Lost in Translation

"Traduttore, traditore." note 
Italian adage

Translation is difficult. Failing to carry details from one language to another is all too easy. A term in one language may have no equivalent in another, or the associations might differ wildly. Rendering idioms literally often makes no sense whatsoever. Subtleties get dropped and grammatical correctness slides when things get complex.

Puns, figurative speech, connotations and cultural references: they all create problems.

The risk for this is especially high when translating from one's native language into a second language, which is why most professionals translate into their own language.

Faced with this problem, translators have come up with various tactics. In extremes, some do a Gag Dub, or a Woolseyism. Some even hang a Lampshade on the untranslatable term. A skilled translator might need to be almost as creative as the original writer in creating a satisfying parallel text. And when the translator is really excellent, we don't notice their work at all.

When the original language of a film is mentioned in the film itself (for example, “Do you speak English?” in an American Hollywood film), translators, depending on country, might replace it with the phrase “our language”. Countries with the opposite conventions include at least Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands, where nothing outside little children's and "family" films gets dubbed.

When done with this in fansubs, some often place a little note explaining the context of the pun or cultural reference. Other translations put a note explaining it. This often happens if the translator decides to Translate the Loanwords Too.

For the film of the same name, see Lost in Translation.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In episode 3 of Lucky Star, Konata, after listening to an explanation about fraternal twins being from different eggs, makes a joke to the effect of "Speaking of eggs and sausages, I'm getting hungry!" The joke comes from the fact that the Japanese word for fraternal twins (souseiji) sounds almost identical to the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "sausage" (so-se-ji). Translators apparently couldn't find a way to Woolsey in a better joke. (Fortunately the joke is explained in the "Liner Notes" pamphlet included with the DVD.)
  • In episode 17 of Maid-Sama!: "Your enemies aren't your only opponents!"
  • In Gundam Wing, one factor that made some fans decide Relena was an idiot was her seemingly random declaration that Heero was "the prince of the stars"; the translators didn't realize that this is the Japanese title for The Little Prince, which makes Relena's statement make a lot more sense (as Heero came to Earth from space on a "shooting star").
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo parodies this during "Bobobo theater", when the ridiculously long string of Japanese characters are read as simple words like "Youth", with Beauty complaining about it.
  • Futaba-kun Change!
    • A fire-fighting cyborg that was a shoutout to Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain used a monkey brain, which was afraid of fire. "Sol" in Japanese would be written "soru", while monkey is "saru".
    • A somewhat wacky bit of odd translation happened in a different arc of FKC. In a wrestling match, Futaba is forced to fight a genetically engineered giant flytrap. In the first chapter, the flytrap was called Dancer II. In the second, they reverted to a direct transliteration of its name, Odori II, rather than translating it as Dancer. Thus revealing the pun.
  • In a French fan sub of Rozen Maiden, it became very obvious the sub was based off an english sub when Kanaria said she was going to play a requiem "pour la sorciere perdue" (for the witch that was lost), which is a mistranslation of what she said in the English sub: That which was lost.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the character Chazz had a nickname and catchphrase inspired by some rather complex wordplay - his nickname was "Manjoume Sanda" in the Japanese version, Sanda meaning "thunder" and being a pun on "Manjoume-san da", meaning "It's Manjoume-san," ergo Manjoume is demanding people refer to him with a respectful honorific. His catchphrase incorporates this into a chant involving the Japanese words for the numbers ten, one hundred, one thousand, and ten thousand (the "man" in his name means 10,000). All of this was left out when 4Kids dubbed the show, and Chazz's catchphrase is a much less catchy and meaningful "Chazz it up."
  • The closed captioning for the English dub of Spirited Away labels Yubaba's baby's rat-form's "chu" (Japanese onomatopoeia for a mouse's squeak) noises as "[sneezes]".
  • Urusei Yatsura:
    • The original run's DVDs in the US included pamphlets full of explanations on the puns involved in the episodes on the disc they were included with, rather than translators attempting to localize the translations.
    • Creator/Animeigo's dub of the series also used the title Those Obnoxious Aliens to translate the pun of the Japanese title. "Those Obnoxious Visitors" would've made a better localized title, considering the double meaning of the word "Visitor".
  • Speaking of AnimEigo, in Green vs. Red, a Mythology Gag involves one Lupin-impersonator spray-painting "Rupan" on a wall, and another asking, "Isn't that wrong?" This is a reference to the Market-Based Title "Rupan" that AnimEigo used on its English-language Lupin III releases. This is an example of an inverted Lost in Translation, given that relatively few Japanese viewers would catch the reference.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, upon first being referred to by the name, Kero-chan complains that it sounds like a frog's name. Makes perfect sense in Japanese, where "Kero" is the onomatopoeia for a frog noise, and a common cutesy way to refer to an animal is to append "-chan" to the sound it makes. In English, it's a Shout-Out to Sanrio character Keroppi at best, or a complete non sequitur at worst.
  • One reason the Akazukin Chacha anime and manga never made it to the US is that they're absolutely stuffed with Visual Puns that are completely untranslatable and need to be explained in English.
  • One slightly glaring example from the Love Hina manga: The Christmas themed banners in one panel say "Satan" instead of "Santa".
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In one episode of Sailor Moon, there is a shot of several boxes; one of them reads "天地無用" (tenchi muyo). Some fansubs interpret this as a shoutout to Tenchi Muyo!; the ADV Films "uncut subs" translate it as "no need for heaven and earth". "天地無用" is actually extremely common to see on boxes, and in that context means "This Side Up".
    • Sailor Moon in general can be very tricky to translate due to the amount of puns and cultural references used. Certain jokes (such as Minako's warped proverbs) also stop making sense when translated literally.
    • There's also the small matter of the main character's name. Usagi means 'rabbit', and in Japan, the Man in the Moon is a rabbit, so her name has a bit of moon-based wordplay. Unfortunately, that joke doesn't translate, and no Western parents would name their child Bunny. The English dub team threw the whole thing out and renamed her Serena, which is a normal name that evokes the moon. Chibi-Usa became Rini, a cutesy diminuitive form of Serena.
  • A great deal of the humor in the American Funimation dub of Crayon Shin-chan comes from lampshading this trope.
  • The name of Vegetto (ベジット, Bejitto), Goku and Vegeta's combined form in Dragon Ball, comes from a portmanteau of Vegeta's name (ベジータ, Bejiita) with Goku's Saiyan birth name of Kakarotto (カカロット). However, the name "Kakarotto" is romanized as "Kakarrot" in the FUNimation dub of the anime, while "Vegetto" for some reason became "Vegito", rendering his name meaningless. The Viz translation of the manga avoided this problem by renaming "Vegetto" into "Vegerot".
    • In a more mild example, there's a point in the original Dragon Ball where Chi-Chi is trying to talk to Goku about their engagement (kon'yaku). Goku misunderstands, assuming she wants to talk about food (konnyaku). This joke doesn't really translate into English, so the English version had Chi-Chi wanting to talk about their impending marriage, and Goku assuming that "marriage" was some kind of exotic food. Luckily for the translators, this fits the character to a T. In fact, this joke is actually a well observed trope.
    • There's also that all of Dr. Gero's creations were called "androids", even though 17 and 18 were cyborgs and Cell was organic. This is because the Japanese word used, Jinzōningen, has a more broad definition as any sort of Artificial Human.
    • There's one bit where Krillin attempts a Kamehameha. Once he pronounces "Kame-" there's a quick shot of Turtle perking up (kame meaning "turtle").
    • In general, a lot of characters in the series have (usually food-based) puns in their names that aren't translated.
      • All of Bulma's family have underwear-related names. The dub keeps Trunks and Dr. Brief. Bulma is translated from Buruma ("Bloomers") and Bulla from Bura ("Bra").
      • The Ginyu Force has dairy-related names.
      Jeice = Jīsu ("Cheese") - translated in the manga as "Jheese"
      Burter = Bāta (Scrambled version of "Butter") - translated in the manga as "Butta"
      Recoome = Rikūmu (From Kurīmu - "Cream") - translated in the manga as "Reacoome"
      Guldo = Gurudo (From Yōguruto - "Yogurt") - translated in the manga as "Gurd"
      Ginyu = Ginyū (From Gyunyu - "Milk")
      • The Nameks have snail-related names. "Nail" and "Cargo" translated well, but there's also Dende (from Denden-mushi - "Snail") and Moori (from katatsumuri - also "Snail").
      • Chi-Chi = Udder/milk
      • Krillin = Kuririn = kuri ("chestnut") + shōrin ("Shaolin"). The chestnut reference is retained with his daughter (Marron).
      • Launch = Ranchi ("Lunch")
  • I Will Definitely Protect You is an unusual example. The original phrase zettai ni mamoru is almost always translated as I Will Definitely Protect You. The awkwardness of the phrase sounds like someone couldn't be bothered to translate it appropriately for the context, since the depth of its meaning is very contextual. However, if the translation took into account the context, it would entirely lose the humor of its use, which is almost always based on a misunderstanding of the context in which it's used. Then to get even more meta, it's probably also entirely unintentional that the original context is missed and probably really is just lazy translation.
  • An episode of Samurai Champloo has the protagonists caught in the middle of a conflict between two yakuza families, and Jin and Mugen each ends up as a bodyguard of separate family. What's lost in translation is that the word used for bodyguard is yojimbo, and that film is what the episode is giving a Shout-Out too.
  • Debatable whether or not this was intended, but in Case Closed/Detective Conan, there is an episode in which Ran Mouri / Rachel Moore was called to model for a fashion designer, partly to serve as an alibi and to set up a murder. Upon finding out that Ran / Rachel's father was a detective, the fashion designer recoiled. Apparently, she didn't realize that Ran Mouri was related to Kogoro Mouri, a detective who was gaining local fame. To westerners, this would seem a little odd, given that not everyone would know many people with the surname, "Mouri", but the English localization had changed their surname to the more recognizable, "Moore". With all common surnames, it wouldn't be unlikely to assume a Rachel Moore / Ran Mouri is unrelated to a semi-famous one.
    • Some of the cases in general are lost in translation. Some cases can only be solved by realizing something about a common Japanese game, and the Japanese language is often used as codes. Many of the codes have the Japanese pronunciation written, followed up by "which means", but some of the references to games that help solve a case are nearly impossible.
      • Specifically, one case is proven by a lighter being placed in a specific position on a mat that matches a piece in Shogi, a Japanese game.
      • Another case is solved by the suspect saying he was at a Pachinko parlor late at night, which is disproven when Conan brings up that there's a law stating that Pachinko parlors can't stay open that late. How is someone from another country automatically supposed to know that?
      • Another, several-parter case involving a serial murderer had the fact that all the victims played Mahjong together a lot be important. Translating this case resulted in lines such as "Going to the doctor" and similar, which make no sense to anyone - in the Japanese version, it would make sense since the Japanese original sentences were apparently misheard things you say while playing Mahjong. Exactly how anyone who doesn't have the original text in front of him and knows a lot about Mahjong is just beyond them.
      • Aoyama Gosho actually knew this trope would happen a lot when he heard that Detective Conan would be translated into different languages. He apparently told them "Good Luck", knowing how many clues he made that were connected to Japanese sayings, mythology or culture that people without Japanese knowledge would find incredibly difficult to figure out.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • You can't blame them for not trying to localize this joke, but at one point, Kuwabara says "A mulberry is a tree, and Kuwabara is a man!" The pun that would be virtually untranslatable is that the word "kuwabara" means "mulberry tree." In the English translation, it just comes across as a bizarre non sequitur on Kuwabara's part. (Which actually fits his character pretty well.) The line in the original Japanese was "Just as a cherry blossom is a flower among flowers, Kuwabara is a man among men." They changed it in the dub specifically for the Bilingual Stealth Pun.
    • One other example of a common way to dodge around this trope/localize it comes when Itsuki recalls how he got Sensui to spare his life when the latter was a Spirit Detective. Sensui asks Itsuki if he had any last regrets, he regretted that he couldn't see Jun Togawa on a show the next day. Obviously, the chances of anyone outside of Japan knowing who this person is would be rather slim, so he merely said he had a TV show he wanted to watch. The Shonen Jump translation left mention of Jun Togawa in, with a side note explaining who that person was. The Japanese version of the anime left out Jun Togawa as well.
  • The stock phrase This Is Unforgivable! suffers from this. The Japanese word yurusanai doesn't just mean "to not forgive"; it also means "to not allow". In quite a few cases, "I won't stand for this" works better than "This is unforgivable" (similarly, "I won't stand for anyone doing X" almost always sounds better than "I won't forgive anyone who does X"). Many, many subbers don't realize this, leading to lots of awkward translations.
  • One Piece:
    • Edward Newgate's nickname, Shirohige, is usually translated as "Whitebeard", which gets across the reference to the real pirate often called Blackbeard, but seems like a non sequitir in that "Whitebeard" does not have a beard, but a mustache. As it turns out the word "hige" just means any sort of facial hair.
    • The puns that Oda loves so much.
    • A "sakazuki" is a type of ceremonial sake cup. This wouldn't mean much on its own, aside from the fact that "Sakazuki" is the real name of Marine Admiral (later Fleet-Admiral) Akainu, but as revealed in the Dressrosa arc it's instrumental in how an amnesiac, Luffy and Ace's thought-dead brother Sabo, regains his memory. It happens when he sees a newspaper article about the death of Ace, who was killed by Sakazuki. He and the others had sworn vows of brotherhood over sake as children, so the news linked the two for him in a way that doesn't translate into English well.
  • There was a scene in the second "Urusei Yatsura" movie in which Ataru is getting a wish granted. In English his words are translated as "Wa-water. No! Water. It's just water." As the room fills with water, which makes no sense. In Japanese, however "Mimizu" is earthworms and "Mizu" is water, which helps explain his sudden panic.
    • One Piece uses a similar joke when eight year old Nico Robin first meets Jaguar D. Saul. The Viz translation just had Robin repeat "Wa-water?" in confusion.
  • Castle in the Sky had "Laputa" removed from it not because it was meaningless in other languages, but because "Laputa" looks like "La Puta", which, to people familiar with the Spanish Language, means "The Whore." Considering it's a pretty family friendly movie...you can tell leaving it intact probably wouldn't have been a good idea, so the localization team thankfully changed it. ("Laputa" was taken from Gulliver's Travels, it's unknown if other interpretations dealing with the subject had this problem too)
    • Gulliver's Travels was originally a satire, so the hidden meaning may have been intentional, which would mean the actual loss in translation was in the writing of Castle in the Sky itself.
  • The Sengoku Basara franchise suffers from this to an extent, mostly due to the characters' different speech patterns carrying implications that are difficult to reproduce in English. But the anime has one specific instance: in the first episode Date "One-Eyed Dragon" Masamune says "There's more to the One-Eyed Dragon than just show." In Japanese this carries an untranslatable pun on Masamune's surname, "Date", and the word "date" which means "showy" (and which was historically coined for Masamune). You see?
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The English translation of "Fullmetal Alchemist" created a very-delayed-reaction translation problem by not literally translating Hagane no Renkinjutsushi as "Alchemist of Steel" when the epigram at the very start of the manga ("A lesson without pain is meaningless, for you cannot gain something without sacrificing something else in return") was finally completed at the end of the series nine years later ("but once you have overcome it and made it your own...you will gain an irreplaceable fullmetal heart"), as "heart of steel" would make more sense. The English dub of Brotherhood rectified this by saying "...a heart made fullmetal" instead.
    • The character "Truth" is, in fact, a representation of a person's soul connected to all the world's knowledge. Brotherhood represented this by having it speak in the voice of any character talking to it. The English dub seemingly missed this and gave it a single voice actor, blurring its identity a bit.
  • In 20th Century Boys, the euphemism that the Friendship cult uses for killing people is the Japanese verb that means to break up a friendship. Since there's no single verb for that in English (at least until the advent of social media gave us the word "unfriend"), they simply use "banish" instead.
  • Several jokes have been lost in Yotsuba&!:
    • One is concerning Yotsuba explaining what her dad's job is. In the ADV translation, Yotsuba thinks he's a 'trainspotter' when she's suppose to say 'translator'. The joke is that the word 'honyakuka' means translator and that Yotsuba said 'konnyakuya', a store that sells a type of gelatin-like cake made from a yam-like plant or the proprietor thereof. In a later chapter, Fuuka sounds like she was making a non-sequiter about Yotsuba's dad's konnyaku business being a trade secret when the reality is it's a callback to Yotsuba's earlier misunderstanding.
    • Another is when, in English, Jumbo refers to Torako as a "she" while looking at her photos of the hot air balloon event. This is problematic because the running gag is that Jumbo has never met Torako before and assumes that she might be Asagi's boyfriend (while the feminine "-ko" in her name would normally be a dead giveaway, Torako is generally just called "Tora", meaning "tiger"—pretty macho). This can be explained by the fact that, while Japanese does have gendered pronouns, they can very easily be avoided entirely.
  • A Filler episode of Full Metal Panic! has Sosuke, Kaname, and their school friends go to some war games at the local military base, thanks to their classmate Shinji Kazama's father being a pencil-pusher there. The head of the Opposing Sports Team is a parody/Homage to Gundam's Char Aznable, something which the ADV team either missed or didn't bother translating. In particular, at one point he starts giving one of Char's famous quotes ("Nobody likes to admit to the mistakes caused by their youth and inexperience"), but both the sub and dub render his line as something entirely different.
  • Sucking up the baby Lobzillas in Kirby 3D makes Kirby turn into Kabuki Kirby. (rather than Ice Kirby, as his powers would suggest) This seems like a non-sequitur in the English, especially when Tiff claims that Kabuki Kirby is a magical ninja. It makes more sense in Japanese. Kabuki Kirby is actually a kabuki actor, and Lobzilla's Japanese name is Ebizou, which means "Shrimp Elephant" — an apt description of the creature — but also sounds like a notable Kabuki stage name.
  • Pokémon:
    • It can happen with visual puns as well. Wobbuffet, Jesse's Wobbuffet and its constantly interrupting everything, in particular, was inspired by a Japanese comedian. Non-Japanese 'Pokemon'' fans were completely lost on it. It would have been semi-intelligible (though losing its full meaning) if Wobbuffet kept a name that sounded like a situationally-appropriate conversational phrase, like in the Japanese. (Said phrase was part of said comedian's well-known Catch Phrase.)
    • In one episode, May tries to have her Torchic use Hinoko (Ember) but accidentally says Kinoko (Mushroom) instead due to the similar sounds. This joke wouldn't make any sense in English, so the dub has her say Amber instead of Ember. Despite this, the thought bubble of a mushroom still appears when Max corrects her.
    • In Japan Misty's family has a Floral Theme Naming scheme. In the English dub this is lost as Misty doesn't have a plant related name. Her sisters do, making her the Odd Name Out. Subverted in that both her Japanese and English names mean pretty much the same thing, resulting in a Lucky Translation.
  • Detroit Metal City at one point has Krauser starring in an indie film. At the climax, he ends up spitting into the mouth of the male co-star and ad-libs the line "You are already... Unfashionable", a bastardization of Kenshiro's well-known Catch Phrase. The film's director, following suit, makes the man's head explode in post-production. Sadly, the official translators completely failed at picking up the reference and mistranslated it as "there is nothing chic about you anymore".
  • Haruhi Suzumiya's Disappearance movie has a scene where Kyon is standing next to Yuki. He says her name because it's starting to snow, and "yuki" means "snow." As it is, the line would be meaningless in English; so the dub somewhat awkwardly converts it to "Yuki...means 'snow,' doesn't it?", and the sub has an equally awkward annotation to point out the double meaning.
  • The manga Mangirl. The title is supposed to be a portmanteau of "manga" and "girl" because it's about girls making a manga magazine. Unfortunately, an English-speaker tends to see the first word as "man" instead of "manga" and assume that the story is about something very different.
  • Episode 8 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica ends with Kyubey revealing that magical girls become witches. The exact line in the English dub is, "On this planet, you call females who have yet to become adults 'girls'. It makes sense then, since you'll eventually become witches, you should be called 'magical girls'". This makes little sense in English. Girl is 少女 (shōjo) and magical girl is 魔法少女 (mahō shōjo). 魔 (ma) actually means "devil". This is also the first character of the word 魔女 (majo), meaning witch.
    • At least in the dubs context, you still get the idea of "girls" being the underdeveloped version of a female adult. In other words a "girl" is the juvinile form of a "woman", a "magical girl" the juvinile form of witch. However, one early fansub group (One that happened to be one of most watched ones) insisted on translating the words "Mahou Shojou" as "Puella Magica", leading to Kyubey's whamline being along the lines of "On this planet, you call females who have yet to become adults 'girls'. It makes sense then, since you'll eventually become witches, you should be called 'Puella Magica'" Which makes zero sense at all.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Accelerator's name is written down using the kanji for "One-Way Street" (一方通行). Accelerator makes a pun in one of his fights off of this, saying "The situation from here on is a one-way street!" The soundtrack also names his theme song as "One-Way Street". This is lost on English viewers, though fortunately it still comes off as a fairly badass line regardless.
  • An episode/chapter of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has most of the girls visit Nozomu at his ancestral home, but Nami doesn't make it on time, because she's "normal." Nami's name's literal meaning is 'normal/ordinary', but more than that, 'normal' is the Japanese equivalent of a 'local' train. That is, a train that stops at every small individual station on the route, rather than skipping directly to larger hubs for commuters like the 'express' trains do.
  • Digimon Fusion made OmegaShoutmon into OmniShoutmon, making the greek symbol for "omega" appearing on the Xros Loader a bit pointless.
  • The English dub of Higurashi: When They Cry doesn't translate the nicknames (for example "Kei-chan" is just "Keiichi"), which loses some of the significance of how the characters refer to each other.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, some characters think that Yugo, a Synchro duelist, is an agent of the Fusion faction just because "Yugo" is Japanese for "Fusion". Yugo is very irritated about this. Some fans are already commenting on this and wondering how the English dub will do this joke.
  • In Ping Pong, Peco's consistent use of puns throughout the manga created a slew of problems for translators. It was so bad for French distributors, some sections were deemed untranslatable, and their own jokes had to stand in.
  • This is mainly why Gintama hasn't had much success in the western world; the humor is deeply rooted in Japanese pop culture and wordplay, and the show sometimes references anime that are either obscure to American fans or haven't even been released outside Japan.
  • The title of Akame ga Kill! when read literally read "Kill Akame" or "Akame Kills" and, due to it's phrasing, is left untranslated. This causes issues when, in Chapter 64, Tatsumi tells Akame that, should Tyrant take over and he turns into a dragon, he wants Akame to kill him and delivers the last part with the exact same phrasing as the title. The untranslatable nature of the line however causes the significance to be lost, leaving it with a lot less meaning.
  • The protagonists of the Pokémon Adventures arc adapting Pokémon X and Y are named... "X" and "Y". Those are not nicknames, they're literally their names. Even in a manga where protagonists have are named after colors and gems, their names stand out. It makes sense in Japan where their names at least sound like names when pronounced. Their oddball names resulted in translations making them into nicknames. "Y" is a nickname for "Yvonne" in the English translation while "X" is short for "Xavier" in France.
  • In Code Geass, Japan becoming the "United States Of Japan" is a plot point. The problem is Japan doesn't have states. In Japanese the U.S. is translated in a way where the term can make sense when referring to Japan.
  • When Neji and Hinata battle during the Chunin Exams in Naruto Hinata refers to Neji as "Neji-niisan", which causes Naruto to mistake them for siblings only for it to be clarified that they're cousins instead. The English dub couldn't avoid this plot thread so they had Hinata refer to Neji as "brother", which comes off as awkward as it doesn't have a dual meaning and Hinata otherwise simply calls him by his name.
  • The title of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer suffers a huge one in the first portion, which refers to Samidare being "Lucifer" for her wish to destroy the world. This seems unbelievably flimsy unless you know that "Samidare" can be read as "Morning Star".
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: During Asuka's Mind Rape scene, different voice actresses are doing an impression of her during the repeated portion of it. Thus her screaming "That's not the real me!". The English dub had all the voices as Asuka's, thus loosing some of the implications.
  • ViVid Strike!: The name of the Winter Cup can come across as a Non-Indicative Name for people in the United States since it takes place on December 15th, (the first day of winter on the Japanese calendar is November 8th).
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Those who have read Ojojojo know that Kobayashi's employer is owned by Haru Jigoumeguri's family. However, Jigoumeguri doesn't look or sound like a surname, so Seven Seas Entertainment translates it into "Hell Tours Ltd.," omitting The Verse implications.

  • The Mona Lisa lacks the double meaning of its Italian name "La Gioconda." "Gioconda" translates to "cheery," in reference to the famous Mona Lisa Smile, and doubles as a pun on the surname of the sitter, Lisa del Giocondo.
  • Relatedly, the title of Marcel Duchamp's readymade L.H.O.O.Q. is a pun. Reading the letters in French "Elle a chaud au cul" sounds like either "She has a hot ass" ("hot" like "high temperature", not like "sexy") or "there is fire down below". "Elle a chaud au cul" is also a slang phrase which means "she is really horny".

  • An in-universe example from Savage: Savage, under a pseudonym, is leading a crack team of terrorists disguised as Volgans to severely damage the Large Hadron Collider. One of his team, whose Russian is rather spotty, is approached by a Volgan guard who compliments him on his very nice watch, and asks if he can get any more. Our guy manages to interpret this as a sexual advance, panics, and shoots the guard. And that's only the start of the problems.
  • Averted in this Schlock Mercenary strip, in which the author states that no, the joke is not Lost in Translation.
  • The Indonesian version of Astérix kept the original French names of the Gaulish villagers instead of translating it, rendering the Punny Names inherent in the series lost.
    • There's stuff that gets lost in many versions too, like how some characters are caricatures of French-specific celebrities, and various French regional stereotypes - for instance, Asterix in Corsica is well recognised as a thorny one to translate since the whole section plays on Corsican stereotypes, and outside of France, no-one knows anything about Corsica except for that Napoleon was born there. The English version is therefore forced to replace more cryptic regional references with jokes about Napoleon that were not in the original.
    • Then there's Asterix and the Banquet, where a lot of the jokes are regional stereotypes and wordplay based on how various French regional accents pronounce certain things...
    • The pun in the title of Asterix Le combat des chefs (literally - the fight of chiefs) is utterly lost in English, where it's called Asterix and the Big Fight. This story is the Boxing Episode, and 'combat des chefs' is the French phrase referring to an important, spectacular upcoming match between two boxers - the story itself has the conceit that there is a Gaulish custom under which two literal Chiefs must fight each other. The English version just explains that the custom is called "The Big Fight", but the joke that makes it make sense is lost, so it just comes across as a random anachronism for the sake of absurdity.
    • There's a weird gag in one story where Asterix and Obelix get their chariot serviced by a funny-looking little Gaulish warrior drawn in a different art style - the mascot of a French petrol station chain. English editions (though not the digitally-coloured reprint) had him redrawn as the Michelin Man, which preserves the basic gag, but not the context - it makes sense for a Gaulish warrior to have a job in Gaul, but a small, fat homunculus made of rubber tyres? To make it more annoying the English dialogue is altered to have Obelix make a catty comment about his weight ('his spare tire!'), which is retained in editions which shift the art back. Most other translations kept the original art, and changed the characters' dialogue into remarks about how odd the man looked, turning it into surreal humour.
    • The iconic Opening Narration in France is phrased in a theatrical, slightly quirky way that sounds a lot better in French than in English - something like "It is 50 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. All Gaul is occupied by the Romans. All? No...". The English version streamlines the phrasing into the blander "The year is 50 B.C. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely..." This causes problems far further down the line where callbacks to the odd "all. all?" phrasing gets used for humour - most notably, a messenger being told to go to Caesar and tell him "'All Gaul is occupied by the Romans.' He will say, 'all?'. You will reply, 'all'. He will know what you mean." There was really no way to adapt this exchange for the English phrasing, so it just comes off as Evil Gloating rather than a joke.
    • In another album, the Gauls are inexplicably shot at with arrows in the city of Tyre. In French, this is a pun on "Tyre" being pronounced the same as tire, meaning "shoot", as in shooting arrows. Since the pun doesn't appear in the English edition, the translators added a new pun on the experience being "tiresome", but it explains nothing about the joke behind them being shot at in the first place. The whole sequence therefore feels like a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, if not an unmentioned Brick Joke to an earlier album in which Asterix and Obelix went to Tyre and were later shot at with arrows.
    • In the French edition of Asterix in Britain, the Briton chieftain's name is Zebigbos, which is "the big boss" in a French accent. While this can be understood fairly well by most English speakers, the translators changed it to Mykingdomforanos, which is a pun on "my kingdom for a horse" in their local accent, but is confusing to anyone outside of certain regions of England.
  • TheFlash's Chinese name is 閃電俠 - which misleads many into thinking he has lightning-based powers, despite the common usage of lightning as a metaphor for speed.
  • GreenLantern becomes 綠燈俠 - which indicates an association with literal traffic lights. A different translation makes it somewhat possible to confuse with RoboCop.
  • The foreign Disney Duck comics are almost never translated faithfully from the original (actually, pretty often, the "translator" is just given the synopsis of the story and the art with the dialogue already edited out of the speaking bubbles). Although the translators can sometimes come up with funny and inventive replacement dialogues, it renders the readers unable to appreciate the story as it was originally conceived.
    • Ultraheroes at one point has a footnote explaining that two characters had met for the first time in a story titled "The Confederation of Outside-da-Law". The problem here is that the story the footnote is referring to originated from Brazil, and it was translated into French and Italian, but never into English. Thanks to Ultraheroes, however, it got an English title despite never getting an official English translation.

    Fan Works 

  • Some Finnish subtitles for Star Wars translated a Stormtrooper's line "Maybe it's another drill" as "Ehkä se on pora". Technically, it's a pretty correct translation - except that "pora" is the Finnish word for the hole-making tool. This (Finnish) site showcases some other translation bloopers from the film.
  • The Italian dubbing of the whole Star Wars franchise is completely crazy; it changes many character names (Han Solo -> Ian Solo, Leia -> Leila, Darth Vader -> Lord Fener, R2D2 -> C1P8, C3PO -> D3BO) and even borders on Completely Different Title with "The Empire Strikes Back" becoming "L'Impero Colpisce Ancora" ("The Empire Strikes Again"), but most of all it seems to be fond of just replacing random words with something completely unrelated; as an example, not only the Death Star became "Morte Nera" ("Black Death"), but during its firing sequence the "primary ignition" became "ignizione preliminare" ("preliminary ignition"), which doesn't make any sense even considering lip synch (which would actually have worked better with "primaria", the correct translation for "primary").
  • Older or cheaply subtitled Bollywood movies often forgot subtitling the songs. As these often introduce, develop and resolve plot points or whole subplots, viewers not fluent in Hindi are left wondering just why there is suddenly a happily ever after.
  • Lost in Translation:
    • Appropriately enough, this trope is played with several times in the film Lost in Translation. The director of a TV ad says a minute's worth of Japanese to Bob, which the translator renders in English as two sentences. The scene is especially hilarious if you find out what the director really says; the translation is technically correct, but a lot of emotional and cultural context is lost.
    • Also a "meta" example: The movie was released in Israel with the title "Lost in Tokyo". So the meaning of the title Lost In Translation was, well, lost in translation.
  • Intentionally used in the movie Whisper of the Heart with Shizuku's various attempts to translate the song Country Roads into Japanese, a task she finds especially difficult since she's a city girl without any notion of what life in her own countryside is like. (She translates "Mountain Mama" to "My mother the mountain" at one point) Eventually she decides to ditch the country homecoming theme entirely and write something new that speaks from her own heart.
  • In the movie The Great Raid, the "translated" Filipino lines makes sense in the context of the scene. Several, however, were clearly erroneous. One of the more poignant examples was a Filipino driver asking for payment being subtitled as him saying that there was only limited room for refugees in the vehicle.
  • In the Norwegian subtitles for Independence Day "Oh my god, there's nothing left" is translated as "Oh my god, there's nothing to the left"
  • Used in-universe in Charlie Wilson's War, when Gust tries to explain the animosity between Tajiks and Pashtuns by telling a derogatory Pashtu joke. Nobody laughs.
    Gust Avrokatos: "Well, they say when a Tajik wants to make love to a woman, his first choice is always a Pashtun man. [beat] It's funnier in the original Pashtu."
  • In the Italian version of Back to the Future, for some reason unknown to mankind the Flux Capacitor got mistranslated as "flusso canalizzatore", which roughly means "channeling flux" and has almost nothing to do with the original name; however, in the third movie, Doc's letter talks about the broken "condensatore di flusso", which is an exact translation of "flux capacitor"; the Italian audience was never able to understand what this "condensatore di flusso" was and why would it be of any importance.
    • The (European) Spanish version names it "condensador de fluzo" in every moment despite fluzo meaning absolutely nothing in Spanish. Many people that saw the movies as children feel a bit disappointed when they realize the mythical, quasi-magical "condensador de fluzo" was just a "condensador de flujo" or flux capacitor.
    • The Flux Capacitor seems to be a Problem in many a translation. In the German version it was called "Fluxkompensator" (Flux Compensator), where the right translation would've been all of two letters different: "Fluxkondensator"
      • Translators for "official" dubs and subs don't translate by ear, but from a script. So what if the script sent for international dubs somehow had a typo every time, and some translators chose to keep it without realizing it wasn't on the actual dialogue? (That, or either the German or Spanish version was based on the other.)
    • In the first film, Marty comments that he knows the plot line of an old Jackie Gleason film. When asked how, as it's a new show, he explains he saw it on a re-run. When dubbed in Italian - as Italy in the 80s had not taken up the practice of re-running old shows - he instead said that he had seen it on a videocasette.
  • Used for laughs in the Russian movie The Diamond Arm (Brilliantovaya ruka). The (supposedly) Turkish speech of Istanbul residents is dubbed until they start to get...emotional. Then the interpreter explains that "Cue untranslatable play on words based on traditional idiomatic expressions."
  • Another Norwegian example; in the dub of The Lion King "meerkat" is translated to "marekatt", the Norwegian word for Guenon. So Timon was essentially called a monkey until the release of the third movie...
  • Italy has an odd habit of translating English titles into... English in some cases; the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Hush had its title translated into... Obsession.
    • Sometimes seen in France too. It's a mid-way between Gratuitous English (because everyone knows English is cool) and a title that people actually understand (via using English words that originated in... French).
  • Yet another Norwegian example; the translated title of the second Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, was inexplicably translated into Transformers: The Defeated Strike Back (with Defeated being plural, rather than the singular Fallen).
    • Ditto the Swedish version; Transformers: De Besegrades Hämnd (Transformers: Revenge Of The Defeated)
    • The Danish version decided that "The Fallen" was plural, thus sorta assuming that these "fallen" were a group, instead of the name of the film's Big Bad
    • The Finnish title, Transformers: Kaatuneiden Kosto, is also implying that there are multiple "fallen".
    • And, what's surprising, in Polish version too - they got the word "Fallen" right, but plural instead of singular: ''Transformers: Zemsta Upad³ych" (should be "Zemsta Upad³ego").
    • The Russian version also assumed "the Fallen" applied to multiple fallen characters and named the movie Месть падших instead of the singular (and capitalized) "Падшего". The character Fallen was simply transliterated as "Фолен", losing all meaning.
    • The Mexican Spanish got the name Transformers: La venganza de los caídos; which as you may guess is plural, so yeah pretty much everyone thought it was about the Decepticons and not that other guy.
    • Fallen is both singular and plural and can sometimes mean defeated. Having seen this movie from start to finish, it's understandable how translators would miss the identity of 'the fallen' as "In June 2010, Michael Bay officially apologized for the film and promised to make the third one better."
  • Similarly to the above, the Finnish title of the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is Hyvät, pahat ja rumat (implying that the movie isn't so much about three persons, one of whom is considered good, the second bad and the last ugly, but several of each.) It's also sort of Hilarious in Hindsight since the movie names that refer to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, like The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Hyvä, paha ja outo) are translated right.
  • In the Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall (1990), there's the scene where the bad guys are trying to track Arnie's character with a radio-beacon he carries in his head. One guy has the tracking device and tells the others "I have a lock" (meaning, a lock on the beacon). In the German version, this becomes "Ich habe ein Schloss" - meaning either "I have a door-lock" or "I have a castle", since the word has two meanings in German, none of them meaning that sort of lock.
  • The Swedish subtitles for the Bond movie "A View to a Kill" contains a real gem. As the bad guys are flying in their blimp over San Francisco (with the obligatory view of the Golden Gate bridge) they comment: "What a view." "To a kill." In the Swedish subtitles it goes: "What a view." "Yeah, Tokyo."
  • Italian titles of foreign movies sometimes get either way too literal (the Italian title of Vertigo is La Donna Che Visse Due Volte, The Woman Who Lived Twice) or misleading; The Evil Dead (1981) is called La Casa (The House), the Prom Night movies (the original and the remake) are called Non Entrate In Quella Casa (Don't Go Into That House, knockoff of the terrible Italian title for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Non Aprite Quella Porta, Don't Open That Door), despite there not being any dangerous house in the movie, and Che La Fine Abbia Inizio (Let The End Begin). And these are just a few examples! But the most annoying is the trend started with the italian title of Runaway Bride, Se Scappi Ti Sposo (If You Run Away I'll Marry You) which brought many variations of If You ___I/I'll ____ You slapped on as titles, including the egregious case of titling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Se Mi Lasci Ti Cancello (If You Leave Me I'll Erase You).
  • In Mexico, the movie Outlander, for some incomprehensible reason has been titled La Tierra Media y El Tesoro del Dragon Solitario (Middle Earth and the Treasure of the Lonely Dragon), there seems to have been no translation attempt going on at all for the title, which could have easily been translated as Extranjero.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Malaysia, the part where Quirrell bursts in and announces "THERE'S A TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!" has "troll" translated in the Malay subtitles as "orang kerdil" - "tiny person".
  • Return of the Living Dead falls victim to this, as the funniest line in the movie ("You mean the movie lied!?", spoken in shock by Frank after finding out that Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain doesn't kill the zombies) is translated in the Italian dub as "Continua a muoversi!"note  Frank's mouth moved enough in that one line for a literal translationnote  to fit almost perfectly.
  • Pan's Labyrinth runs into this in an early scene. When the Captain welcomes Ofelia and her pregnant mother to his villa, he greets them with "bienvenidos." This instantly tells the Spanish-speaking audience who he's really greeting, since normally when greeting a group of women one would say "bienvenidas." Unfortunately, since both words mean "welcome," the implications couldn't be communicated through the subtitles. The director was aware of this, and the Captain checks Carmen's pregnant belly before greeting them.
  • Frozen:
    • One of the lines in "Love is an Open Door" is "We finish each other's - sandwiches!" However, the wordplay of "sentences" vs. "sandwiches" isn't really translatable into other languages - for instance, in the French translation, the line ends up being something like "How a stranger finishes - all your sentences?" and completely ignores the "sandwiches" bit. Unfortunately, this creates a problem in that now there's nothing in the song foreshadowing that Hans is the Big Bad.
    • One song was unused in the final product to specifically avoid this trope. It involved the trolls telling Kristoff and Anna to wear each others shoes. It was scrapped because the writers were worried certain cultures wouldn't understand what "putting yourself in someone else's shoes" meant. It was ultimately replaced with "Fixer Upper".
  • The Marx Brothers movies were famous in Spain for having pretty much literal translations, making every other pun and joke a complete Non Sequitur. They were still funny, mind you, but it was a different kind of humor.
  • In The Ten Commandments, when Bithia adopts Moses, she says, "Because I drew you from the water, you shall be called 'Moses.'" This makes no sense in English. In Hebrew, she calls him Moshe (the Hebrew equivalent of Moses), because she mishituhu (which translates to, "I drew him out") from the water.
  • The Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes is called "El Secreto de sus ojos", seems like a perfectly accurate translation if it wasn't for the fact that "Sus ojos" could refer to the eyes of a single person as well as those of many, losing the double entendre that referred either to the eyes of the suspect or the eyes or Prosecutor Irene.
  • Airplane!: The iconic combo "Surely you can't be serious!/I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!" is nowhere in the European Spanish version, because the dubbers could not find a way to adapt the joke into Spanish. Nielsen's line was changed to a boring "I am serious. I will repeat it if you want." At least in the Latin American Spanish version, they change it into "God, you can't be serious!/I am serious, and I am not God!"
  • 7 Dwarves - Men Alone in the Woods: Foreign viewers might not understand why the castle is formed like a giant locknote .
  • The Japanese version of Mad Max: Fury Road uses standard Japanese in place of all the future-slang - for example, "you a blackthumb?" is translated as "you a mechanic?".

  • Many idioms and phrases in The Bible and other ancient religious texts are lost to us, making this one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.
    • Even those still known can pose a problem. Most clergy and studious laymen are familiar with three of the four Greek words for love: 'eros,' meaning a romantic attraction; 'philia', more of a friendly type of caring or loyalty; and 'agape,' which in ancient Greek was the kind of unconditional, absolute love that would cause you to sacrifice your life for a person. All three are translated 'love' in most versions of the English Bible. While it's not always detrimental, it really subtracts from the passage where Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him. The first two times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him with 'agape' and Peter responds that Jesus knows he loves him with 'philia'. On the third time, Jesus asks if Peter loves him with 'philia', for which occasion John relates that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time 'Do you love me with philia.' Some of the Bible translations preserve this distinction by translating 'agape' with "truly love" and 'philia' with simple "love" (this distinction was made in 1984 NIV translation, which was removed in the 2011 update, when both instances were translated simply as "love"; there are commentaries that argue that there is no meaningful difference between 'agape' and 'philia' in this passage.).
    • Also, Jonah. When studying the original Hebrew, Jonah's prayer of repentance in the big fish is actually a list of quotes from Psalms. When each complete Psalm is taken in context, Jonah's repentance seems less than genuine, making his later behavior consistent.
    • In the passage where Jesus is talking about Peter and says he is the rock on which he will build his church; 'petra' in Greek means rock and it was also close to Peter's name in Greek. So 'Rock, on this rock I will build my church.' That Jesus, quite the joker.
      • Peter's actual name was Simon, Jesus called him the Rock (in Greek petros), hence "Simon called Peter".
      • It wasn't lost in translation in modern Greek or romance languages though, where the word for rock and the name Peter are still the same (or almost the same, since they belong to different grammatical genders).
    • A lot of translations have occasional footnotes that read "the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain".
  • A common problem in poetry, since so much of a poem's meaning can depend on rhyme, rhythm, and the connotation of words, none of which are anything close to constant across languages, even similar ones. Many translations of poems are valid, but it's a hard job for translators to balance the need for clarity with preserving the author's original intentions with the poem.
  • In one of Stanisław Lem's books, one robot has a battle cry "awruk!". Some translators put it literally, some not. In fact, this is a Polish word spelled backwards, thus can be represented in English as "oh!" In this particular case, a more faithful translation would be something along the lines of "kcuf!". In fact, Michael Kandel translated it as "tickuf!"
  • Remember good ol' Aesop? Remember the Sour Grapes? Well, at some point some unnamed Swedish translator of Aesop decided (since grapes don't grow here, at least not normally) replace "grapes" with "rowan-berries" (the orange berries of a rowan tree) The problem? Rowan berries are really tart. Thus ruining the entire point of the Aesop...
  • All the translations of the Fighting Fantasy books have this to an extent due to the need to work out which paragraph to turn to next based on information already received.
    • Many books require the player to solve a riddle, then convert the answer into a number using a code based on each letter's position in the alphabet. For example, egg is 5+7+7=19; in French, oeuf is 15+5+21+6=47. This wouldn't be so bad, but the translators generally didn't bother to re-order the references so that the codes pointed to the correct ones.
    • Others disguised information in acrostics. Translators usually just translated the poem directly, causing the initial letters of each sentence to become meaningless. Both these practises made many books unwinnable.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward inherits his father's fierce stallion, and renames the horse "Pansy". The German translation makes a "little flower" out of it, which works fine, but completely omits the connotations that "Pansy" has in the Englisch original. There just is no flower name in German that also works as a synonym for "wuss".
  • One particularly heinous Dutch translation of Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead, which includes snatches from well-known pop songs in a passage featuring a radio, actually translates a line from Bohemian Rhapsody. Word for word.
  • The Swedish translations of Discworld, while usually good, do fail a few times. An example is in Pyramids, where, in the original, the mummies originally translated the inscription "And Khuft said unto the First: ..." as "Handcuffed to the bed, the aunt thirsted". The Swedish version translates the misunderstood inscription word for word, without keeping the similarity in sound.
  • Translations from Swedish can be equally problematic. Some of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck detective stories feature a country policeman whose surname, when the readers first meet him, is translated as "Awright", complete with the inevitable puns. However, for some reason (possibly a different translator), when he reappears in one of the later books of the series, his name has become "Content" — but without any more puns.
  • The Swedish translator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone left the name of the Erised Mirror, and its inscription, untranslated, apparently believing they were in some sort of fantasy language, while in fact they are simply sdrawkcab. When the mirror was mentioned again in the seventh book, it was renamed the Mörd-spegeln (the Maerd-mirror), which is almost worse, considering the fact that "mörd" brings one's thoughts to "mörda", which means "to murder". Quite different from the intended meaning.
    • Separated by a Common Language version: In the second book, Ron tries to repair his broken wand using "Spellotape", a pun on "Sellotape". Sellotape is a brand of cellophane tape common in Britain to the point of becoming a Brand Name Takeover. In America, this type of tape is called Scotch Tape (another Brand Name Takeover), so the joke is lost on American readers.
    • In the Italian translations of the Harry Potter books, Professor Dumbledore is known as Albus Silente. The translators took the first part of Dumbledore's name—'dumb' in the sense of 'unable to speak'—and made a literal translation. This is misguided given that "dumbledore" is an archaic/obsolete English word meaning "bumblebee."
    • The German translation was particularly bad at translating some puns. When Ron is corrected on the fact that one of Jupiter's moons is "Covered in ice, not mice", this was translated as "Covered in ice, not maize", since this rhymes in German. But the translator then forgot that pun when later on, Harry is taking the test and "at least he remembered the moon wasn't covered in mice" (using the word "mice" instead of "maize"). Another example: Malfoy at the end of book 4 teases: (paraphrase) "Now that Voldemort is back, Muggle-friends like your family will be first to die. Well, second. Cedric was the f..." before he is interrupted. The last word, starting in F, was obviously meant to be "first", but the German translator assumed it to mean a swear word, translating it as something like "And, secondly, Cedric was the f**..." (even though there was no "firstly")
  • The German translation of The Lost World (1995), besides cutting a few sentences, manages to confuse left and right.
  • In Agatha Christie's novel "Remembered Death" (also called "Sparkling Cyanide") the victim's name is "Rosemary", and Christie plays around with how the herb rosemary symbolizes remembrance. However, in the Spanish translation we have a problem. The Spanish word for that herb is not used as a feminine name, and the herb in Hispanic culture does not symbolize remembrance. In "A Murder is Announced" a character remarks that she doesn't like dachshunds, not because they're German (the novel was set right after WWII), but that she just never cared for them; the problem is that the Spanish name for that breed is 'Can Inglés'—English Dog.
  • Many translations of the Qu'ran begin with a lengthy apology from the translator, for both theological (it's supposed to be a direct transcript of a book in heaven) and practical (it's heavily stylized and archaic poetry) reasons. Without fail, the translators will encourage the interested reader to attempt the book in the original.
    • Swedes have chosen to grapple with this dilemma by saying 'Fuck It!' We have 2 Korans now!:
      Koranen [The Qu'ran) = A pocket book that is a word for word translation from Arabic to Swedish of the Koran. This is the one that non-Muslim Swedes reads in order to learn about Islam.
      Koranen i Svensk Tolkning [The Qu'Ran in Swedish interpretation] The official Swedish translation of the Qu'ran, as the official statement is: The Complete Koranen in Swedish interpretation, shown with ample annotations and the Arabic original; That is to say that each page has the original Arabic in the left column and the Swedish translation in the right. It is printed as an oversized brick.
  • Don Quixote: A joke in the Spanish version is that even when everyone understands the term island, only truly sophisticated people understand the term ''insula''. So, Sancho doesn’t really understand what an insula really is, but he desperately wants to rule one, so he would be tricked later in a Massive Multiplayer Scam to rule a little town that is not an island. In some English translations (for example, the Gutenberg project this joke is Lost in Translation at Chapter II of the Second part:
    "May evil [[insulas]] islands choke thee, thou detestable Sancho," said the niece; "What are [[insulas]] islands? Is it something to eat, glutton and gormandiser that thou art?"
    "It is not something to eat," replied Sancho, "but something to govern and rule, and better than four cities or four judgeships at court."
  • Some information says that the Spanish translation of A Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami lacks an entire chapter. That perhaps explains a little more about the Cinnamon and Nutmeg characters -or perhaps not.
  • Russian transcripts of foreign names sometimes replace H with G (for instance, Harry Potter is known there as Gary Potter. This leads to an interesting case with Robin Hood, who becomes Robin Good - leading Russians with some knowledge of English to completely misinterpret the meaning of his name. It still kinda fits, though.
  • The French translation of Robin Hood is similar. Due to confusion between Hood and Wood, he became Robin des Bois (Robin of the Woods) in French, which is still wildly adequate. It's sometimes explained by the fact that the Celtic name of Robin Hood actually meant Robin of the woods.
  • The Dutch translator for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy apparently found it impossible to translate the sentence "The yellow ships were hanging in the sky just like bricks don't", as it ended up being nowhere to be found.
  • The title of Albert Camus's novel "L'Etranger" was given the title "The Outsider" in its English translation (the same word can also mean "stranger" or "foreigner"). Unfortunately, SE Hinton later came along and wrote The Outsiders, which became hugely popular in high school English classes, to the point that it overshadowed the earlier book for many native English speakers.
  • Les Misérables:
    • Jean Valjean was imprisoned in the Bagne of Toulon, a term which has long created problems for translators, since it literally means "galleys", conveying the misleading impression that Valjean was in a Slave Galley (something which has carried over to some adaptations). In her 2013 translation of the novel, Christine Donougher opts to use the term "prison hulks" instead, which has the advantage of preventing this confusion and being historically accurate (the Bagne replaced an earlier system of galley slavery and for a significant period, prisoners continued to be "housed" in ships even though they did not serve as rowers).
    • "Les Miserables" literally means "the miserable," but can also be taken to mean "the guilty." The double meaning, and the complexity it implies, is often lost on English readers, who (correctly) assume that the title's a cognate and stop looking.
    • Hugo employs a lot of puns that only work in French. Most translations will note that Les Amis de l'ABC is a play on Les Amis de l'abaissénote , but skip over more minor ones.
  • Jane O'Connor's Sir Small and the Dragonfly is about a tiny knight who rides an ant on a quest to slay a dragonfly, which is drawn to resemble a dragon. In the French version, the word for dragonfly, libellule, indicates nothing about dragons, which completely eliminates the pun.
  • The Polish translation of The Guns of Tanith was titled Karabiny Tanith (literally: The Rifles of Tanith). Since the original English title is a reference to The Guns of Navarone, translated into Polish as Działa Nawarony, the proper choice of words would be Działa Tanith.
  • In The Exploits of Moominpappa, when Little My hears that the Muddler and the Fuzzy have just gotten married, she cheerfully announces that they've gone off and poisoned themselves — because in Swedish, the word for "married" note  is the same as the word for "poison." This pun was impossible to translate into most languages; in the English translation she just says something generic about "they're in real trouble now."
  • A Running Gag in Discworld books is the Librarian (an orangutan) going into a rage whenever someone calls him a "monkey" rather than an "ape", as orangutans are apes. Unfortunately, this doesn't work in Polish, a language which doesn't have separate words for "monkey" and "ape". The translators usually resort to translating them as "małpiszon" (an informal and somewhat dismissive form) and "małpa" (the regular form), but not only this loses the spirit of the original joke (the Librarian getting angry at someone's biological ignorance), but ends up sounding rather unnatural since "małpiszon" isn't a word a typical person would use spontaneously.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Spanish subtitles for the R1 DVD release of Wonderfalls suffered from this here and there because English-language TV is able to be a tad crasser than is really acceptable in Spanish. Unfortunately, this meant they could not quite capture the same rude, crude, outright crass flavor of the English idiom "my ass" (a somewhat obscene variant of the idiom "my foot" - or for those not fluent: "That's an obvious lie, so shut up" - that uses a ruder synonym for one's bottom), as used by a bitchy, self-absorbed tourist in the pilot episode. The closest they could find translates as "to the devil with you". Incredibly, undeniably rude, particularly in Spanish if you use it in conversation with a stranger? Yes, but downright classy in comparison, and thus lacking in a very subtle bit of characterization (it is, however, incredibly hard to find a better phrase that would have been acceptable language in Spanish anyway).
    • They also killed a joke in the second episode, by translating Jaye's dad's deliberately, ridiculously silly, nonsensical, innocuous choice of words "Those sons of biscuits!" (an oath he didn't need to mince, since his daughter is in her 20s) as... "those lazy loafers!". This probably happened because the phrase it was a pun on in the original English - "Those sons of bitches" - is a lot more offensive in Spanish than it actually is in English, but alas, the oddly childlike minced oath that was so funny and cute and strange and characterizing in the original is lost in the process.
  • Cuatro, a TV station from Spain has decided to translate Primeval as Invasión Jurásica (Jurassic Invasion). This would be a great title if not for the fact that there isn't a single Jurassic critter in the whole damn series.
    • Possibly carrying on the tradition of Cretaceous Jurassic Park.
  • In Latin America, Kid Sitcoms and cartoon dubs state that the language everybody is supposed to be talking is Spanish in instead of English. As a result children couldn't understand why in the Lizzie McGuire Movie characters were saying "Sorry I can understand you I speak Spanish" when an Italian character was saying something that sounds so alike in Italian and Spanish that a 5 years old could understand it.
  • Two Disney series during that time, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Power Rangers Dino Thunder, had literal ones in their episodes, Lost In Translation and Lost And Found in Translation, respectively. Both are Played for Laughs.
  • The French dub for the show 'Allo 'Allo! suffered heavily under this, especially since most puns involved French townspeople (who, since it was a British show, spoke English obviously) not being able to understand British pilots/police officers
  • Doctor Who features an in-universe subversion. A message from the Sycorax asks for a demand to be done "or they will die". UNIT spends a while wondering why the translator output wasn't "or you will die", then it turns out "they" refers to several people with A-positive blood being brainwashed into being about to fall to their death.
  • The Supernatural episode title "Jus in Bello" translates (from Latin) as "justice in war". But from dialogue, it's clear that the intended meaning had more to do with "the rules/laws of war", which would be "leges belli".
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, one of the lesser Armored Riders is named Gridon, which is an anagram of "donguri", the Japanese word for acorn (upon which his armor is based) and is treated In-Universe as a Atrocious Alias. Fansub group Æsir tried to avert this trope by renaming the character "Ornac", particularly because some Western fans had already latched onto Gridon as an Awesome McCool Name. Ironically, the name change drew complaints from fans who thought Ornac sounded stupid and felt they should have stuck with the cooler-sounding Gridon.
    • Though it is worth noting that, unlike the original Japanese spelling, "Ornac" only works if you pronounce it in an unusual way; "Orn-ache", instead of the more obvious "Orn-ak".
  • Root Into Europe: A lot of comedy occurs because Mr. and Mr. Root only speak English and thus are unable to understand what the foreigners they meet mean or say. For instance, in Brussels, they meet someone from Antwerp who doesn't understand what they are saying. Afterwards Mr. Root assumes he is "probably a Walloon". note 
  • In-Universe in Stargate SG-1. Finding an ancient inscription, Daniel admits his translation is a bit rusty, but he thinks it means "The place of our legacy," then admits it could also mean "the piece of our leg," but in context, the first makes more sense.
  • The dubbing of The Big Bang Theory for Latin America has drawn heavy criticism for many reasons, but among others; simply disregarding the source material and making up jokes, using to many Mexican local expression (generally voice actor in dubbing tend to avoid that and use standard Spanish) and changing the meaning of some jokes apparently thinking that the Latino viewer is not going to get it. For example, when the guys bought a replica of the machine use in The Time Machine, the Spanish dubbing change the jokes to make references to Back to the Future. Like if no one in Latin America knows what The Time Machine is.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the more amusing incidents in Magic: The Gathering translation involves the card Yawgmoth's Agenda (i.e. the evil plans of the villain Yawgmoth). Due to misunderstanding or mix-up, it's said the Japanese version of this card was translated into a phrase equivalent to "Yawgmoth's Day Planner."

  • Translating plays is perhaps more susceptible to this than translating novels or other works; getting the words, grammar and tone correct is one thing, but having all that in a translation that sounds natural when spoken by actors is a whole other challenge. Translators, as a result, have to sacrifice either accuracy to the original language in favour of a script better suited to performance, or performability in favour of a more accurate translation. For example, due to a text stuffed with ancient greek puns and cultural allusions, Aristophanes' theatrical work is an awful task to translate.
  • As dramatists, the Frenchmen Racine and Corneille are considered fully the equals of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedians. Unfortunately, their dramatic effects and rhetorical tactics are almost wholly reliant on the specific conventions and history of the French language and culture—translation into any other language simply fails to convey the vast majority of their genius, because you can't "translate" the kind of 17th-century assumptions and specifically French literary conventions that the tragedies derive their power from playing against.
    • It gets even trickier for French-speakers themselves when some effects cannot make sense with the way French is spoken nowadays. For example the phonemes ai and oi only separated during the 18th century, they were identical and both written oi before that time, e.g. the name François ("Francis") and the word français ("French") were exactly the same thing at that time. One of François Villon's poems shows it plainly : Je suis François dont il me poise / né de Paris emprès Pontoise ("I'm Francis / French of which I'm weary, born in Paris next to Pontoise". poise and Pontoise are also a rhyme, but they wouldn't be in modern French as poise would be pèse).
  • Shakespeare's plays themselves contain loads of archaic wordplay, which are lost on everyone who doesn't have in-depth knowledge of Elizabethan slang. See Get Thee to a Nunnery for more information.
  • In opera you have the additional challenge of making the target language text fit the music; this is probably why opera is usually done in the original language; in operetta/singspiel/opera comique/opera buffa, where you have spoken dialogue between the songs, one often has the odd experience of hearing the dialogue in the audience's language and the songs in the original.
  • The Dutch have basically given up because of this trope. Things are either left untranslated, or they specifically ignore the actual language and translate for accurate emotional content as close to the original language as possible.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodborne has fairly few and minor hiccups, but the effect of the distorted language is made exponentially worse due to the Story Bread Crumbs style narrative and deliberately obtuse backstory making every world count for a lot. Ironically the biggest lost reference by far is one that isn't concretely written or spoken. "Kegare" is a Shinto concept that describes spiritual uncleanliness that is derived from earthly filth and bodily waste, particularly bloodshed and childbirth, which adds an entire layer of implications to Blod Ministration and the Great One surrogate pregnancies that flies over the heads of non-Japanese audiences. Now among the lost lore due directly to bad rewrites and redubs:
    • The Flavor Text of the Old Hunter Bone obfuscates the gender of the Hunter it was harvested from in Japanese. The English calls them male, which hits a snag when The Old Hunters DLC was released and heavily implied the Bone came from Lady Maria.
    • During the flashback cutscene showing how Laurance left the Byrgenwerth scholars, Provost Willem brings up another former student who also left the school, who is implied to be the one who provided Cainhurst with their "corrupt" blood. The English translation leaves out the mention of the previous rogue student and the lore connections it was attached too.
    • The handwritten note you find in Iosefka's Clinic at the start of the game is explicitly stated to be in your handwriting in the Japanese version, showing that your PC anticipated becoming an Amnesiac Hero and they entered Yharnham already knowing something deeper about the Hunt.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • The Kingdom Hearts series and first game in particular suffers from some of this, perversely not due to bad or uncreative translation—indeed, it's actually really good—but due to Woolseyism. The translation team worked to preserve tone and meaning in a lot of dialogue, rather than literalism, and successfully turned "conversations with friends in Japanese" into "conversations with friends in English." Good! Except for the fact that the Japanese dialogue, unbeknownst to the localization team, contained Arc Words and very subtle bits and pieces from Chekhov's Armoury that wouldn't come to full fruition until later games in the series. As a result, some of the Foreshadowing was gone, and the Kingdom Hearts series' growing a massively intertwined and complex plot came much more unexpectedly to Anglophones. It's an excellent translation for a stand-alone game, but unfortunately—it wasn't a stand-alone game.
    • The symbolism of Xion's name in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days was unfortunately lost in translation. In Japan, "shion" (the Japanese pronunciation of Xion) is also the name of a plant that is commonly associated with memories.
    • The Kingdom Hearts translation team is usually rather good at catching Arc Words, but in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance they seemed to have missed Young Xehanort saying "We'll go together.", translating it as "Come with me." instead.
  • The PS2 game Ape Escape 3 features an unlockable parody of Metal Gear Solid, named Mesal Gear Solid. In Japanese, this is a pun- Metal Gear is transliterated as Metaru Gia, so Mesal becomes Mesaru- Saru being the Japanese word for monkey (the series is called Saru Getchu! there). In English, it's just confusing gibberish.
    • This was actually the result of a collaboration between Sony and Konami which also resulted in the "Snake vs. Monkey" minigame in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. For what it's worth, a parody of the actual Metal Gear appeared in its final stage, also called "Mesal Gear" (complete with a monkey wearing Big Boss' trademark eyepatch).
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, killing Ocelot after defeating him during the Virtuous Mission results in an instant Nonstandard Game Over as Colonel Roy Campbell, the CO from games later in the series's chronology, chews you out. The original Japanese voice track had added humor from the fact that Campbell's Japanese VA also dubbed Dr. Brown from Back to the Future.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass contains an island called Dee Ess Island, which as the name suggests, looks exactly like a Nintendo DS. However, the Spanish and French names for the island translate to "Island of Ess(es)". This is because in Spanish and French, the word "de" means "of", and apparently, "Dee" was translated as "de". This means that the island's name's pun is lost on the Spanish and French. The name is correctly translated in the New World versions of Spanish and French, perhaps because Nintendo of America handles translations for all of North and Latin America. Italian belongs to the same language family as Spanish and French, but the name was translated properly in that language, making a clever pun ("Diesse" sounds both like "DS" and "di Esse", "of Ess" in Italian).
    • The character who calls himself "Error" in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often thought to be named that way as a result of "Blind Idiot" Translation. Not only was that his actual name in the Japanese version, his friend's name "Bagu" is actually supposed to be "Bug" ("Bagu" being a transliteration of the word "Bug" from English to Japanese kana and back to romaji). Naturally "Error" and "Bug" are common terms for computer glitches, but the joke was lost on many western players.
  • A special case occurs in the German version of the Bloodmoon expansion to Morrowind - in one dialogue, the translator forgot to add the text link leading to a quest start, which resulted in a (small, but quite helpful) subquest being completely lost.
    • In the Polish translation of Morrowind it was pretty hard to rest in some taverns due to similar reasons... the option, when available, was listed last in handy dialogue sidebar, due to Morrowind's ordering system not recognizing letters of the Polish alphabet.
  • Recurring character Axel/Akutare of the Disgaea series always refers to himself with the words "ore-sama" in the Japanese audio, "ore" being an equivalent of "I", and "sama" being a honorific one would use when referring to someone viewed as a superior, which stresses just how highly he thinks of himself, on top of his already often conceited dialogue.
    • In Disgaea 4, this is actually something of some importance, as beginning to use "ore-sama" in their speech is the first obvious sign that someone is being affected by the A-Virus of chapter 6.
  • The French-language manual for Earthworm Jim on the Mega Drive translated "butt" (as in Evil Queen Overly Long Name Slug-for-a) as postérieur, which whilst technically accurate doesn't quite capture the idiom.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, you need a navigator's head being held by cannibals, who are unwilling to trade it to you because they are unable to find another one. You succeed by trading it for a leaflet titled "How to get ahead in navigating". The spanish translation of the game had the leaflet translated literally ("Como avanzar en la navegación"), losing the double meaning, and making this part a big Guide Dang It.
    • The translator of the german version was smarter at this and titles the book "Klarer Kopf beim Navigieren", which means re-translated "get a clear head during navigation", which actually gives enough hints at the puzzle solution, as the cannibals will now say it's an instruction to get a "clear head", meaning they can make a better head.
  • Mega Man:
    • In Mega Man Battle Network 6, there's a sequence where a classmate goes on about calling the 11 year old protagonist "Mr. Hikari" instead of "Lan." The end result is that Tab comes off as a little crazy with a unique and incomprehensible way of expressing himself and you spend the rest of the game waiting for a repeat performance.
    • Much earlier then that in Mega Man 3, once they learn a certain character's name is Doc Robot (or Doc Man), players are sure to be scratching their heads, wondering what this robot skeleton has to do with doctors. The name comes from a pun on the Japanese word for skull—dokurothat for whatever reason, Capcom didn't see fit to change.
    • Mega Man is named "Rock Man" in Japan. The joke about a boy named "Rock" being siblings with a girl named "Roll" is somewhat lost in translations. Mega Man's civilian name is still "Rock" though, but it's not mentioned nearly as often.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Waluigi's name (ワルイージ, Waruiiji in Japanese) comes from an anagram of the word ijiwarui (いじわるい), which means mean-spirited, and is a combination of Luigi and warui, meaning bad. Unfortunately the joke is lost on many English players.
    • Princess Peach's name in Japan is Pichi-Hime (ピーチ姫) which is a pun on the word Pichi Pichi (ピチピチ) meaning lively, spunky, energetic.
  • The first Updated Re-release of Street Fighter II is officially titled Street Fighter II Dash: Champion Edition in Japan. Champion Edition was actually the game's subtitle, much like how The World Warrior was the subtitle to the original Street Fighter II and The New Challengers was to Super Street Fighter II. However, the word "Dash" is not spelled on the game's title but represented by an apostrophe-like symbol (′) known as a "prime" or a "dash", which is often used as a notation to denote the derivative of a mathematical function (i.e: f′ or f dash). Hence the title Street Fighter II Dash, as in a derivative of the original Street Fighter II. Instead of retitling the game Street Fighter II Prime for its American release, Capcom USA simply ignored the prime mark on the title screen and marketed the game as Street Fighter II: Champion Edition on the marquee. The same was true to the subsequent game in the series, Street Fighter II Dash Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which was shortened to simply Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting (although the American marquee carries the awkward title of Street Fighter II: Turbo Champion Edition: Hyper Fighting).
  • Metal Gear:
    • In the first two Metal Gear Solid games, Revolver Ocelot is known among his Russian comrades as "Shalashaska", which he claims to be a Russian slang word for "prison". The name "Shalashaska" is actually a mistranslation of the actual word "Sharashka" from Russian (Sharashka) to Japanese (シャラシャーシカ, Sharashaashika) and then from Japanese to English (Shalashaska).
    • "Sharashka" is actually a slang word for a very specific type of prison - secret research and development labs where incarcerated scientists and engineers worked on scientific and technological projects for the state. They were in effect Gulag labour camps with intellectual labour instead of physical labour. All of them were closed after Stalin's death.
    • "La Li Lu Le Lo" are "missing" vowel sounds in Japanese; the point of the name is that it's not technically possible to write or say it in Hiragana (because there's no distinction between "L" and "R" and the string is usually "Ra Ri Ru Re Ro"), so the Patriots censor their name to something that can't be written down or spoken (or at least not anymore since E.E. claims that the Patriots' power is such that they could remove entire parts of the (Japanese) language without anyone noticing, meaning this could have been deliberately engineered). This is never really gone into in the dub (since English doesn't do that), so it just seems to be meaningless babble.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3, Volgin uses the phrase "Kuwabara, Kuwabara" several times. It's a Japanese expression equivalent to the English "knock on wood" that is believed to ward off lightning. At the end of the game, he refuses to say the phrase, instead mocking the storm, and is promptly struck by lightning.
    • A good Actor Allusion joke in Metal Gear Solid 3 is lost in English. If the player decides to kill the unconscious Ocelot in Rassvet, you get a Non-Standard Game Over where Colonel Campbell from the previous three games yells at Snake for causing a Time Paradox. In the English version, it's a non-sequitur. In the Japanese version, it's because Campbell's voiced by the same actor who dubbed Doc Brown in Back to the Future.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4, Sunny calls Otacon "big brother", which adds an allusion to Otacon's dead sister Emma. In the English she calls him "Uncle Hal", which has the right literal connotation (something a child might call a guardian they're not actually related to) but which loses the subtext.
  • A literal case in Dragon Quest II, where the character is accidentally directed to the wrong town in a translation error.
  • Apparently, the translators in Tales of Destiny can't even count alphabets. A four-letter password in a dungeon was hinted to the player in the form of four numbers, yet in the localization two of them were one less than the correct number, resulting the hints being useless. Ultimately the player is left to consult a guide or randomly guess. The password is FATE, by the way.
    • In Tales of Vesperia, Flynn's first name is rendered in the Japanese version as フレン (furen), which is a play on the word 'friend'. Since this is a pun born out of the Japanese pronunciation of English words/names which do not sound alike in English, there is really no way of preserving it in localisation. The name sounds perfectly normal, but ceases to be meaningful in the English version.
  • Myself ; Yourself — In Japanese, this would be Jibun Jibun, which is why its title in Japanese is Maiserufu Yuaserufu.
  • In Xenosaga Episode One, after KOS-MOS ignores on of Shion's orders, Shion remarks that she doesn't recall programming her that way. This is actually a spin on a Japanese idiomatic phrase (Originally: I don't recall raising a daughter like that!) often uttered by mothers to stubborn daughters. This serves as an interesting piece of evidence towards the fact that Shion views KOS-MOS not as a weapon, but as her child. This is sadly lost in the English dub track, where it comes off as just another example of KOS-MOS' mysterious nature.
  • At the end of Xenoblade, Shulk asks Alvis what he is, and he responds by saying he's "The Monado". While this just seems to be him claiming that he's the Monado (the name of the sword you've been using) in the English version, in the Japanese version it's a play on words with "Monad", which makes his explanation (and the ending) make a lot more sense if you know your way around Gnosticism.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X:
    • Black Tar's lyrics include, "Standing as long as we can until we get all Dolls up", which would make more sense if you understand that Skells are called Dolls in the Japanese game. At least it's not in the Skell combat part.
    • In-Universe, Professor B's native language contains words that don't translate into English, so he does the best he can to describe it when asked. The words just appear as jumbled garbage text.
  • Happened with several Meaningful Names in Wild ARMs 1 and its remake. For instance, "Zakk Vam Brace" was translated as "Jack Van Burace," completely losing all meaning of the scene where Garrett Stampede receives the title of "Vambrace," indicating that he can protect his Love Interest who has the title of "Sword Arm". Also happened with the "Fenril" Knights, "Alhazad," and "Zeikfried." It's made worse in the remake where they translated his title as Gauntlet, showing that the translators missed the point of Jack's name the second time around.
  • In many Japanese-developed fighting games and beat-'em-ups, it is not uncommon to have a character whose fighting style is listed as "martial arts". Examples includes Terry Bogard from the Fatal Fury series, Cody from Final Fight, Joe and Guile from the Street Fighter series, Ralf and Clark from The King of Fighters series, Axel Stone from the Streets of Rage series, and Sarah Bryant from the Virtua Fighter series, among others. This is because at one time the Japanese believed that the English term "martial arts" referred to a specific fighting style and not a general term for combative sports. When martial artist Benny Urquidez was asked what kind of fighting style he used, he stated that he was a "full-contact martial artist", which led the Japanese public to believe that "martial arts" was the name of his fighting style (in reality, Urquidez's main fighting style is full-contact karate). In the martial arts manga Shikakui Jungle (Squared Jungle), the term "martial arts" is defined as a "fighting style used by the American military" and many video game designers based their definition of "martial arts" on the manga's description. However, to anyone outside Japan, the term "martial arts" is meaningless as far as specific styles are concerned. How can a character have "martial arts" as his "martial arts"?
    • Related: Marshall Law from Tekken has his fighting style listed as "martial arts". The intent was for it to be "Marshall Arts".
  • In the Monster Rancher game and anime, a particularly evil Dragon is named 'Muu', which means darkness or emptiness. In English, he's named 'Moo'. Yes, after the sound a cow makes. The German translation instead went with Moe, calling forth weird associations with The Simpsons.
  • In Wild ARMs 3 the wandering mercenary/treasure-hunter characters are known as "migratory-birds" (watari-dori) in the original Japanese. The translator realized that in English this sounds a little silly, rather than poetic, so he changed the title to "drifters". However, most of the dialog was translated fairly directly, leading to some rather out of place metaphors. (The "drifters" are constantly referring to "flapping their wings" and "flying to a new place".) In one egregious example near the beginning of the game, Virginia is warned by her uncle that "Unlike land, the open sky has no roads for you to follow," in response to her deciding to become a drifter.
  • In Civilization 4 units speak their acknowledgements in the language corresponding to their nation. This is nice, and considerate of other cultures, not all of which are English. Would have been nicer if, say, the translators took into consideration that in Dutch the idiom "we're on it" becomes nothing more than a confirmation of positioning.
    • Oh! That's must be why in Russian the unit says something meaning either "We are on the spot", or "We have arrived at the location already".
  • In BlazBlue, Hakumen's Badass Creed includes "Ware wa Jin" (ie. "I am the steel") which turns out to be a Stealth Pun because he is later revealed to be the future version of Jin Kisaragi, who travelled back in time.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Japanese Pokemon name Togechick was translated overseas as "Togetic." This would appear to be a case of someone using a popular but less precise romanization system and then not bothering to pay attention to what they were doing; トゲチック can be written in romaji either as "togetikku" or "togechikku", with "togechikku" being phonetically correct and "togetikku" matching the syllable group the 'chi' kana actually belongs to.
    • The Japanese name of Krookodile, Waruvial (A combination of the Japanese word "warui" meaning bad, and gavial), properly described what animal the Pokemon was actually based on, as it has the long, narrow snout that's typical of a gavial.
    • The move Aerial Ace is called Tsubame Gaeshi in Japanese, which is the name of a sword technique, hence why virtually any Pokemon with claws or other parts to slash with can use the move, whether they're Flying type or not. The move being Flying type stems solely from the fact that the word "tsubame" means swallow, as in the bird. This is further confusing for English-speaking audiences because Ace is a term referring to fighter pilots with a certain number of confirmed kills. Hence, Aerial Ace takes on a whole different meaning.
    • The Dark type is called the Evil type in Japan. This mistranslation actually makes more sense in some ways; Pokemon belonging to that type are more often than not good, but it left many people wondering why there is no Light type to complement it.
    • The Pokemon Politoed is based on a pun that they did not even attempt to translate. It's based on what is known as the "lord-frog" in Japanese. It's Japanese name includes the word "lord" and its Pokedex entries talk about it ruling over its pre-evos. Something like "Froaking" would have been an obvious way to preserve the pun, and would have even been a good portmanteau, but for some reason they didn't do that. Possibly because they may have wanted to preserve the "Poli" name all the members of its evolutionary line have.
    • Red's rival in Pokémon Red and Blue is named "Ookido Green" in Japan. Due to countries outside of Japan getting the Updated Re-release Pokemon Blue, instead of Pokemon Green, he is called "Blue Oak" internationally. Red and green are opposite colors on the Color Wheel but more commonly people think of blue as red's opposite so this change worked fine originally. The problem comes in future games. In the remakes to Pokémon Gold and Silver his bedroom is completely green. Renaming him "Blue" also messes with the Family Theme Naming (his grandfather is Professor Oak and his sister is Daisy Oak). Oddly, internationally the remakes for Red and Blue were FireRed and LeafGreen however Blue's name was kept as "Blue" instead of being retconned.
    • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, the Gym Leader Clair was called "Ibuki" in the Japanese release, which can mean "breath." So when she gives the player the TM that teaches Dragon Breath, she mutters in the Japanese version, "...That's not a pun or anything." The English release changes this to "No, it has nothing to do with my breath," making a different joke. In the remake, as Clair now gives out a different TM that has nothing to do with breath of any kind (Dragon Pulse), she no longer makes the joke in either version.
    • As mentioned above, Wobbuffet was inspired by a Japanese comedian. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team a Wobbuffet speaks in Pokémon Speak (unlike the others, who use Animal Talk) and is paired with Wynaut. In the Japanese version its Pokémon Speak makes sense but in translations it's just a random sounding Catchphrase.
    • At one point in Pokémon Sun and Moon, the protagonist is asked to pick between red, green, blue, and yellow. This is an obvious reference to the original Generation 1 games and the NPC tells you a line based on your choice. When you pick blue though, it's mentioned that it was an unpopular choice. While that might have made sense in Japan as Blue was the third game and thus not as popular as the first two, outside of Japan the series was released as only Red and Blue.
  • Cave Story had a password that the player is given towards the end of the game. In the original Japanese, this was the characters for the game's original title (Doukutsu Monogatari) written backwards. The translator has admitted to being half-asleep when working on this section of the game, as he didn't notice and the backwards kana came out as "Litagano Motscoud," though one has to admit it makes it harder to guess without it being told to you (which does happens in the game). Nicalis's official translation fixes this by using "Yrots Evac".
  • In La-Mulana, the name of Duracuets is supposed to be an abbreviation of Dragon Quest II. Fixed somewhat in the remake, where it's translated as "Dracuet".
  • Final Fantasy V:
    • based its villain's name on a pun where the generic scary Faux Symbolism villain name "Exodus" sounds the same as "ex-death", hinting at his origin as a congregation of evil spirits that have returned to ruin the world of the living. In English, you kind of have to go with one meaning or the other, leading to him being named "Exdeath", a name which Western fans still laugh at when talking about how V was a weak entry.
    • Krile's strange name is a joke that's only comprehensible in Japanese kana, where it would be spelled Kururu Mururu, a name that's obviously goofy. Japanese players, knowing the game is a European-style fantasy setting, would have attempted to pronounce it as if it was an English word, leading to something close to 'Kryrh Myrrh'. Since this would be unpronounceable to actual English speakers, her name was localised as 'Krile Meyer' (or 'Cara Meyer' in some fan translations), which doesn't have the same ring of absurdity.
  • Many legitimate complaints can be made about Final Fantasy VII English translation. Concentrating on things made untranslatable by differences in language rather than flat-out mistakes:
    • The original script gave Cloud a habit of speaking with clichéd idioms, with the idea being that he's someone whose own words weren't his own — a habit strongly associated with the character by Japanese fans, and Lampshaded in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. In the English version it's Woolseyfied into him using a lot of understatement and undercutting his own words, which isn't as memorable and hasn't carried over to any of his future appearances.
    • You may notice that Cloud's name is even odder than those of the rest of the cast, having two fantastical names, when the rest of the heroes have normal surnames. This is because Cloud's peculiar surname, Strife, was intended as a slight modification/pun on the common Germanic surname "Strauss" (Suturaaifu rather than Suturaauso. Note that the name of Cloud's mother was given as 'Claudia Strauss' in the artbook). To Japanese ears, it sounds plausibly like a surname, being only one tweak away from a well-known one. In English, it sounds like a ridiculous and Narmfully on-the-nose Awesome McCool Name.
    • Barret's name is a pun on 'Bullet' that also sounds like the ordinary surname "Barrett" - in Japan, they'd be pronounced the same way. This ambiguity is lost in English, and the translators went down the more name-y route.
    • Japanese Pronouns and modes of politeness were all lost:
      • Aeris's speaking pattern in Japanese comes across as being tomboyish and rough, to match her low-class upbringing and contrast with her girly appearance. In English, her speech pattern is made playful and almost cutesy ("Hmmmmm!"), meaning a lot of the irony was lost on English-speaking fans.
      • After we find out the truth about Red XIII's personality, he goes from speaking in a pompous and condescendingly formal way to speaking like a child. In Japanese, this change affected every line, with his party dialogue in early optional events having alternatives depending on whether his sidequest had been finished or not. This change does carry over to the English script, but thanks to English' more limited palette when it comes to indicating social status and politeness, it's much less striking, with a lot of the changes just being trivial tweaks in phrasing ("That's the reactor, and the condor." / "That's the reactor. And the condor.")
      • During Cloud's possession scenes, the Japanese version had him suddenly start speaking in a formal way to indicate that he'd become a completely different person. In the English version, he speaks in his usual way ("This place is about to get rough.") indicating that More Than Mind Control might be involved.
    • There's a clever Stealth Pun in the fact that Cloud is introduced as a Ronin (a former swordsman who abandoned his masters for unclear reasons and now works as a mercenary) and that we later discover that he's a ronin (a young person who failed their entrance exams to get the job they wanted). This is lost in English due to the latter meaning being an unknown cultural concept, and the former archetype being less easy to recognise in the distorted form it's presented in with Cloud.
    • At one point, Elmyra recalls the young Aeris saying her husband had returned to the Planet - "I asked if she meant a star in the sky. But she said it was this planet." Baffling, unless you know that Japanese uses the same word for both "planet" and "star" (hoshi). It also causes some of the symbolism concerning stars, planets and meteorites to be muddled because English has no way of referring to them all as the same concept - for instance, Tifa's concern over whether the stars can "hear us" is supposed to be a reversal of the 'hearing the Cry of the Planet' motif, but it doesn't come across.
    • A joke about President Shinra where President was his name, not his actual job/title in the corporation was lost in the English translation.
    • English and Japanese do share the same allegorical meanings around the term 'spiky' (e.g. a spiky personality, a pointed comment, etc.), but it's fair to say that calling Cloud 'spiky-headed' in English just sounds like a reference to his hair. In Japanese, it's 'tsun-headed', which comes off like a childish insult about his character as well as a reference to his hair.
    • Cloud's Catchphrase was inconsistently translated as "not interested", "don't really care", "don't care", "not my thing" etc., with the effect of diluting the fact that he has a catch phrase. His later appearances all strictly used "not interested" (the most accurate translation of his Japanese catchphrase, kyoumi nai ne, but fairly rare in the original game), and made it obviously a catchphrase, which a lot of English-speaking fans assumed was Flanderization of his disaffected attitude. In fact, it had been part of his character from the beginning.
    • The Western fandom has a different view of the main girls than the Japanese ones based on their clothes designs having slightly different connotations for each country. Since casual basic fashion for young women in 1997 Japan is more cutesy than in the West, Aeris's pink outfit and bow comes off as down-to-earth (while still well-put-together and special), while Tifa's cropped tank, leather skirt and Doc Martens marked her out as being the one who was really interested in fashion (and a bit alternative). In US 1997, Tifa looked like a casual low-maintenence girl-next-door type in old boots, while Aeris came off as being unusually girly and wholesome. Cue people who loathe her for being a Tastes Like Diabetes princess type... although that has mostly fallen by the wayside as the fanbase has matured and realised the script doesn't portray her that way.
    • A major game mechanic is the "PHS", a device with which you can switch your party members (and which is occasionally used as a phone in the storyline). In Japan, it was a reference to a late-1990s branch of entry-level mobile phones with reduced features called "Personal Handiphone System" or "PHS", with the joke being that Cloud's was a "Party Hensei System" (Party Summoning System, an existing Fan Nickname for the party-switching game mechanic in many RPGs of that era). In English, the PHS's name is left untranslated and the allusion to its in-game use is lost, and the total obsolescence of the technology it's based on hasn't helped either.
    • A Woolseyism led to Cloud getting "Mako poisoning", a sensible decision, since Mako energy allegorises nuclear power. However, the original Japanese called it "Mako addiction", adding a drug-abuse allusion that explains certain images (like why Tifa first meets Cloud lying unconscious in a city gutter), adds some pop-psychedelic subtext and makes Cloud's Epiphany Therapy instant recovery make somewhat more sense (as it is more a psychological problem than a physical one). Crisis Core used "Mako addiction" to describe Cloud's symptoms.
    • Another Woolseyism led to Sephiroth Copies being referred to as "Sephiroth Clones". This wasn't itself a bad move, since 'Copies' sounds silly, but the Clones aren't real 'clones' but a made-up Magitek concept. It ended up confusing the already convoluted plot as players attempted to find Cloning Blues tropes that weren't in the story.
    • When Aeris is in the prison cell explaining to Tifa what the Cetra are, in the English version she just says a few vague lines in her normal speaking style. In the Japanese version she recited a nursery rhyme about the Promised Land legend, indicating it was something her mother taught her as a child. The scene in Dirge of Cerberus where Lucrecia recites Cetra poetry to Vincent was supposed to be a callback to this, but that's lost too.
  • Final Fantasy VIII
    • The Japanese version of Rinoa's confession in Galbadia Garden plays out a differently from the English translation, and includes a line referencing that indicates that she no longer likes Seifer:
    Rinoa [Japanese]: "If I did I couldn't talk about it like this"
    Rinoa [English]: "If I didn't, I wouldn't be talking about it."
    • Although it's still possible to guess from Gilgamesh's comment about the Rift that he's the same Gilgamesh that appeared in Final Fantasy V, a single syllable confirming it was left out of the English translation:
    Gilgamesh [Japanese]: "Huh? Was it you... Ba—?" [referring to Bartz]
    Gilgamesh [English]: "Huh? Was it you...?"
  • Final Fantasy XIV
    • When the game was first being developed, Chocobos were being referred to in Kanji as "Horse-bird/馬鳥". This set off a small firestorm which led to a renaming, and accidentally being called "Chocopos" before finally being reverted back to the common チョコボ/Chocobo in both Japanese and English. It has since then been lampshaded in both the 2014 New Years "Heavens Turn" with a competition of popularity between some visitors from the world of Hydaelyn's Far East supporting horses, and calling the Eorzean region's popular Chocobo Mounts "Horse Birds"
      • Referenced again during 2.2's "Into the Maelstrom" story line, when Refugees from the Far East country of Doma arrive and upon seeing Chocobos for their first time, also call them Horse Birds
    • For the English, French, and German speaking players, the name of one boss in the game had to be changed twice due to this. As part of the Crystal Tower story line, the enemies are designed, and named as one big shout out to FFIII. However, at the end of the Labyrinth of the Ancients dungeon, players face a boss distinctly based off of FFII Is version of Titan. Problem is, there's already a Primal being, and Summon in the game of a different Titan. Japan can get around this, because in FFIII, they used ティターン which is based on the Greek pronunciation (Tea-tahn), and for all other games and the Primal and Summon version of Titan as タイタン (English pronunciation: Tie-tun). However for the other major languages, they can't as regardless of pronunciation, it would still be Titan. So the English Localization team came up with a solution, and got permission to use the name of a similar design FFIII enemy named Acheron for English, French, and Germany.
      • However, with 2.3, the name was forced to change again from Acheron to Phlegethon (Both named after rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology), when the dev team decided to add in a minor enemy in the Syrcus Tower portion of the quest of of Acheron based on FFIII's palette colors of the enemy of the same name.
    • The above case was later given an in-universe justification that the researchers mistranslated the text from the ancient Allagans due to it being a mostly dead language, and they rectified their mistake, hence Archeron being renamed to Phlegethon. A similar case happened with the new class in the first expansion, Astrologians: Since the game came out, Astrologian was a catch all term for the astrologists of Ishgard, but when it was reported that the new playable class was from Sharlayan, a completely separate continent, the dev team had to admit that it was a translation error on their part.
  • The English localizations of the X-Universe games give conflicting reports on the structure of the Argon Federation government. The games' internal Encyclopedia Exposita describes it as a modified American-style democracy with a president and a unicameral senate, while the X-Encyclopedia calls it a parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister. Factor in that the dev team is German, which makes the X-Encyclopedia's version more likely.
  • The little-known platformer The Adventure Of Little Ralph received an English translation of its title by the game's publishers, even though it was never released outside of Japan. Since an English title translation had been conveniently provided for English speakers, the game is known as The Adventure of Little Ralph in America and other English-speaking nations. However, translating the game's Japanese title reveals that the title was supposed to contain a juxtaposition of Ralph's size and the size of his adventure (the literal translation is Little Ralph's Big Adventure.)
  • In The Night of the Rabbit, DJ Ludwig the mole's radio ident in the original German is "Welle Sumpf 103 Punkt Funf … fünf!" — intentionally mispronouncing the word fünf ('five') to sort of rhyme with Sumpf ('swamp'). In English, this is changed to "Swamp Radio 103 Point Six…er…five", transforming the radio presenter from one who's fond of bad puns to one who can't remember the number of his own station.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge gets hit with this in probably the worst possible way — one of the puzzle solutions is based around a pun. Specifically, you use a monkey to tamper with a waterfall pump, a play on the term "monkey wrench". This is a very American term though; even if you are an English-speaker, if you live in another English-speaking part of the world such as the United Kingdom, chances are this is not a common termnote . Translators had a field day attempting to work this puzzle into other languages, with some not even bothering and thus making the puzzle near-impossible to figure out unless you get it by blind luck or use a guide. Ron Gilbert learned very quickly after this to try to avoid using wordplay as a solution to a puzzle again.
    • The translator of the german version was obviously wrecking his brains how to solve this dilemma. Finally, the solution was if looking at the stiff monkey, Guybrush would say "He's so stiff, you could uncrew a nut with him", which makes the puzzle solvable.
  • The Witcher features a character named Thaler. It is a Meaningful Name, he is a fence having the name of an old European money. In the French translation, he is named Talar, which doesn't mean anything. It is especially strange, as the word "thaler" exists in French too.
  • Trio the Punch, "WEEBLES FALL DOWN!" is the translation of "Daruma-san ga koronda."Translation  The game briefly pauses when the phrase finishes writing out in full; this is a reference to a children's game, but there also happens to be a Daruma doll jumping around in the stage.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona:
    • Persona 4:
      • Kuma's (Japanese for "bear") name was localized as "Teddie", which is fine in itself. However, the name change unfortunately removed a double pun that appears later in the game: when he grows a human body and starts leaving the TV World to visit the real one, Kuma uses the alias "Kumada": besides being an actual, common Japanese surname, "Kumada" can be interpreted as meaning "It's kuma". The joke was obviously lost with the localized name, and Teddie simply doesn't use an alias; the only reference to it is one female Junes employee being confused about his name.
      • Lecherous Teddie constantly refers to "scoring" with ladies, but it's not entirely clear he's aware of what the word even means and most of the party seems bemused or baffled by his word choice. In the original Japanese version, he uses the term "gyakunan", something he picked up from Shadow Yukiko, who is a woman. It's used specifically to refer to a woman hitting on a man, explaining the group's reactions. Obviously, there was no real way to translate that into English, so the joke was lost.
      • The Personas used to fuse Izanagi-no-Okami lost some meaning in the English version. In Japanese, the first kana of each of the Personas used in the fusionnote  spell out "Izanagi-no-ookami-tsukure", literally meaning "create Izanagi-no-Okami". This almost barely works in English: the first one or two letters of the first few Personas spell out Isanaginoookami, but the names of the last few Personas simply don't translate, and the meaning is lost.
      • The game itself references this In-Universe with the translation job that can be taken: the protagonist gets tripped up on translating a joke, and the player has to decide between rendering it literally or coming up with a new joke.
    • The title of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is meant to be a play on Sekaiju no Meikyuu ('Q' and 'kyuu' are homophones), another Atlus series. Unfortunately, most fans in the West won't get that, because SnM is known as Etrian Odyssey outside of Japan.
  • The quest boss "The Black Bishop" in World of Warcraft is a reference to chess, and his quotes are references to the bishop chess piece. This comes as a puzzlement to players of the Russian version of the game, who see no connection between his church title (yepiskop, bishop) and the Russian name for the bishop chess piece that he uses in his quotes (slon, elephant).
  • Splatoon:
    • One of the two signals is this. In North American English it is translated as "C'mon" but in PAL it is translated as "To Me". The signal is meant to be used when you want other teammates to come to the same spot as you. "C'mon" is a direct translation of the Japanese version however Americans don't usually use "C'mon" to signal someone near them ("Come Here" would be more appropriate). Thus many American players spam "C'mon" when angry, which doesn't make sense to European gamers who see it as spamming "To Me".
    • In-series this is the reason Inklings worship a fax machine. An Alternate Character Reading for "god" is "paper". The game takes place in Humanity's Wake and Inkling language evolved from Japanese.
  • The name of King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a pun on the Japanese words for "ship" (fune) and "sailboat" (hansen). It is easier to see the connection in the Japanese localization of the game (Dafunesu Nohansen Hairaru).

    Visual Novel 
  • In the official English translation of Danganronpa, toward the end, Toko suggests that the mastermind has to be a high schooler, because they've been identified as an Ultimate, specifically, the Ultimate Despair. This doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense, but the Japanese term they translated as "Ultimate" literally means "Super High School Level", and thus would normally only be applied to a high schooler. It was changed because the phrase is overly long and sounds hopelessly awkward in English, but caused a problem here.
    • In a more severe example, Chapter 4 of Super Dangan Ronpa 2 involves the characters debating over what the Octagon is. Since there's no other words that can really describe "Octagon", the localization keeps the names, even though it now makes it look like everyone forgot what an Octogon is.
  • The major significance of Rena from Higurashi: When They Crys Meaningful Rename is this. To most it seems like all she did was drop the "I" in "Reina".
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • One of the biggest twists of the game is that the line given out by Zero, "An exist is hidden, but it can be found. Seek a door. Seek a door that carries a 9", wasn't "seek a door that carries a 9" at all. But rather "seek a door that carries a q. Therefore meaning that the door's digital root number was actually 8, with Q being 26 in base-22. Near the start of the game, the rules of the game are read out by Junpei from a piece of paper, who must have mistake the q as a 9 when reading them out, which makes sense. But the moments in which characters think about Zero speaking the lines over the speaker doesn't make much sense with the twist in the English version. In Japanese, 9 is pronounced "Kyuu", making 9 and Q hard to distinguish audibly.
    • When discussing whether or not Zero is on the ship with them, Ace mentions how when Zero addressed them, he referred to the ship they were all on as "this ship" and that he wouldn't refer to it as "this" ship unless he was on it himself. This seems like flimsy logic, although the logic holds more water in Japanese, where referring to something by "this", rather then "that", has a much stricter meaning, and directly indicates that the user is in some way involved. In English, referring to something as "this [object]" doesn't hold as much meaning.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, one of the game's bad endings has Clover manipulating Sigma into picking betray by seducing him, with the former promising the latter that she'll "listen to anything he says" if he picks betray. Of course, when she then gains her 9 BP and ditches everyone, she says that she promised she'd only listen to what Sigma had to say, not that she'd actually do anything. This sort of makes Sigma seem like an extremely gullible idiot. In the Japanese version, the phrase she uses in her promise is one that's used casually as an affectionate/seductive expression to mean the speaker will do anything that's asked of them, but does literally mean "I'll listen to whatever you say".
  • From Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, the veterinarian, Dr. Crab, is described within various out of game sources as having a large potty-mouth which likes to run itself a lot. In the Japanese version, he often refers to Sniper, the penguin chick, by "kono yarou", which is a phrase that usually gets translated to "you bastard". The phrase, just like other such words in Japan, isn't actually profanity however. The severity of how inappropriate it is to say it depends on how the phrase is said. In this sense, any form of such insult isn't really inappropriate. In the English version, to try and recreate this, they have Dr. Crab call Sniper a "son of a gun". Although this obviously makes the entire "he has a large potty mouth" part of his character, less apparent, considering he's obviously purposefully censoring himself. Although this actually created a pretty clever pun in itself, in the fact that Sniper, in a sense, is literally the son of a gun. Aka, Rifle the Penguin.

    Web Animation 
  • The Fan Sub of Homestar Runner (as seen here) can't possibly begin to translate as many of the puns and wordplay as the characters can make in the original language. Woolseyism helps a lot: for example, "hot Jones" becomes "heißen Jacob", a German coffee brand.

    Web Original and Web Comics 
  • The English home page of this very Wiki describes itself as being "a buttload more informal" than Wikipedia, a turn of phrase which is nearly impossible to translate into other languages (and indeed seems not to have been) because of all the implications about the speaker and slight differences between different words used in English for bottom.
  • Paul and Storm's "The Captain's Wife's Lament" spawned a popular Machinima video using World of Warcraft, which in turn spawned one fan sub in Spanish. Unfortunately, the central pun of the song doesn't work in Spanish, so if you go by the sub it just becomes... a song about pirates being in unlikely places.
  • Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are similar enough that speakers can generally understand each other if they talk slowly. But Danish numerals sound really strange to Norwegians and Swedes, as lampshaded in this Scandinavia and the World strip where the author translates Danish numbers literally.
  • Baam's meaningful name (it means Night) and it's homonymity to chestnut in Korean can't be properly translated, so several puns and metaphors need translator notes to explain them.

    Western Animation 
  • Astérix has some of the best translations for all languages it has been translated, complete with new puns for each language. However, in Brazilian DVDs of its old cartoons, the translator decided not to use the French to Portuguese translation, but rather a French to English to Portuguese translation. All of the puns were lost, and so 70% of the cartoons was lost with it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • An episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the '80s included a quest involving a hare. In English, the confusion between the words hair and hare are played up as the adventurers think they are looking for hair. In the version aired in Mexico, this was explained with one of the characters saying, "Oh, you mean the hair on the rabbit!"
    • The Brazilian dub didn't deal with it too well either. The hare/hair wordplay was simplified by having the quest refer to a "white thing", which makes the main characters seem completely dumb for not noticing the bright white rabbit being held right there, in plain sight. Plus, Diana holding her hair while explaining the whole thing became a complete non-sequitur.
  • Any humor in the pun-filled episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, "Pun Times with Punsie McHale", will be lost once translated and aired in a non-English speaking country. All that shall remain will be the horror...
  • The German dubs of The Simpsons and Futurama are infamous for their literal (some might say "plain bad") translation, including sometimes brand names or even band names, which led to a lot of stilted sounding lines of dialogue and rendered quite a few jokes incomprehensible. For example, in "Lisa the Simpson" a baseball cap is described as being "offensive". The German dub translates this with the identically sounding "offensiv", which however doesn't mean "insulting" in German, but rather "aggressive".note 
    • Also, Sideshow Bob's "Die Bart Die" tattoo. Since the German word for "die" sounds nothing like the German word for "the", this became a non-sequitur as Bob explained its "true" meaning.
  • The Italian dub of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. In particular the "Spiked punch" line from "Owl's Well That Ends Well", which was rendered as "Look, the punch is finished... or should we say Spikished?"
  • While most of the time Voice Acting in Latin Spanish dubbing is good, the translators themselves tend to do a lot of mistakes or forget to research previous works. Hence there was an episode in X-Men: Evolution when Juggernaut was translated as "Hacker" (precisely before the real Hacker character appeared making it completely meaningless). A sudden change in the translation of Juggernaut from "Destroyer" to "Leviathan".
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Latin dub also got "Twinkle toes" translated as two different things one for every season, and you can just imagine how much of Sokka's humour got lost in translation.
    • In the very first episode a point is made that bending is not magic. But in Russian there's no other way to call the stuff they do that would sound natural, so the benders are in fact called "mages", and that point is lost.
  • The Tex Avery catoon "Symphony in Slang" is about a man telling his life story with lots and lots of idiomatic expressions, all of it illustrated by Visual Puns (e.g. someone's "old flame" is depicted as an actual humanoid mass of fire, someone "draws a gun" on the hero... with a ballpoint pen, etc.) The cartoon was dubbed into Polish, and is still occasionally shown on the TV there. How did the translators manage to translate all this wordplay, you ask? Well, they didn't. All the idioms were translated literally; result—seven minutes of utter gibberish. Really, this is definitely the kind of a work which one shouldn't even attempt to translate.
  • There are a couple of Tex Avery and Looney Tunes cartoons where a character, witnessing someone else's bizarre or dimwitted behavior, holds up a card with an image of a screw and a baseball. It's a Visual Pun ("screwball"). This just becomes baffling when the cartoons get dubbed to other languages.
  • Every fourth wall joke built around the commercial break is lost in Italy, where the law forbids commercial breaks into 20-minute cartoons.
  • The famous Let's Get Dangerous! line from Darkwing Duck becomes a bland "Hay que entrar en acción" (let's get into action) in Spain, ruining a lot of jokes about "danger".
  • Oddly played straight and averted in Finland with the series Iznogoud. Finland being possibly one of three countries that changed Iznogoud's name (the other ones are Poland - where he was named as Wezyr Nic-po-nim, but this translation was used only in Polish dub of the comic's Animated Adaptation - and Italy, where he was named Gran Bailam, again only in the cartoon), plenty of jokes about his name (is no good) instantly become void, and the tone of the whole series is somewhat changed around his Finnish name - Ahmed Ahne (lit. "Ahmed Greedy").
  • In a relatively mild case, the joke behind Eeyore's Punny Name in A. A. Milne's original Winnie-the-Pooh books is a bit less obvious now that Disney's many, many animated adaptations have long since overshadowed the originals. Why? When said with a British accent, as Milne's original British readers would have said it, it's much more obvious that his name is meant to resemble the sound of a braying donkey ("Ee-yaw" rather than "Ee-yore"). It's easy to forget that fact today, as Disney's adaptations were all produced and acted out by Americans, who pronounce the name with a hard "r" sound. Ironically, The Narrator is the only character in Disney's adaptations to pronounce Eeyore's name correctly on a consistent basis, being British and all.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In the episode "Accent You Hate", a school bully hated kids with funny accents, to the extent of bullying Dexter's friends and challenging him to a fight, but in the Mexican dub every trace of a funny accent is lost, so it makes no sense that he disliked Dexter's since it's completely neutral. It makes even less sense considering that Dexter's voice actor for Lat Am sounds very normal and not squeaky and young as in English.
    • In the Italian dub the bully's hatred was changed to "kids who look and sound funny, especially the ones wearing glasses"... but the accent part is still there in the other bullied kids who team up with Dexter.
  • Le Papillon ("Butterfly") is renamed "Hawk Moth" in the English and Korean versions of Miraculous Ladybug. Hawk Moth leads a swarm of evil butterflies.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's episode "May the Best Pet Win" has a Running Gag where Fluttershy corrects those who'd call Tank a turtle (an aquatic animal), rather than a tortoise (a land animal). This works much worse in the Polish dub, as this language doesn't have entirely separate words for both animals; the Polish terms for "turtle" and "tortoise" are basically "aquatic tortoise" and "land-based tortoise". So, in the Polish dub every time someone mentions that Tank's a tortoise, Fluttershy pops up to completely unnecessarily note that he's "land-based".
  • The song "Stronger Than You" from Steven Universe is about The Power of Love involving two female characters. The French dub originally translated it as a song about The Power of Friendship. After complaints about the dub trying to Hide Your Lesbians, it was stated to be a translation issue and the song was redubbed properly.
  • The Mr. Men Show episode "Cooking" has Mr. Persnickety teaching a French cooking class. Unfortunately, this show has actually been dubbed into French, so the joke about not understanding the language is lost. They just replaced it with (insert something here).
    • The fact that Miss Chatterbox giggles at one point makes it even worse.

  • The Bible is chock-full of these.
    • To someone who doesn't read Hebrew, the types of work Orthodox Jews avoid on Shabbat seem kind of arbitrary. Why would cooking be considered work but walking to synagogue isn't? The reason for this is that the English word "work" isn't a perfect translation for what the Torah forbids on Shabbat. What's forbidden on Shabbat is melacha, which is an unusual word (and not the usual Hebrew word for "work") meaning something like "creative work". So it makes sense why cooking would be melacha (since you're changing the food) but walking wouldn't be (since it's not really creative or changing anything).
    • Similarly, "kill" isn't the best translation for the Hebrew word (tirzach) in "thou shalt not kill". "Murder" is a little better, but it still isn't a perfect translation. This is why God orders so much killing despite the Ten Commandments seeming to forbid it; the killing commanded by God isn't retzach (which is never used for things like war or state executions).

    Real Life 
  • In English, half eight means 08.30; in German 'halb acht' means 07.30. In the dub of Bang Boom Bang, the translators got some instances right but then other instances wrong.
    • This idiom, as well as "a quarter eight", varies in English dialects (say between Canadian, British, and American English) and with regional dialects as well. A good translator would be able to understand the idiom at both ends of translation, but local or regional variances may still cause confusion with an already ambiguous statement.
    • English as spoken in much of America uses "quarter past", "half past" and "quarter till/to" due to this confusion. Examples would include 3:15, 3:30, and 3:45 being "quarter past 3," "half past 3," and "quarter till 4," respectively.
    • South African English does the same. However, occasionally you will hear some people mention something like "half three", which would mean 2:30, since it's halfway to 3.
    • It also exist in Germany where in the North it is common to say "quarter until eight" and "quarter after eight", but in the South most people will say "three quarter eight" and "quarter nine". Northerners moving south always need some time to get used to it, while the other way round it is quite obvious.
    • Norwegian custom uses "kvart på/etter" (quarter on/after) to denote :45 and :15 respectively, but "half four" is 3:30. Some Norwegians alternatively prefer 24-hour time, e.g. "nineteen thirty-five of the clock"
    • In Russian, when quarters and halves are used, it usually means quarter/half OF the hour you're saying, as opposed to the hour PLUS what you're saying. It can be confusing, since Russian uses suffixes instead of many conjunctions and all articles. "Quarter fourth" is 3:15.
  • Written time can cause confusion as well - for instance, the examples above would all be considered to related to the morning for those parts of the world that use the 24-hour clock.
    • Would be nice if it where that easy. But for example in Germany both "Fourteen thirty" and "half-three" are used interchangeably all the time. Usually it's not a problem since there are very few situations in which both early morning and late evening would make sense. A university class starting at "half eight", a fight going at "six", or a nature documentary being on TV at "eleven" would be ambigous, but it so rarely causes problems that people don't even think about it.
  • Related to written time is numerical dates: for example, 12-01-09 to most of the Western world would mean the 12th of January 2009, while in most Eastern countries, it would mean the 9th of January 2012; and in the USA and a few other countries, it would be the 1st of December 2009.
    • However, as XKCD notes, 2009-01-12 is unambiguously January 12. To remember this, know the principle behind it: it lets you sort dates as though digits were letters of the alphabet, which is easier to program into a computer.
  • James Randi, when interviewed by a Japanese newspaper, jokingly mentioned that a person he once talked to performed a Seen-It-All Suicide. The newspaper took it literally.
    • Sarcasm's not really big in much of East Asia. In fact frequently, when a Japanese person says something was "an American style joke"...they mean it was a lie.
  • Ever wonder why DVD players from different manufacturers do not always play discs as expected? The reason is because the DVD video specification was developed by an initially-Japanese consortium and published in a licensed manual printed in Japanese; early licensees of the DVD specification who were based outside of Japan had to translate from this manual to their native language when developing DVD players or commercial DVD-authoring software. Small parts of the manual that were incorrectly machine-translated unintentionally introduced minor incompatibilities among some of the early DVD players compared to those released later when an American English specification manual was made available.
  • They stole the giraffe's what now?
  • Often, the word "disc" (in DVD context) is translated into "disk" in Swedish, even though the Swedish word for "disc" is "skiva." "Disk" usually means "dishes" (as in, what you use a dishwasher for.) Swedish did use "Diskett" (disc-ette) for "floppy disc", so it isn't as big a linguistic abomination as it may seem, though.
  • Some Cebuano (a Visayan language branch) jokes in the Philippines can confuse foreigners when translated since they seem to be lame jokes or simple puns yet can still get uproarious laughter from the native audience. This is because "Bisdak" note  humor has a lot to do with how the whole joke is pronounced, with minor inflections making or breaking the joke. This also makes up the humor of many of the Bisaya Gag Dubs is YouTube: it's not only the incongruity of characters in Western movies speaking Cebuano, it's about the exaggeratedly colloquial way it's pronounced.
  • Nikita Khrushchev's famous "Мы вас закопаем" ("We will bury you") quote was taken by many in 'the West' (NATO et. al) to be a promise of nuclear holocaust. While that was the literal translation of what he said, it was in fact a Russian-language proverb. The metaphorical meaning was that the Soviet Union would outlive the capitalist countries and be there to help out at their proverbial funerals.
  • The term Not Safe for Work has no equivalent in many languages, as it's normally considered formal/legal speech in English, especially in American English. Other languages refrain from using that kind of speech outside specific backgrounds. Per example, in Spanish the term is translated as Se Recomienda Discreción (Discretion advised) or sometimes, between younger people, it's normally left untranslated from English.
  • In the same way, and also a subversion, the use of the term "Intellectual Property" (IP) is considered in English as formal speech, but in other languages is considered as legal speech, and as such, it's not used outside the field of law. This is especially egregious in Mexican Spanish, when the acronym IP stands for Iniciativa Privada. (Private Initiative, translated context-wise as "Private (non-government owned) enterprises")
  • In Spanish, the word ardilla stands for both squirrels and chipmunks, but not vice-versa. This is because in Spanish, both animals are considered as part of the same species, while in English they are considered as separated subspecies. When both species are described in separated terms, the word "squirrel" is normally translated as just plain ardilla, while "chipmunk" is translated in scientific backgrounds as ardilla rayada (stripped chipmunk) or tamia, albeit no one of those terms are used in normal speech in Spanish. This causes lots of confusion between Spanish-speaking viewers when dealing with characters from both separated subspecies, like Alvin and the Chipmunks (Known in Spanish as Alvin y las ardillas) , Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, who are chipmunks, and Slappy Squirrel (Spanish name: Slappy Ardilla), who is a squirrel.
  • Continuing with the Spanish language, the word bully doesn't have a very good translation in that language. Many translators leave the word untranslated or it's sometimes translated as Acosador but that word is normally translated as "stalker", and it's not a good equivalent. Some online translators like Google Translate translate the word as Matón, but that word is normally translated as "hitman" in Spanish. There's lots of heated discussions about how to properly translate "bully" in Spanish, to the point the topic could became into a Flame War.
  • The English language, especially the American dialect, is very analogy-based and full of idioms that translated literally in languages without its proper context could lose its meaning in other languages that don't do this, like Japanese, Spanish and possibly others.
  • Some languages, like English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and many others doesn't have grammatical genders for many words and it can be a pain to translate to languages that features them, like Spanish, Italian, French, Norwegian, etc, especially when the original author keeps the gender of the person as ambiguous. This can become nightmarish when Values Dissonance are involved, especially when the Ambiguous Gender Identity trope is involved between countries when that trope is normally accepted or tolerated and countries when this is definitely out of question.
  • Emoji:
    • As emoji were developed initially for the Japanese market, they contain a lot of symbols that only have meanings in a Japanese cultural context, causing Western users to find other uses for them. According to research, "Fish Cake With Swirl Design" tends to be used as a negative 'downwards spiral' symbol in many western countries (where most people have never seen a narutomaki before), and "Face With Look Of Triumph" looks to Westerners like someone being "steaming mad" (the allegorical expression about someone being so angry that smoke came out of their nostrils) rather than the haughty snort that it appears to be to Japanese users. This makes each culture's use of emoji confusing to the other, annulling one of the main benefits of using emoji.
    • The 'Emoji Gap' refers to the difference in emoji appearence between different providers' emoji sets which alter meaning. One particularly alarming example of this is Apple's decision to replace their "Gun" emoji with a water pistol to protest gun violence, which has the effect of translating an iPhone user's playful threat into a serious death threat to a user on any other platform. The Apple version of "Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes" for a while looked like a grimace or cringe on that platform, but appeared happy on others, causing its art to be changed. Android inexplicably rendered "Yellow Heart" as a pink heart with hair growing out of it for a while.
    • Certain emoji with no clear meaning have developed different meanings on different social media. On Twitter, "Upside Down Face" is used to indicate something like 'I'm smiling because if I don't I'll lose control of my emotions', while on Instagram it indicates being goofy.
    • Only Apple has the license to use Space Invaders as the icon for the Alien emoji, and other carriers use generic aliens. Apple users often use it to represent 'video games', which is incoherent to users on other platforms.

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  • The joke about Chekov's Gun being confused with Chekhov's Gun will tend to confuse any German troper, because Chekov is Chekov, but Chekhov is Tschechow. (Half a dozen other Pun problems were omitted for length reasons.)