-siblings didn't actually have sex in the very same episode.
- However, the most famous Norwegian example is a translation of the term "makeup sex"" in Seinfeld. This was translated as "sminkesex", which means: Having sex while wearing make-up. And no, that's not an actual word.
- In an episode of Gilmore Girls, Chris asked his daughter "What are you doing, Pupu?". This was translated to Hebrew, completely out of sync with the context and tone of the show, as "What are you doing, defecating?".
- Hebrew subtitles are too numerous to list. A few examples contain "Mass driver" in an episode of Babylon 5 translated as "A lot of (car) drivers", confusing "Stuff" and "A staff" in Xena, translating "Tissue" as "paper towels" when refering to human tissues in The Sentinel and "I've got another barrel" as "I've got another cask" from a guy who just fired one shot from a two barreled shotgun.
- Quite infamously (having achieved meme status), a character in the show Rude Awakening said he "had to chase Christian Slater down the street" and the subtitles translated it literally into "chase a slate mason who is a Christian". The original webpage mentioning this has been uploaded to the internet back in 2001, and is still active today.
- In Breaking Bad, Gus Fring runs a fast food restaurant chain called "Los Pollos Hermanos," which translates as "The Chicken Brothers" - not brothers who cook chicken, as was intended, but brothers who actually are chickens.
- Is it really a mistake, though? The company logo does indeed show two chickens, who presumably are brothers.
- The Dutch VHS release of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Shattered" translated "A poet and a philosopher? Your intelligence file doesn't do you credit." to "Your IQ test doesn't do you credit."
- On the Dutch DVD release of Star Trek: Enterprise, we get an... interesting subtitle when T'Pol says "Target the lead vessel." Lead can have two meanings: something that is in charge and something made of lead. Now guess what the translator went with.
- Speaking of Star Trek, the German dub of Star Trek: The Next Generation saw a few of those. One of the more interesting ones would be Dr. Crusher, sitting on the bridge on the enterprise, alone in an empty ship in a shrinking warp-bubble in the Episode "Remember me", asking the computer "What is that mist out there?". This was translated to "Was ist das für ein mist da draussen?", keeping the Word "mist" of the English version, thus having her ask "What kinda manure (/crap) is that out there?". Works in spirit, but is still not quite right.
- Oh heck, Star Trek in general when broadcasted in the Netherlands on any of the commercial stations. Extremely convuluted translations for setting specific words were used. While completly correct in both form and context, the translations which appeared on stations RTL 5, Net5 and SBS 6 were ridiculed among fans to no end.
- Examples: "Klingon" became "Klingoon" (why?!), "Warp" became "Krommingssnelheid" (good for scrabble!) are among a few of the more memorable idiotic translations.
- The French dub has its share of dubious translations:
- "Inhabited planet" is routinely translated as "planète inhabitée", which actually means "Uninhabited planet" ("Inhabité" is a false friend, the correct translation to "inhabited" being "habitée").
- "Warp" is translated as "Mach" (as in the speed of sound...) at least once in the original series.
- "Romulans" are sometimes translated as "Romuliens" (which actually makes sense), but other times as "Romulanais" (which would be the translation of "Romulanese").
- In the original series, "Return fire" is translated at least once as "Retournez le feu", which is the litteral translation, and means "Flip the fire over". A better translation would be "Ripostez".
- The crowner is probably the translation for the title of the original series episode "The Empath" as "L'impasse", which means "The impasse" in French. Probably because "Empath" sounds like "impasse".
- Interestingly, Star Trek sometimes suffers from this even in the original English - regarding the *Klingon* dialogue. The Klingon language is rightly celebrated for being a fairly good attempt at a plausible alien language, as the grammar was devised by an actual linguist, Marc Okrand, who went out of his way to make it very different from Human languages and especially different from English. Unfortunately this meant that later Trek writers have had great difficulty making sense of Okrand's dictionary and have often opted for the "Blind Idiot" Translation option instead. For example translating "you honor me" as SoH batlh jI' (sic), which literally means something more like "I am an honor you are" (the correct Klingon would be choquvmoH). Ronald D. Moore, the writer credited with creating much of the Klingon culture seen in the Next Generation era, has admitted to finding the original Klingon dictionary "cumbersome" and that he preferred to make up words as he went along instead.
- One 1st season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had, in the Norwegian subtitles, mistranslated "Worm hole" into "Varmehullet" (i.e., "The warm hole")! Quite apart from the... squicky image, it's funny because almost all Norwegians younger than about 65 are essentially bilingual...
- In one episode of The X-Files, the Dutch subtitles translate Cancer Man as "Kreeftman" (Lobster Man). However, this can be considered an Inverted Trope. Although the translation is weird from an English point of view, it's actually a smart translation that keeps cultural differences into account. Calling the man Kanker Man would change the entire setting and feelings about the man, while this translation prevents such confusion: "kanker" (cancer) is used as a swear word in Dutch, one so bad that even the Dutch hesitate to use it. So instead of using "cancer the disease," they used "cancer the Zodiac sign," which is "kreeft", also meaning "lobster".
- The German translation of FlashForward has numerous examples. "We're simulating the Big Bang." turns into "Wir simulieren den Mega-Wumms." (roughly: "We're simulating the huge kaboom.") Other examples include turning the meaning of certains sentences into their opposite and misunderstanding 78 % as 87 % - a common mistake: in German, the tens are always mentioned last.
- Home and Away's Norwegian sub is badly stricken with this, when "someone's boyfriend", referring to one of the present character's boyfriends, get changed to "[absent character]'s new friend"... when that character hasn't even mentioned getting any new friends for ages, you really start wondering about whether or not the translators pay any attention to the plot whatsoever, they most likely don't as other horrible, horrible instances will prove to you.
- The Hungarian dub of Friends received notoriety among translation nitpickers because of things like "my bad" being translated as "that's my bed" or "paramedics" becoming "a para-phenomenon".
- The Spanish (Spain) dub of How I Met Your Mother translated incorrectly Barney's sentence "If you don't laugh, it just seems mean", turning it into "Si no te ríes, no te parecerás a mí" (which translates as "If you don't laugh, you won't be like me").
- This happens several times in-universe in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye when hearing characters try to use ASL and mistake similar signs, such as "sausage" for "shoe." Or the time Randy asked his Deaf date if she wanted to make out.note
- Another episode had a father who didn't sign learning just enough sign to give a moving speech to his deaf daughter. He kept trying to say "I just wanted you to join my world", but accidentally used the sign for "Ferris wheel" instead every time.
- Any time a Deaf character uses American Sign Language, and the show employs English subtitles, it appears the the actor has made an ad hoc translation of the script, but the subtitles have been taken literally from the script. Sometimes the signing looks right, and is appropriate for the situation, while a closer translation is just not something a person using ASL spontaneously would ever say. However, by the time the show comes together, the script is not a very good translation of what is being signed.
- For example, in an episode of Switched at Birth, a character's sign was subtitled "stay around." They is a way of signing "stay around" almost literally, but the actor said something that would better have been translated "stick around," (or in a more formal context, "persevere"). The actor's choice was more appropriate to the flow of the conversation, but by then the subtitle looked wrong.
- In another example, from something a long time ago, the word in the subtitle was "defenestrate." The Deaf actress signed literally, "open-window, throw-out." So, "throw out the window" would have been much better than "defenestrate." Unless a Deaf person spelled out D-E-F-E-N-E-S-T-R-A-T-E, that subtitle would almost never be right.
- Grimm: Monster names and related terminology are German, resulting in much pain and hilarity for speakers. Starts with simple grammar fail like using adjectives as nouns or wrongly cobbled-together compound words, and ends with completely nonsensical/unintelligible words or horrible dictionary slips (e.g. the supposed 'bee queen' is called "bee gay [person]").
- The now defunct Danish TV station tvdanmark was notorious for poorly translated subtitles. A famous example was a discussion of hereditary diseases on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where "haemophillia" became "homophilia" in the translation. Other classics were a fantasy series with "A forest full of goblins, trolls and killer whales (orcs/orcas)" and turning Seattles "Space Needle" into a "Space Shuttle".
- A bootleg box set of Sherlock had the following description on the back:
Detective Sherlock! Rejection of 125 years ago, the editors did not think, young doctors of Portsmouth, a detective story written in his spare time, for the history of world literature, dropped a bombshell; two screenwriter did four years ago in the English countryside on the train expected, the Victorian detective moved to London in the 21st century will be such a warm welcome, not to mention two BAFTA and a variety of audience Choice Award; 17 months ago, we did not expect to start in a burst of machine gunfire the story will be in our hearts painted on how gorgeous one. Sherlock Holmes, but always one miracle. Deductive method of the site has been from lack of updates, in 180 countries, millions of viewers hope in their eyes, I do not know the second quarter of Baker Street, Scotland Yard and Whitehall can give us what kind of adventure?
- As good as the Sanctuary episode "Normandy" was - somebody seriously messed up the German lines. The translations are usually very literal, and when hearing the German text one can only make sense of what they say by translating it back to English. Example: "Bring them/him down!" as in "Shoot them!" was translated as "Bringt ihn/sie herunter." which is technically correct, but doesn't have this meaning in German. Essentially the bad guy told the troops to bring someone downstairs
- The Hungarian dubbing (or rather voice-over) of Top Gear borderlines Translation Train Wreck, with the translator rendering most of the dialog word-for-word. While the car reviews and the challenges usually end up being at least a bit incomprehensible, the guest star segments are virtually mangled. What more, if the translator doesn't know what a word or expression means, he sometimes simply omits it, or worse, actually leaves them in English. Also? He isn't well-versed in this whole car stuff either.
- Pushing Daisies has a particularly awful one in "Robbing Hood". The mysterious Latin phrase orbis pro vox, which has been appearing at crime scenes around town, is supposedly a translation of "ring for rights", the motto of a charity organisation that goes door-to-door ringing bells while making collections. Not only is the Latin incorrectly inflected and therefore nonsensical, it was clearly pulled from Google Translate without any background checks - orbis, quite apart from being incorrectly in the genitive case, refers to a circle (hence, you know, orb), and thus could at a stretch be used to translate "ring", but only as a noun, not a verb. vox would need to be in the ablative case after pro, and either way would once again only barely carry the meaning of the modern concept of rights.
- During one episode in the Brazilian dubbing of iCarly, the translators didn't translate Spencer's best friend name, Socko (called "Meião", literally "Big Sock", in all other episodes). Carly also used the female article "a" when mentioning him.
- The first few seasons of Charmed and Smallville in Hungarian were shockingly badly translated. Allegedly, episodes of Charmed had to be dubbed under a day due to the rushed TV schedule, so the script was essentially a strict word-for-word translation of the original. Sentences rarely made sense, even the names of the characters got mixed up. Later seasons topped this off with a severe case of Inconsistent Dub. Smalville's official dubbing script was meanwhile a shoddy Fansub that the translator got a hold of. Besides the amateurish translation work (that often left out plot-important details to boot), the dub also had some spelling goof-ups. The most infamous incident was the word "takarodó" (curfew) being misspoken as "takaród" (your blanket).
- The Colbert Report had Colbert mocking senator Marco Rubio's painfully awkward rebuttal to Obama's State of the Union address. Then he showed off ABC's mistranslation of the closed captioning on the Spanish version, which had such hilarious examples like "I'm at the body in the homeless in August to pay thugs and be asked what's the Hamas, you've got the April not because I was of them, I'll get paneling and soaps."
Stephen: Wow. What a beautiful language....when it's being phonetically transcribed by a computer that evidently thinks it's English. I mean, the Spanish phrase "Buenos noches suoy Marco Rubio" goes right over my head, but I totally understand him when he says, "When an auction said Michael Mr. Into".
- The Latin American dubbing for the second encarnation of Ripley's Believe It or Not! had an episode about ultralight planes, referred in general as just "ultralights". That word was translated as "ultraluces", taking the "illumination" sense of "lights".
- The German dub of Firefly had some mistakes, but one of the more amusing ones is Wash suggesting to circumvent the Zäune and sell the stolen medicine directly to the people. Yes, Zäune means fences - but fences as in "garden fences" rather than "people who buy stolen goods". The same episode botched Wash's "Hey, I've been in a firefight before. [Pauses] Well, I was in a fire. [Pauses] Actually, I was fired, from a fry cook opportunity." Deflationary Dialogue.
- The German dub of Stargate SG-1 translated the iconic "Burns as Goa'uld" line literally, as "brennt wie Goa'uld" which means "burning like Goa'uld". Not only is the joke lost, the conversion refers to "animated characters" after it regardless, which of course makes no sense by then.
- The German dub of Game of Thrones translates crone (one of the Seven) as Krone - e.g., crown. There really is no excuse for this.
- Likewise, every now and then the Spanish (Spain) translation of Game of Thrones will make some unexplained mistake that will render the otherwise great voice acting useless:
- Translating Stannis' line about always giving traitors "their just desserts" literally, even though the idiom does not exist in Spanish. Is Stannis a pastry enthusiast?
- Using "Lysenne" as if it was the name of a place, rather than someone from there, in the second and third seasons, when Lys had already been mentioned correctly in the first season.
- Bronn calling Littlefinger "Lord Twatbeard". In English. Viewers might as well think that it was actually some new lord we had not met yet.
- Calling Yara Asha (like in the book) in the second season, then using Yara in the third.
- Translating Meereenese as "Merinense" in the second season and "Mireno" in the third (the books even use a third version, "Merinés").
- Changing Ramsay's line about his mother teaching him to "not throw stones at cripples" to the idiom no hacer leña del árbol caído ("not make firewood of an already fallen tree"), which more or less means the same, but then keeping the second line "but my father told me to aim for the head!" intact, even though it now comes out of nowhere.
- While the French dub of the TV adaptation of Hogfather was fairly accurate (apparently relying on the excellent translations of the books), there was a very glaring error in the credits, where "Mucked about by Terry Pratchett" was translated as "'Mucked about' composé par Terry Pratchett", implying that "Mucked about" is a song composed by Terry Pratchett. Apparently the guy translating the credits had no idea who this Pratchett guy was.
- In a How Its Made episode we are shown the production process for tortilla chips, including the adding of lime (as the chalky powder used in masonry, called calce in Italian) to cornmeal in order to obtain nixtamalised masa dough. The Italian translator mistook that for the citrus fruit (which is called lime like in English).