A Blind Idiot Translation is a translation from one language to another where the translation is overly literal, grammatically incorrect, very awkward, or clearly misses what the word or phrase was supposed to be. When a translation is complete gibberish, then it is Translation Train Wreck
. Sometimes overlaps with Gratuitous Foreign Language
The problems with blind idiot translation can be so bad they can be prohibited. California State Law prohibits translating the phrase "notary public" as a blind idiot translation into Spanish (California Government Code, § 8219.5 (c)), because instead of translating into "someone who can authenticate signatures and take oaths," the phrase translates into "government official."
The name is not intended to be an insult against the translator (although it works just as well that way), hence the quotation marks in the title: "Blind idiot"
is the Recursive Translation
of the old saying "Out of sight, out of mind". A computer in a lab was running a beta of some translation software package and translated "Out of sight, out of mind", meaning "If you hide something, sometimes people forget that it existed in the first place" into Chinese and back to English, and the printout read "Invisible idiot".note
In another variant, the phrase "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" got translated as "The alcohol is strong but the meat is rotten". (This translation was once used as the Trope Namer
for Either World Domination or Something about Bananas
, which is a Sub-Trope
Compare Recursive Translation
. Also see Japanese Ranguage
and Asian Speekee Engrish
, where jokes are made about odd pronunciations. Can lead to Bite The Wax Tadpole
. When someone tries to speak another language and fails horribly in this fashion, it's My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels
There are pages contributing humorous examples of misguided translations. Perhaps the most popular one is Engrish.com