Translators need a lot of creativity to pull off the Woolseyisms
which their job requires on a regular basis. The first thing to go in a translation is usually wordplay, followed by awkward concepts, dialects and so on.
Very, very occasionally, though, a Woolseyism isn't needed, since a Conveniently Precise Translation
is already at hand.
This can often be caused by the meaning of words being extended in the same way in more than one language; or sometimes by metaphors that are obvious enough that many different languages have variations on the same one. But sometimes, it's just pure luck. These are the cases where the translator doesn't have to think
about how to preserve the pun, just use a direct translation, and the pun preserves itself.
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Anime and Manga
- In Rurouni Kenshin, the eponymous character ate some Magic Mushrooms called waraitake or "laughing mushroom," which refers to multiple species of psilocybin mushroom. Media Blasters translated it as "funny mushrooms," which not only gets the point across that they were hallucinogenic but that Kenshin was too young to know adult drug slang at the time.
- In Azumanga Daioh, Osaka makes a pun on the word kaidan, which means either 'horror story' or 'staircase' depending on context. This pun translated easily into English, because of the double meaning of the English word 'stor(e)y'.
- Earlier in the same scene, Tomo asks, "who's always banging up cars?" The answer is "the dentist", because the Japanese word for "dentist" is phonetically the same as the word for a scrapped car ("haisha"). But in English, "dentist" works just as well. The anime could get this across through Osaka's diction; the manga didn't have this option, but also didn't have pictures to worry about, so they just replaced it with another joke.
- The Pokémon series is filled with Punny Names, and some actually went well in the translation: Misty in Japanese was called Kasumi, the word for "mist", for example.
- In Pokemon 3: Spell of the Unown, Molly Hale, wanting to see her parents again, takes some Unown tiles and uses them to spell out "Mama" "Papa" and "Me" together in a Scrabble-like fashion. She's actually spelling out her own name here (ミー, "Mi", in the Japanese version), but spelling it M-E lets them get away with it without having to change the letters.
- Dawn had a nickname that was based on her past and was constantly known as Dee Dee from Kenny (or in Japan, Pikari). We learn that it was because she hugged a Plusle and Minun a bit too much and thus they did an electric attack on her and made her hair stand on end thus gaining the nickname Pikari (with 'Pika' the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparks). The dub went for Dee Dee (which can be read DD) and the nickname became Diamond Dandruff.
- The most common translation of Kamina's/Team Gurren's Catch Phrase in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is "Who the hell do you think I/we am/are?" This happens to fit the mouth flaps quite well, and is used in the dub (though for the plural they add "Just" in the beginning).
- In the original Lucky Star, Konata Izumi's favourite anime icon is Haruhi Suzumiya, and many of the jokes are dependent on the fact that the two are voiced by the same person (Aya Hirano). The jokes were left in the English dub because luckily, the same English voice actress (Wendee Lee) also had enough range to play both Haruhi and Konata. The same goes for Minoru Shiraishi in regards to Taniguchi (Sam Riegel plays both in the dub).
- Ichigo Mashimaro: Nobue's name sounds close enough to "no boobies" that Miu was able to spin an insult out of it.
- School Rumble - Reading Sun Tzu, Tenma misreads a word as 'to remove clothes' and 'hare'. The real problem was that she actually vizualised this strange image of someone stepping out of a bunny costume, so it would be hard to ignore. It was translated as 'to take off like a rabbit', a phrase which Sun Tzu did use.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- In episode 11 of Brotherhood, there's a scene where Ed's trying to talk about a baby that's about to be born (in Japanese, "umareru"), but he's too flustered to spit out anything beyond "uma", the first two syllables; Winry thinks he's talking about a horse, which is also translated from "uma". In the English version, Ed instead mutters "the ba..." ("The baby's coming"); by pure luck, the first syllable of "baby" is pronounced the same as the English word "bay", which is a certain-colored horse, thus making the pun work in English as well.
- Ed calls the second Greed "Greeling" because he possesses the body of a guy named Ling. However, "ling" as a suffix in English means "little" (e.g. fingerling potatoes), which works quite well in two respects. It makes sense that the second version would sort of be "little Greed", and it's completely in character for Ed to call someone else little, which makes the nickname funnier in English.
- In the manga, though, Viz translated Ling's name as Lin, so a variation on his Junior Greed title had to be given. Ed ended up calling him "Grin" as a contraction of "Greed" and "Lin," which, while not as true to the original intent of the joke—i.e. a play on being a mini Greed—the joke still works in its own way.
- The title of Bakemonogatari is a Portmanteau of the Japanese words "bakemono" (ghost or monster) and "monogatari" (story):
- In English Ghostory or Monstory are obvious translations. One of the sequel novels, Nisemonogatari, also has this going for it ("Impostory").
- In Russian Bakemonogatari is wonderfully translated as Монстрассказы (Monstrasskazy)
- In Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, "Hanage Shin Ken" (a parody of "Hokuto Shin Ken" from Fist of the North Star) literally means "True Fist of the Nose Hair". The reference to Fist of the North Star is obvious, even more so if the "True" is omitted. This is in fact doubly lucky, since "Hokuto" is actually the name for the Big Dipper, not the North Star.
- Sebastian's catchphrase in Black Butler is a pun on akumade, meaning "to the end," and akuma, meaning "demon." The English translation used by both the Fan Sub and Funimation's official subtitles, "one hell of a butler," just happens to convey both meanings as well.
- At one point in the Amazon Lily arc of One Piece, Luffy is being stared at completely naked by a group of amazons who don't know anything about men. When one of them asks what's in the 'bag' attached between his legs, Luffy replies with 'kintama', which is a Japanese slang term for testicles that also means 'balls of gold', so of course the amazons think he's saying that he has actual balls of gold between his legs. The English translation uses 'family jewels', which fits the joke perfectly.
- One filler villain has the "Kama-Kama Fruit", which the characters mishear as "Okama" (crossdresser). In the dub, the fruit's name was translated as the "Sickle-Sickle Fruit", and the characters mishear it as "Sicko".
- Before the Straw Hats arrive at Dressrosa, Luffy mishears the name of the island and asks Law: "Have you ever been to Dressroba?". "Roba" means "old hag" in Japanese, so cue Robin having an Imagine Spot about an ugly, old lady dancing around in a dress. The German translation makes Luffy say: "Have you ever been to Dress Oma?". "Oma" means "grandmom", so the hilariousness of the imagine spot stays pretty much the same. Furthermore, it is a lucky translation that "Oma" still sounds enough like "Rosa" (two syllables, the same two vowels) to make Luffy's mishearing plausible.
- In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, there is a reference to the "former Taro Sekiutsu" (former because he sold his identity to Maria and now lives in a cardboard box) being classless. This works perfectly as a pun in English, since Taro is both classless in the sense of abandoning society and classless in the sense that he's not attending class in high school.
- Fairy Tail has a couple, usually in the way of puns. One good example is Erza's spear, named 破邪の槍 (haja no yari, literally "spear of destroying evil"), which is translated as "De-Malevo-Lance". With no way to concisely render the concept of "destroying evil", they went for a play on words instead.
- In Wolfs Rain Tsume frequently calls Toboe "chibi" (meaning "small") as a disrespectful nickname. In the dub, he uses "runt", which works even better for having a canine/lupine connotation.
- Urusei Yatsura:
- In episode 87, the principal makes a pun on "'nikui" (hatred) and "niku" (meat). AnimEigo's subtitles rendered it as "I've got a beef with you, seeing you hide that meat in your pocket."
- The chapter / episode introducing Kotatsu-Neko (manga chapter 111, anime episode 51) is titled "Kaidan ni Neko ga Onnen", which literally means "There's a Cat on the Stairs", but "kaidan" written as 怪談 means "ghost story" (as mentioned above), and "onnen" written as 怨念 can mean something like "a grudge that persists after someone's death, turning them into a ghost". Viz translated it as "Two-Story Ghost Story", whereas AnimEigo didn't try to translate the puns.
- In Yakitate!! Japan, Kuroyanagi - known for his punny reactions to really good breads - tries a sample of chicken yakisoba bread and has to be restrained from taking off his pants. The double meaning of "cock" works the same in Japanese as it does in English.
- In GeGeGe no Kitaro, Medama-oyaji, the title character's father, an eyeball monster's name could be translated into English as "Pop Eye".
- In Bunny Drop, there's a scene where a little boy is having a laughing fit because of a news report on TV. He thinks that the report is about trains pooping (unko), when it's actually about trains being on time (unkou). The joke still works in English, due to the multiple meanings of the word "regular" (in addition to its normal meaning of "at frequent intervals," it's also commonly used euphemistically to mean "has normal bowel movements").
- A nice bonus in polish translation of Get Backers is Mugenjou as "Nieskończony Zamek" which can mean "Endless/Infinite Castle" as well as "Unfinished/Incomplete Castle"
- In Bleach, there's a scene where Yumichika refers to himself as "beautiful" and Ganju pretends to mishear it as "pathetic", or something along that line. This works well in English where Yumichika refers to himself as "pretty" and Ganju agrees by saying, "Yeah, you're quite a pity."
- In Kirby of the Stars, there's a character called Tokkori who once said "sono tokkori da", a pun on the phrase "sono toori da" (that's right). The fansubbers were lucky enough to make this "Exact-tokko-ly".
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Asuka in Japanese calls Kensuke, Toji, and Shinji the "trio of idiots," which was translated in English to The Three Stooges.
- Before Operation Yashima, Rei tells Shinji "sayonara" instead of something like "matane", which implied that she thought she won't be able to talk to him again. This was easily translated into English by her saying "goodbye" instead of "see you".
- In the original Japanese K-On!, Azusa is nicknamed "Azunyan" ("Azumeow"). In the French translation, she's instead nicknamed "Azuchat", which incorporates the word "chat" ("cat" in French) and is phonetically similar to "Azusa".
- An unusual written version is the title card of Kill la Kill. Mostly because of the font they use, the Katakana title bears a strong resemblance to "KIL;KIL".
- Dragon Ball has the character Chi-chi, whose name is based on a childish Japanese slang term for breasts. Luckily enough, it's also a slang term for breasts in Spanish, and enough English-speakers are aware of this that the pun works well enough for English-speaking audiences as well. Jokes like "Okay, her name's Chi-chi, but where's the one with chichis?" work just fine without having to awkwardly rename the character something like "Tits."
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS Sein and Wendi call Quattro "Megane-nee" or "Mega-nee" when not in her presence. There's a very easy translation in "Glasses-sis" and "Glass-sis", which is exactly the same pun.
- The title of Me, Myself & Irene has a pun on Irene and "I". Coincidentally, the Hungarian equivalent of the name Irene is "Irén" and "én" means I, so the literal translation: "Én, meg én meg az Irén" did the same thing.
- Spaceballs' 'Major Asshole' Scene, which in Italian is translated with the very similar expression 'Maggiore Stronzo' ('Major Turd').
- Another Mel Brooks example, this time form Blazing Saddles: In Norwegian everyday speak, "mongo" is an (admitedly offensive) word for "retard" or "retarded". So to Norwegians, a simpleton character named Mongo makes sense.
- In the Post-Credits Scene of "Daredevil", Bullseye is recuperating on a hospital bed after a fight with Daredevil when a fly suddenly comes and annoys him, and when the fly goes to the wall, he struggles to get a surgical syringe and manages to throw it right at it. He then shouts "Bullseye". The closest translation to this expression in Portuguese would be "Na mosca" which means "In the fly". Guess what he says...
- In Russian, машина (mashina) means "machine," but it also means "car." A time machine is a машина времени (mashina vremeni, literally "machine of time"). This makes Doc Brown's DeLorean all the more significant to Russians.
- The "Surely you can't be serious" gag from Airplane! works arguably even better in Finnish as "Et kai ole tosissasi". Kai means surely or supposedly and is also a first name.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky's movie, El Topo, is to have a sequel, "El Toro". That is, from "The Mole" to "The Bull".
- In Mean Girls, Karen goes to the Halloween party dressed as a sexy mouse. In the Italian version, when asked what she is dressed as, she answers "Sono una topa", "topa" meaning "female mouse", but also a slang word for female genitalia and a rude compliment to a pretty girl.
- Despicable Me: The scene with the cookie robots, which actually are boogie robots, is rendered very well in the Italian dubbing of the film. They have been renamed "Bisco robots", where "bisco" is short for "biscotto" (cookie), and then revealed as Disco robots, a joke that works as well, if not better, as the original English language pun.
- The title of the movie Species was translated into Hebrew as "Min Mesukan", literally "Dangerous Species". However, "min" also means "sex", making the translation mean "Dangerous Sex", which could also serve as an appropriate title for the film.
- Lincoln has one that works perfectly in French for the whole "Washington and the English" joke. In French "faire chier" means bugging someone to the point of pissing them off, but taken literally reads "make (him/her/it) take a shit", which gets the point of placing the presidential portrait in the privy across that much better.
- The "Argo fuck yourself" line in Argo is translated as "Argoderse" in the Spanish dub, which is as phonetically close to "a joderse", the Spanish version of "go fuck yourself", and a less contrived pun than the original at that!
- Similarly, the part in Man on Fire where Pita asks Creasy the name of his last girlfriend and he answers "Notyou"note was translated in Spanish as "Queti" (pronounced Katy).note
- In Miss Congeniality, Gracie teaches the audience a self-defense pnemonic, SING, for the pressure points solar plexus, instep, nose, and groin. When the movie was translated into Spanish, the line becomes "ˇPlexo solar! !Empeine! ˇNariz! ˇEntrepierna!", foreshadowing the Groin Attack that comes at the end.
- Bulletproof Monk relies on "crane"'s double meaning for its Prophecy Twist; the same double-meaning is present in French.
- When Schindler's List was released in Sweden the only change in the title was that the apostrophe was removed (Swedish doesn't use apostrophes to mark the genitive like English does). "List" in Swedish could mean "cunning" (noun) or "cleverness", or something like "ruse" or "stratagem", all of which are highly descriptive of Schindler's activities and personality.
- The Danish subtitles of The Inbetweeners Movie translates "steak" in Jay's line of "why go for hamburgers, when you can have a steak?" (why go for plain-looking women when you can score with a hot woman?) into "steg" which basically means the same ("steg" is more often used for roast meat, though), but is also a very well-known slang term for a sexy woman, thus creating a funny pun.
- In Japanese poetry, it's common to use the pine tree (matsu) as a symbol of longing, because matsu also means "to wait". It's easy to remember, because English has an almost identical double-meaning for the word "pine".
- A French poem in House of Leaves gains a completely different rhyme scheme when translated into English. (One is ABAB and the other is AABB.)
- This Latin poem. It's almost as if Catullus knew of The Queen's Latin.
- Non-language example: In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams makes a joke about the movement of 'small green pieces of paper', meaning the British pound note. The joke made perfect sense to Americans, on account of the color of their money. Now the joke only works for Americans, because Britain doesn't use pound notes anymorenote and the other notes aren't green.
- One of the dwarfs in the Discworld novel The Truth is named Goodmountain, a literal translation of the German surname of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable types in Europe. In the German translation, said dwarf's name is Gutenhügel ("good hill"). This not only solves the problem of salvaging the name's subtle reference, but also adds an additional layer of humor by alluding to the name bearer's height.
- Another Discworld example: in dutch, 'seamstress' is translated as 'naaister'. 'naaien' does not only mean 'sewing', but 'fucking' as well.
- Another Discworld example, this time from the Hebrew language. The Luggage is said to be made (originally) from "Sapient Pearwood". In the Hebrew version of the books, the Luggage is said to be made from "עץ הדעת" ("Etz Ha'Da'at"), which means "Tree of Sentience/Knowing/Knowledge". Yes, that Tree of Knowledge. Makes the Luggage all that much more awesome.
- In Hogfather, there's a running gag about Mr. Teatime insisting his name be pronounced 'Té-AH-ti-mé'. The French version translated his surname as 'L'Heurduthé', which allowed him to insist it be pronounced 'Le Rédouté' ('The Dreaded').
- In Witches Abroad, we briefly learn about a character whose touch turns anything to gold. Or at least it would have, but things went wrong and instead his touch turns everything to Glod, an irritable dwarf. Later, in Soul Music, Glod's son Glod Glodsson appears, and his name leads to a "mission from Glod" pun. Since "gold" is "guld" in Swedish and "God" is "Gud," this pun was translated perfectly.
- The Hebrew version of Animal Farm is considered by some actually a bit better than the original for a single reason: the word "שווה" ("Sha-ve") in Hebrew means both "equal" and "worthy/deserving". This gives the animals' motto an entirely new pun-tastic layer: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal/deserve more than others."
- In Scots, the word "heehaw", as well as being onomatopoeia for a donkey's bray, is also a slang term for "nothing". So in James Robertson's Scots translation of Winnie the Pooh, the line "Eeyore still said nothing at all" becomes "Heehaw wis still sayin heehaw".
- Lewis Caroll, not wanting to ridicule clergy, did not feature Bishops in Through the Looking Glass. However, it still featured two Messengers of the White King — and in some languages (German, Polish) chess bishops are called runners or messengers. In French they're called fou — fools, which triples the lucky translation, as the messengers are Expies of the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. However, because Carroll was an educated Victorian, it is possible that he was already aware at least of the French terminology.
- In Xanth pineapples are highly explosive. But if you change it to pomegranate the pun still works in many other languages. In others, pineapple grenades are called lemons.
- Not surprising when the word "grenade" was derived from the French word for "pomegranate" (pomme-grenade).
- The name "Once-ler" from The Lorax is translated as "Einstler" in the German version, which, apart from being an equivalent, is also reminiscent of "Einsiedler" ("hermit"), which is what the Once-ler became.
- In an early Adrian Mole book, Adrian gets a letter from Norway, written in Norwegian. Adrian copies its full text into his diary, and right afterwards he complains that he can't understand a word of it. In the Swedish translation, the Norwegian text remains the same, but to any Swedish reader the text would be fairly easy to understand since Swedish and Norwegian are incredibly similar languages. Luckily, this just makes it even more hilarious for Swedish readers when Adrian complains about not comprehending a single word of a letter that the readers understood perfectly fine.
- The Japanese Pronoun "wareware" means "we", but can also be used as an excessively formal way of saying "I". This is similar to the English-language Royal "We". (See The King of All Cosmos from Katamari Damacy for a well-Woolseyed version.)
- If an alien in Ultraman says this, you know he wants to rule the world.
- The Japanese "Gai" is pronounced exactly the same as the common western name "Guy". As long as we're talking about the English name "Guy" and not the French variant, which is pronounced like "gee" (with a hard "g", as in "go" or "guilt".)
- "Yume" (Japanese) and "dream" (English) have the same dual meaning of those hallucinations you see when sleeping and aspirations for the future. This comes up more often than you'd think.
- Another example (see below in the Real Life section) of a lucky mistranslation: Robin Hood becomes Robin of the Woods (Robin des Bois) in French. It still works because of his living in Sherwood Forest.
Mythology / Religion
- In the Welsh myth cycle Mabinogion, one rhyme relies on the fact that "blawd" can mean either "flour" or "to blossom". Luckily, the pun works just as well in English, since "flour" and "flower" are homophones.
- In The Bible, the English words man and woman just happen to be very similar (as in the original Hebrew), making God's line on the Creation of Eve — calling her Woman because she comes from Man — make sense. Some other languages are not so lucky; in German, for instance, the meaning of that line is completely lost.
- Later, David muses that he wants to build a house, that is, a structure or temple, for God. God counter-offers by promising to build a house, that is, a dynasty, for David.
- Warhammer has the Imperial Steam Tank - a steam-powered battle tank created by the engineers of the Empire - a nation based heavily on Renaissance Germany and with no small nod to the stereotypical Prussian militarism of the early 20th century. In German it is called, as one might expect, ein Dampfpanzer ("steam tank"), which also serves as a very Warhammer-ish pun on the classic Kampfpanzer ("battle tank").
- The Lysistrata, a Greek play about women who go on a sex strike is full of double-entendres for those who are able to understand the original Greek meanings, but one pun in particular was a gift to translators. When the women are getting together, one of the characters comments that the Spartan woman isn't there yet, because Spartan women always arrive after everyone else. A translator who's not worried about sounding classy can make the pun in English that was made in the Greek. Spartan women come last.
- And in The Birds, Peisthetaerus speaks of bird versions of the Greek gods, including Rhea.
- Works in the title of The Importance of Being Earnest for several European languages, as the word cognate to or that translates as "earnest" is often used as a proper name.
- The word "LEGO" is a play on the Danish phrase "leg godt" which means "play well"; but "lego" is also Latin for "to build".
- Not That Kind of Doctor: works in Western nations and also sinoxenic (i.e. China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, etc.). M.D.s are the doctors but so are other highly educated people.
- The hero of the game Gitaroo Man is called U-1, pronounced "Yuichi", which is a common Japanese boys' name. When it was dubbed into English, he became U-1 pronounced "Ewan", which sounds more normal to Western ears. Or sounding like "You Won", which is a nice encouragement to the player.
- In the Polish version of Warcraft, Grom Hellscream gets a Meaningful Name - "grom" in Polish is either "thunder" or "bolt" (as in "bolt out of the blue").
- "Grom" is a common Slavic word, so the same happens in the Russian version and some others as well.
- At the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, the computerised Rose tells Raiden to trust her, with kanji which read 'lies'. This translated nicely into English, with the way 'beLIEve me' is spelt.
- Mario's twin brother is called Luigi. This originates from the Japanese, where "ruiji" is a word meaning the equivalent and opposite of a thing. That it also happened to translate into another common Italian name was a nice bonus.
- The name of Mario's Evil Twin, "Wario," is originally a portmanteau of the Japanese word "warui" (bad) and Mario. Thanks to the negative connotations of the word "war" in the English language, and the fact that "W" can be read as an upside-down "M", Mario fans the world over are treated to a wordplay that translates exceptionally well.
- Luigi's rival, "Waluigi", still works but a little less well. In Japan, it's an even better pun on "warui" than "Wario" is. Anywhere else, it hinges on the fact that there's already an established Evil Twin whose name starts with "Wa". Seems that Luigi doesn't even get his own nemesis without Mario overshadowing him. In Japanese, "Waluigi" (or rather the more literal "waruiji") is also an anagram for "ijiwaru", which more or less translates as "mean", which Waluigi (and Wario for that matter) are.
- Polish language has "wariować" which means "to go insane" and "wariat" for a crazy person. It's like the lottery grand prize of lucky translations.
- There's also Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which is called Paper Mario: Super Seal in Japan (as in the kind of seals that can be stuck to things). The Japanese word for "seal" is shiru, and the sticker fairy character's name there is "Rushi" (essentially a transliteration of "Lucy"), made by switching the syllables of "shiru". Switch the syllables of "sticker" (roughly) and we get her English name: Kersti.
- In the Japanese version of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, the hero enters a secret underground kingdom whose inhabitants were called Uura ("hidden"), and gets involved with an Uura girl named Urara ("beauty", and a pun on Uura). In the English version, the people are called Subrosians (referring to sub rosa, an old tradition of using a rose to indicate a secret meeting place), and the girl Link dates is called Rosa, preserving the pun of a secret place and a pretty girl.
- Rabbids Go Home's plot itself is a kind of lucky translation. Said plot revolves around the Rabbids deciding to "go home" by building a huge pile of stuff to go to the moon. In the original version of the game, it makes sense because the Rabbids are insane enough to think they can build a pile of stuff to get somewhere as far away as the moon. In the Japanese version, it makes sense due to there being a lot of mythological connections between rabbits and the moon.
- In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the sprite for the Gambler Trainer Class is a man wearing a red longcoat and fedora hat, making them look a lot like a stereotypical detective. The English translators took note of this and changed the class to P.I., as in Private Investigator, but the fact that they're still flipping a coin and their dialogue was left completely unaltered (they talk a lot about chance and luck) still makes the translation fairly obvious.
- In Pokémon Black and White, the final stage of Tepig's evolution, in Japan, is "Enbuoh", an appropriate enough Japanese pun, and sounds almost identical to "Emboar" (its English name), which is an appropriate enough English pun.
- Dragon Quest VIII features a pun by Yangus, a guy with a habit of picking his nose. In one scene, he says that he noticed something while "Picking me nose...erm, picking me some flowers. Lucky as that in Japanese the word for "Nose" is also a pun for "Flower" and in English, you can "Pick" flowers or "Pick" your nose, so the pun worked in both languages, if through different words.
- In the Borderlands 2 DLC "Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep" the villain Handsome Sorceror becomes Handsome Hexer in German.
- Guile's Ki Attack in Street Fighter 2 is called a sonic boom. However, before the importation of the anime and manga, due to the distortion from arcade cabinet speakers set too loud, and due to the poor speech sampling technology available in the early 90s, the speech sample often comes across as sabit-ku to Malaysians. Which in Malaysia is a pretty lucky translation, since a sabit is the Malay word for crescent or sickle, which is ultimately what the sonic boom resembles, while the -ku suffix is an indication of ownership, so the phrase becomes Guile saying My Sickle!, which makes sense given what appears to be a flying sickle going across the screen.
- In Danganronpa, a serial killer character obsessed with romanticised pretty boys explains that she kills people because she is a "rotten girl", which in addition to a description of her character is the Japanese term for a Yaoi Fangirl. The Project Zetsubou Fan Translation changed this to "slasher", which has a similarly appropriate double meaning for a serial killer.
- The Ace Attorney series is rife with punny names, and occasionally they translate perfectly. In Dual Destinies, one character is named "Kaguya", after both a legendary princess who came down from the moon and glowed brightly, as well as a satellite launched by Japan in 2007 (referencing her work at a space agency). This was translated as "Aura", which in addition to a normal given name is the name of a 2004 US satellite and refers to a bright glow around a person.
- The When They Cry series maintains the pun in the word "cry" ("naku" in Japanese), which can mean both "call" and "weep" in both Japanese and English.
- In the Animated Musical genre, the songs are usually translated and re-dubbed in many countries. It's totally impossible to translate completely faithfully a song, since the translation has to match the music beats. However, from time to time, there are versions that are surprisingly faithful, and can translate the title, or even the whole chorus practically literally. Although some times the translators have to do some grammar juggling in order to do it.
- We find some cases in the European Spanish translations of the Disney Animated Canon. Good examples of this would be "Bajo el mar" ("Under the Sea") from "The Little Mermaid" (100% literal, and it even has the exact same amount of syllables!), "Ahí fuera" ("Out There") from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (literal, although the song plays with that translation and the word "allí"), or "żCuándo mi vida va a comenzar?" ("When Will My Life Begin?") from Tangled (literal, although with a kinda twisted grammar construction).
- In the Japanese version of "The Prince of Egypt" the main song "Deliver Us" is translated into Japanese as "我らを救いたまえ" ("warera wo sukui tamae", essentially "bestow upon us a savior"). Surprisingly, the song doesn't change much.
- The Finnish translation of Frozen turns Let it Go to Taakse jää, roughly Left behind. The lyrics are about the things Elsa is leaving behind her, but "jää" is also a homonym for ice. The Brazilian translation of the song is also quite a faithful translation of the original.
- Basil The Great Mouse Detective, a Sherlock Holmes Expy, is called "Basil Holmuis" (hole-mouse) in Dutch. Yes, it's an actual word.
- The name of Cruella De Vil, from 101 Dalmatians, works great in Spanish too. While originally the name would be a simple play on "Cruel Devil" for the English speakers, in spanish "Vil" means "Vile" so it works as "Cruel of Vile". Also the "la" termination in "Cruella" indicates it is a feminine entity.
- In the Dutch SpongeBob SquarePants dub, "Bikini Bottom" is translated as "Bikinibroek". "Broek" happens to mean both "pants" and "brook", and is a very common suffix for a small town close to water.
- In France and Italy, instead of "April fool" they say "Poisson d'Avril" or "Pesce d'Aprile" (Fish of April) respectively. This makes the episode "Fools in April" funnier in those countries.
- In Flemish, the word for "to saw" can also be used as slang for "to whine". So in Atlantis: The Lost Empire "Less talk! More sawing!" became "Niet zagen! Zagen!" ("Don't whine! Saw!").
- In South Park, Mr. Garrisson once refers to Mr. Slave as his Teacher's Assistant, or Teacher's Ass for short. In Hungarian, Tanársegéd and Tanársegg mean exactly the same.
- The Brazilian translation of a South Park episode features an odd example: In the South Park episode in question, some people would burn "lowercase Ts" (that is, crosses) outside someone's house with the intent to convey to them that it was "time to go". It actually gets MORE, not LESS stilted in Brazilian Portuguese, as it would be normally translated as "hora de ir" rather than "tempo de ir", which is possible, but sounds odd. However, since this was a case of Strange Minds Think Alike, the expression getting more stilted made it even funnier.
- The Brazilian translation of Wacky Races saw the Slag Brothers being translated as "Irmăos Rocha". Irmăos = Brothers, and Rocha, which happens to be a common surname in Portuguese, means Rock. The net result is their name being more 'plausible' in Portuguese than in English.
- The Polish dub of The Tick slipped in a joke about American Maid's vocation being "preserving peace", based on the word used to translate "maid" meaning more specifically "room maid" and "room" and "peace" being homonyms in Polish.
- In the French dub of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode The Cutie Pox, "The Three Strikes" (a name Apple Bloom considered for if they all had bowling for a talent, that Scootaloo shoots down with "That makes us sound like we struck out") did not translate. However, they could invoke the Scootachicken meme with Apple Bloom suggesting "Les Trois Boules" and Scootaloo shooting it down by saying it would make them sound like "des poulets".
- Another French example is in "Owl's Well That Ends Well," with the gag of Spike responding to Owlowiscious hooting as if he were saying "Who?" In most languages this is rendered as a nonsense sound, but due to H being silent in French, it is instead interpreted as "Oů?" or "Where?" So while in the English version Spike replies to "Who?" with "It's me, Spike," in French he replies to "Oů?" with "Ben, ici!" ("Here, of course!")
- In the Russian dub, the "kelp/help" mishearing in "Applebuck Season" is rendered as "помощь" (help) confused with "плющь" (ivy). This is arguably a better fit for the conversation since ivy is a far more likely diet for a horse than seaweed.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Slumber Party Panic", the Gumball Guardians force Finn to answer a math question — "2 + 2, solve it or die!" In the Japanese dub, the word "shi" is used for "die"... but since "shi" also refers to the number four, it just makes the situation even funnier.
- The Swedish subtitles for The Simpsons Movie translate Homer's "D'OOOOOH...ME!" as "KUUUU...POL!" It works fine since "kupol" means dome, whereas "kuk" is a common curse meaning "dick".
- In the Norwegian dub of Adventure Time rainicorn is rendered "reinhjřrning" making a pun on "regn" (rain as in "regnbue", rainbow) and "ein" (as in "einhjřrning", unicorn) which are pronounce the same save for the R.
- In The LEGO Movie, the villain's right-hand man is a police officer with two personalities: a good cop and a bad cop called "Good Cop" or "Bad Cop" depending on which personality is active. The Swedish dub translated "Bad Cop" into "dumsnut", which doubles as a terrific pun. To wit, "dum" means "stupid/mean" and "snut" means "cop", but the word "dumsnut", when taken as a whole, is a somewhat folksy word for "idiot" or "dummy".
- Italian is a language perfect for Batman-related puns. The "Let's wing it!" joke is translated as "Bat-tiamocela!", The point being that "battiamocela" is Italian for "let's beat it" (as in running away), but it also begins with "Bat".
- A Real Life example: the Russian RPG series of weapons. In Russian, the Latin alphabet transliteration of the weapons' designation comes out as Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot: "Handheld Anti-Tank Grenade Launcher". This provides a perfect acronym match-up with the English designation of this weapon type: Rocket-Propelled Grenade.
- The Japanese expression "ai shiteiru" （愛している）and the English phrase "I love you" have the same amount of syllables and consistent mouthflaps if the 'shi' and the second "i" sounds aren't stressed.
- Not to mention they both start with the "I/Ai" sound and end with an "u" sound.
- The Japanese word "suki" （好き） is often used in romance anime and manga to create love confusion because "suki" can be interpreted as either platonic or romantic love, causing people to wonder if the person who said that meant "I view you as a good friend" or "I love you". In other words, it has almost the exact same connotations that the English phrase "I like you" does.
- On that note, "daisuki" （大好き）can be used to intensify the sentiment (dai = "big" or "much.") Thus, a distinction between the two might be rendered, "Likes her, or likes likes her?"
- "Sumimasen" (Japanese) and "excuse me" (English) are each usable in many different senses and contexts...very, very nearly all of them identical, the exception being when "sumimasen" can mean "thank you", although some creative translation allows one to realize that something like "I don't mean to be any trouble" has connotations of thanks.
- Similarly, chotto matte is conveniently similar to "just a minute", right down to the lip movements.
- "R. I. P." on tombstones doesn't actually stand for "Rest in peace", but for the Latin "Requiesca(n)t in pace", which means (almost) the same thing. (To be precise, it expresses the hope that "may he / she / it / (they) rest in peace". One wonders why this particular phrasing was deemed necessary.)
- Depending on the translation, it could also mean "(I command that) he/she/they must rest in peace." As in, don't disturb the dead. This is because Latin actually has a third-person imperative.
- In Japan, legend tells that the sakura blossom is pink because it has been stained by the blood of a warrior. This might remind you of the Greek legend of Pyramus and Thisbe, the lovers whose blood stained the mulberry tree forever. In Iran, red tulips are said to indicate that a martyr has died on that spot.
- Poppies have similar symbolism in Europe and Australia, partly because of their colour and partly because they were among the few plants that could grow on the devastated battlefields of the First and Second World Wars (In fact they positively flourished in the muddy, churned soil).
- Or, for that matter, the Christian allegory of how holly bushes look like they do because a lost lamb bumbled into them, bending the leaves and staining the berries with its blood.
- A similar story follows the dogwood, whose flowers have four petals (technically bracts) with a notch at the tips with a dark pink/red edge. According to the lore, the dogwood was the tree used to carve Christ's cross, and the flowers took on a cross shape with nail holes, blood stains, and a crown of thorns in the center (actually a cluster of true flowers). The tree also became smaller, too small to be used to create a cross to hold a man. The truth is that "dogwood" is a corruption of "dagwood", as in "wood used to craft daggers" - also good for killing people.
- The Japanese name Johji sounds very similar to the English name "George". Actor Nakata Johji and manga artist Manabe Johji have both been known to occasionally sign their names in romaji as George. Taking it to its logical conclusion, baseball player Kenji Johjima occasionally refers to himself as George Mackenzie.
- Ken is a legitimate name in Japanese, just as it is in English.
- Not to mention Dan (although there's a slight difference in pronounciation).
- There are female names that work like Johji/George too: Mei/May, Karin/Karen...
- Emma is a common name in Japanese and English — even the romaji is the same (except in Japanese it's only "Ema", with one M - the consonant-doubling diacritic is not used for M; in these cases, they use the n sound before it, but not here, lest it'd become Enma - as in Enma-daioh, King of the Underworld).
- Naomi: a Hebrew-derived name meaning "pleasant", and a Japanese name meaning "straight beauty". Even the meaning overlaps somewhat!
- There's also "Jun/June" (although in Japanese, "Jun" can also be a boy's name).
- "Joe" has also been known to be used in Japanese for a boy's name (e.g., Joe Kido from Digimon Adventure, Joe Musashi from Shinobi).
- "Mimi" is also a Japanese/English name.
- And Guy/Gai.
- Eimi/Amy, Rei/Ray, Haru/Hal.
- Anna and Erika are also common names in Japan and lots of other countries.
- Lately there have been plenty of Japanese names loaned from other countries and given a kanji reading so they will technically fit, including but not limited to the aforementioned cases.
- There is an example of a language joke that works in both English and Chinese:
- Wife: Do you think I'm pretty or ugly? Husband: Pretty ugly, in my opinion.
- 妻子: 你覺得我好看還是難看? (Do you think I'm pretty or ugly?) 丈夫: 我覺得你好難看。 (I think you're pretty ugly.)
- And also in German!
Ehefrau: Findest du mich schön oder hässlich? Ehemann: Ganz schön hässlich, würd ich sagen.
Vrouw: Vind je me knap of lelijk? Man: Ik zou zeggen, "knap lelijk"!
Kone: "Synes du, at jeg er pćn eller grim?". Mand: "Jeg synes, du er pćnt grim".
- An old mathematical pun in English works in Turkish as well: "Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight/ate nine." In Turkish, the number "seven" translates as "yedi", which is also the third person past tense form of "to eat". In Turkish, after adjusting for word order, the joke would be "Neden dört beşten korktu? Çünkü beş altı yedi!" Literally, "Why was four afraid of five? Because five six seven/ate!"
- Not really a translation, per se, but anyone who has analyzed British and American English can find some interesting parallels between different words with similar meanings. In British, they use the term "bent" to describe someone being corrupt, very similar to the American use of "crooked." Similarly, the British term "Wanker," originally meaning someone who masturbates has since generalized into any moron or otherwise annoying person, with something similar happening to the related terms "jerkoff" and "jackoff" in American English, as in "Some jackoff stole my car."
- The English words "crap" and "shit" and the Japanese word "kuso" are all interjections that can also be used as colloquial terms for excrement, making word play based on the two definitions work in both languages.
- Spanish "mierda" and Italian "merda" are synonimous with "crap" and "shit", in both senses. Italian also has "stronzata" (more or less "bullshit"), a word that derives from "stronzo", meaning literally "turd" (but also "asshole" when used as an insult).
- Similarly, the Latin "stercus" is a rude colloquial term for animal excrement but can also be used to suggest something is stupid, unfair, deceitful or nonsensical, similar to the modern English sense of the word "bullshit".
- The most important body in China is the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. As in English, the word for "standing" in Chinese in this context is the same as "standing" as in "standing up". Now, back in the '80s, a group of CPC elders formed the Central Advisory Commission of the CPC; because its members were all so old, Party wags called it the Sitting Committee...
- Bear in mind: this pun doesn't even work in most European languages.note It's blind luck that it works in Chinese.note
- In Indonesia, Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) is translated into "Anjungan Tunai Mandiri" (literally "Independent Cash Bridge") so the abbreviation is still the same.
- The similarity of again/against in English is mirrored in German with wieder/wider, making it perfectly translatable without a common word stem.
- Same with the 1-letter difference between eight/night (English), acht/nacht (German), huit/nuit (French)...
- The following joke circulated in East Germany (where "letzte" has the same double meaning of "latest" and "final" that "last" does in English), but not in Iron Curtain nations where the local (mostly Slavic) language did not have that quirk:
Why weren't you at the last Communist Party meeting?
I didn't know it was the last one! If I had, I wouldn't have missed it for anything!
- In Czech, it works fine too.
Byls na posledním zasedání strany?
Já nevěděl že je poslední! To bych si nenechal ujít ani za nic!
- Czech is enough influenced by German language. But it works also in Polish:
Byłeś na ostatnim posiedzeniu partii?
Nie wiedziałem, że to ostatnie! Za nic bym go nie opuścił!
- In Brazil, since Santa Claus is known as Papai Noel (Father Christmas), his wife is known as Mamăe Noel (Mother Christmas).
- Pope Gregory I's famous Latin pun upon seeing beautiful Anglish slave boys at a market - "non angli, sed angeli" - actually works better when literally translated into modern English - "not Angles, but angels" - where the two words sound much more similar (for instance, having the same number of syllables) and look almost identical.
- The Chinese character 胆 means either "gallbladder" or "courage", very similar to the English idiomatic uses of the word "gall".
- In English, "Czech" is very similar to "check" in pronounciation. In Icelandic, assuming they're both nouns, it works better as they're almost the same(Tékki vs tékki).
- Danish language has a word, "mis", that can both mean "cat" and be a rather informal term for the vagina, just like the English word "pussy". This makes most English puns using "pussy" quite easy to translate into Danish.