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Translation: Yes
"That is a great deal of meaning to put into such a short name."
Drazi ambassador to Tirk, whose name apparently means "Don't touch me, I'm not having another child after this ever again", The Legend of the Rangers

Let's Learn Tropese! Chapter One: Basic Vocabulary

Hello, and welcome to your first lesson in Tropese. To begin with, let's start off with a few phrases in Tropese, and their English equivalent. (You may wish to hear the phrases on the tape provided.)

"Grako maloka" means "Hello"

"Chanamananga" means "How are you?"

"Fizzlebop" means "I am good"

"Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong" means "Where is the nearest lavatory?"

"Mashakatara vazookary bashabasha nook, vazoopti kanazook tri, flabbalabba dingdong dooda, sizzabizzaborp" means "Yes"

"Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg" means "No"

"Zippu" means "While we commonly expect short phrases in one language to be equally short in another, sometimes short phrases are translated into surprisingly long ones: however, many shows parody this completely by having a single word in Tropese become a long phrase in English, or a ridiculously long phrase in Tropese translate to a single English word, often the word 'Yes'. The former case is mild Truth in Television, as there are words in other languages for highly specific cases which take some explaining in English, such as Zugzwang which means "a situation [in a game, especially Chess] where one player is put at a disadvantage because he has to make a move when he would prefer to pass and make no move" (from The Other Wiki)."

"Zedrulabvhabqd" means "Related to Fun with Subtitles, which may overlap with Bilingual Bonus"

"Zopnfjfgibgikbaita" means "If this is actually happening in the story being presented when a conversation is being held through a translator, it may be because the translator is doing a Tactful Translation and thus editing and carefully rephrasing some of what is being said."

"Iktljzxbrgkh" means "How the hell are we supposed to pronounce this stuff?"

"Gort! Klaatu Barada Nikto" means "Sometimes there is no meaning given."

"Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz," means "I love loopholes."


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  • An advert for a Japanese brand of air-conditioning units shown in Greece and possibly other western countries showed two (Japanese) actors dressed as cowboys having a fight. One of them kills the other and then starts speaking for several seconds, stopping to take breaths a few times. The subtitle shows "I got you, worm!"
    • (The tagline was "We may not be known for our westerns, but we are known for our AC units".)

     Anime and Manga 
  • Lampshaded in the English dub of Bobobo Bo Bobo Bo after an obviously wordy title is described in no more than two words. "It says a lot more than that in Japanese!"
  • In Eyeshield 21, Komusubi communicates solely in "power-speak", which consists largely of grunts and one-word sentences. His power-speak tends to be rather verbose, even eloquent, when translated, and usually prompts a reaction along the lines of "He said all that?!"
    • A similar case was shown in one of the PairPuri fanbooks of The Prince of Tennis, where Kabaji Munehiro answered questions with only "Usu" (basically, "Yes"), and the other "power players" understood his answers as complex statements, while the reporter interviewing them all was clueless as to what was being said.
  • Pokémon Ranger: Vatonage roughly translates into "to bring light to that which is shrouded in darkness."

    Comic Books 
  • Lobo's name means "one who devours your entrails and thoroughly enjoys it." More than one character has thought it meant "wolf" like one would expect.

  • Occurs in Wayne's World, when Wayne and Cassandra are talking in Cantonese: at one point they have to stop talking to let the subtitles catch up.
  • In Lost in Translation, the director gives Bill Murray's character long, rambling instructions in Japanese, which the studio translator shortens considerably. "Is that everything? It seemed like he said quite a bit more than that."
    • Subverted to anyone who actually knows what the director was saying. He was giving very specific directions, and the translator summarized them. For bonus points, the director specifically asked the translator to tell Bill Murray's character exactly what he was saying.
  • Krippendorf's Tribe has a scene where the titular fake tribe's chief (the titular Krippendorf, the researcher who has made up this tribe, in disguise) is on a talk show with Krippendorf's wife. The host asks him what he thinks of America, and he makes three syllables, which translate somewhat longer. The host is bewildered that it would be the case, but the almost-girlfriend says the tribe's language is succinct.
  • Kung Pow! did it as part of its Gag Dub. There are a few parts where the actor's mouths move for a very long time, but the dub says something really short.
  • A variant shows up in The Court Jester, with sign language. Danny Kaye pays very close attention to a drawn-out and complicated series of signs, only to explain to the interrogating soldier "she says no." It's promptly lampshaded:
    Captain: What took her so long?!
    Kaye: Stutters.
  • Charlie Chaplin did this twice in his 1940 film The Great Dictator.
    • One example uses dictation instead of translation — his Hitler parody, Adenoid Hynkel, would say a long sentence, and his secretary would transcribe it in a couple keystrokes. Another sentence, and again a couple keystrokes. A single word, and suddenly the secretary is typing something that might be the original manuscript of Order of the Phoenix.
    • Earlier in the movie, Hynkel is delivering a speech, commented on by an English speaking narrator. Some passages are translated word by word (like 'liberty is abolished'), while others — like Hynkel's rambling about the beauty of the Tomanian women — are paraphrased with a lot of details. Then, one very long passage of Hynkel screaming, shaking his fists and growling is paraphrased only as: 'His excellency has just referred to the Jewish population'.
  • A variant occurs near the end of the Lilo & Stitch movie, where Stitch is trying to convince Jumba and Pleakley to help him rescue Lilo from Captain Gantu.
    Jumba: What?! After all you put me through, you expect me to help you just like that? Just like that?!
    Stitch: Ih.
    Jumba: Fine!
    Pleakley: "Fine"? You're doing what he says?
    Jumba: He's very persuasive.
  • The Three Stooges do this...from English to English. Moe started out dictating a message to Larry to type on a typewriter, and started with "Dear Sir"...leading to Larry typing for a considerable amount of time. Moe eventually asked him about this, whereupon Larry told him that he did not know how to spell "Sir".
  • Inverted in Alien vs. Predator. Lex asks Sebastian how to say "Scared shitless," in Italian. His response: "Non vedo l'ora di uscire da questa piramide con te, perché mi sto cagando adosso." Which translates to "I can't wait to get out of this pyramid with you, because I'm shitting myself."
  • Also inverted in the VeggieTales parody of The Lord of the Rings, where a six-or-so character inscription above a door turns out to be a really long riddle.
    Leg 'O Lamb: It said all that?
    Randolf: It's a highly efficient tongue. You can fit a whole book on a napkin.
  • In Balto, Muk's translations of Luk's whimpering are usually longer than the sounds Luk makes. But taking the cake is when Luk makes one, short whimper, which Muk translates as: "Oh, the shame of the polar bear who fears the water! No wonder we are shunned by our fellow bear. Woe is us!"
  • In the 2003 Universal Studios version of Peter Pan, Hook asks the captive Tiger Lily if she knows where Peter is. Her response is to hurl a stream of insults at him in her native tongue and finish by spitting at his feet. Smee then translates: "She says, 'Sorry, but no.'"
  • From Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian:
    Kahmunrah: They didn't call me Kahmunrah the Trustworthy for nothing, all right? They didn't call me Kahmunrah the Trustworthy! They called me Kahmunrah the Bloodthirsty who kills whoever doesn't give Kahmunrah exactly what he wants in the moment that he wants it, which is right now when I had also better get the combination and the tablet!
    Larry: That's what they called you?
    Kahmunrah: It was shorter in Egyptian.
  • In Battlefield Earth, Terl tells Johnny that he's an expert marksman who graduated top of his class at the academy and that if any of the rat-brain man-animals try to escape he'll gun them down. Johnny summarizes it as "Try to run, he'll kill us." Terl asks, "That's it?"
  • The Danish subtitles for The Sound of Music did this in the scene where the Mother Superior tells Maria "Don't worry. Sometimes when God closes a door, he opens a window." The Danish read "Don't worry."
  • Played straight in Meteor (1979). A Russian scientist is meeting with a U.S. General Ripper to begin politically sensitive negotiations to aim nuclear missiles at the oncoming Death from Above. Each side has their "English voice" and "Russian voice", both speaking at the same time to avoid accusations of duplicity. Eventually Sean Connery gets tired of the babble and just has them speaking English with the pretty female Russian translating — at the end the general turns to his Russian voice and demands, "Is that what I said?" The translator just says, "Yes."
  • Early in Seven Samurai, one of the peasants expresses his uncertainty about what Kambei is planning with a fairly long sentence. The subtitle boils it down to, "I'm confused."
  • In '"Saludos Amigos'', Jose speaks a long array of Portuguese language, which causes Donald to be up to his neck in translation dictionaries trying to keep up with him. Jose finishes by saying "Or as they say in America, let's go see the town!".

  • A Communist functionary from the Soviet Union travels to Red China to a give a speech. After he has spoken for several minutes, he remembers to let the translator do his job. To his surprise, the Chinese guy says but one word: "Ping!" But nobody seems to mind, so he continues his speech. When he stops again, the translator says "Ling ping!" He wonders again, but finishes his speech, after which the translator says "Ling ping ching!" Later, back in the Soviet Union, he asks a professor for Chinese what these three sentences could mean. The professor says: "I am not sure whether you are pronouncing it right, but it could well mean 'Bullshit', 'big bullshit' and 'big bullshit over'..."
  • A sheriff catches a crook who only speaks some foreign language, and so the sheriffs says to the translator "Tell him that unless he tells us where he hid all the money he stole, we're going to execute him." The translator relays this message, and the criminal sobs and gives the translator a detailed description of the exact location where he buried the loot. The translator turns to the sheriff and says "He says 'Over my dead body.'".


  • Used in A Series of Unfortunate Events: Judging by the translations in-text, almost everything Sunny says carries a lot of meaning per sound. Complete sentences aren't more than two syllables long until she starts learning a little English in the later books, and she seems to get a lot more across with her babytalk.
  • Both versions are used a lot in Discworld novels. In Jingo, "Aagragaah" in troll literally means "der time when you see dem little pebbles and you jus' know dere's gonna be a great big landslide on toppa you and it already too late to run", but is more usefully translated as "forebodings".
    • Trollish does a good deal of this. Granny Weatherwax has a Trollish nickname approximately translating as "she who should be avoided"
    • Dwarfish tends to go in more for bad puns, or purely incomprehensible. "Sh'rt'atz" is Littlebottom's family name. "Littlebottom" is by way of being a Tactful Translation.
    • The Nac Mac Feegles' "Crivens!" can be translated as anything from "My goodness!" to "I've just lost my temper and there is going to be trouble (for you)," depending on usage.
    • The Librarian of Unseen University is a wizard who was transformed into an orangutan. He manages to get a lot of mileage out of the word "Ook".
    • A Borogravian song mentioned in Monstrous Regiment is titled "Plogviehze!", which means "The Sun Has Risen, Let's Make War!" According to Vimes, "You need a very special history to get all that into one word."
    • Equal Rites features the word "p'ch'zarni'chiwkov" used by the small tribe of the K'turni, which means: "the nasty little sound of a sword being unsheathed right behind one at just the point when one thought one had disposed of one's enemies".
    • Happens a lot with the Agatean language in Interesting Times, as it's mostly an inflectional language. In the same book, it's mentioned that in various regions of the Disc "Aargh" can mean anything from "highly enjoyable" to "your wife is a big hippo". Also, one of the Silver Horde members uses the battle cry "P'charnkov!" which means "Your feet shall be cut off and buried several yards from your body so your ghost won't walk".
    • Umnian is an entirely contextual language, meaning that there isn't a single word that won't have a different meaning when used in a different sentence. Thusly the "Ten Gold Golems" that the Golem trust had excavated and directed to Ankh Morpork turned out to be "Ten Thousand Golems"..
    • An interesting English to English translation, quite a bit of time in Unseen Academicals is devoted to an extremely long, flowery love poem from Trev to Juliet — both of whom are somewhat ... less-than-literate. The message is translated, with the help of Nutt, from Trev's original, "I think you're really fit. I really fancy you. Can we have a date? No hanky panky, I promise" to said long poem. Of course, once Juliet gets it, Glenda has to translate the poem back for her. Naturally, she translates it as, "He really fancies you, thinks you're really fit, how about a date, no hanky panky, he promises."
  • In the Malloreon, Toth, a mute Gentle Giant, can communicate elaborately with Durnik using nothing more than a vague gesture or two. As it turns out, the sign language is only a pretense: the real communication is via a form of telepathy.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Ford gained the nickname "Ix" in his school years, which translates from Betelgeusian as "boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven."
  • In Dave Barry Slept Here, a "convenient interpreter" helps Columbus introduce himself to the Native Americans:
    Columbus: You guys are Indians, right?
    Tribal Chief: K'ham anonoda jawe. ("No. We came over from Asia about twenty thousand years ago via the Land Bridge.")
    • Dave Barry also likes to claim that German is like this; the German translation of "Go Brits!" in Dave Barry Slept Here is "Wannfahrtdersugab ein Umwievieluhrkommteran!"
  • Pretty much everything in the Entish language in Lord of the Rings falls into this. Every tree, hill, rock, Ent, and everything else has an enormously long name, which seems to incorporate describing its location, its entire history, and how they feel about it. Mary and Pippin speculated that they must take several hours just to say "Good Morning." Ents in turn call every other language "hasty" for using such short words to describe the world, though they can learn such languages to communicate with "hasty folk."
  • From The Meaning of Liff :
    Welsh word which literally translates as 'leaking-biro-by-the-glass-hole-of-the-clerk-of-the-bank-has-been-taken-to-another-place-leaving-only-the-special-inkwell-and-three-inches-of-tin-chain'.
  • Inverted in Molière's play The Bourgeois Gentleman. The title character is duped by people pretending to be Turks. They speak in a combination of nonsense and the original ''linga franca''- a combination of French, Spanish, Italian, and some Arabic and their speech is "translated" to him. Several times, there will be a short phrase which is "translated" into something much longer, and he comments on his amazement that so much can be contained in so few words.
  • Cryptonomicon has Qwghlmian, a language so concise that "Gxnn bhldh sqrd m!" means "I was at the pub, asking for a job as a rat hunter, and my neighbor's dog had rabies". Or, depending on the dialect, it could also mean "You look beautiful", or maybe "While I was at the mill to file a complaint for a sack with a weak seam that ripped apart on Thursday, the owner's way of speaking made me understand that Mary's grand-aunt, an old single woman with a questionable reputation when she was younger, had a fungal infection in her toenails".
    • Also shows up in The Baroque Cycle, where a character sends off a letter composed of 40 000 Qwghlmian runes to be translated and receives a 400 000-words text in return.
  • In 1984, part of the function of New Speak is to fit complex concepts into single words. For example, the sentence "Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc" roughly translates as "Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism".
    • Interestingly, the whole point is, in fact, to obfuscate, or eliminate, the more complex thoughts.
  • In Agaton Sax we have Graelic (which seems to be a No Celebrities Were Harmed of Gaelic), which can say lots in just a few words, and Brosnian (supposedly a Slavic language) which is the exact opposite. This becomes a Running Gag because the hero is an omniglot, and several villains speak these languages - Diabolical Mastermind professor Julius Mosca uses Graelic as a secret language in his organisation because it is so rare, and his colleague doctor Anaxagoras Frank uses Brosnian in his organisation because he is Brosnian, and so are his chief henchmen.
  • The Rod Albright Alien Adventures series features the alien Old Master Tar Gibbons, whose first name is actually an honorific commonly translated as "wise and beloved master who could kill me with his little finger if he so wished."
  • The gnomes of Krynn speak Common, but their names for people, places, and things are absurdly long and tend to be interrupted. Sometimes the interruption becomes the new name. Hence, Mount Nevermind.
  • The Translator Microbes in Illegal Aliens by Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio seem to have this as a built in function. When humans ask the Alien Engineer questions about his ship, his lengthy and highly detailed answers all tend to get translated as "yellow paint makes it go faster" or "you push the button and it starts". The Engineer in question is highly impressed as he assumes human language is so nuanced that his dissertation on hyperspace physics can be condensed into a short phrase.
  • In Black Powder Warnote , William Laurence finds himself on the receiving end of this.
    (after an Ottoman Captain bellows at length towards them via speaking trumpet) "He says to land," Tharkay translated, with improbable brevity; at Lawrence's frowning look he added, "and he calls us a great many impolite names; do you wish them all translated?"
  • In Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein we are told that the Free Traders can state a relationship such as "my maternal foster half-stepuncle by marriage, once removed and now deceased" in one word, which means that relationship and no other.
  • Star Bores has the minor alien Suburbia's speech rendered as a series of circular symbols. The first of his two lines, a greeting to Jello Knight Bing-Bong Gin, is translated in a footnote as "You hairy Jello nonce." Bing-Bong Gin offers to buy his Podracer, to which he replies with an entire paragraph, translated in the footnotes as "No." Interestingly, each letter of Suburbia's speech does correspond to one English letter, so by starting with the letters from the accurately-translated first line, you can find out what Suburbia really thought of Bing-Bong.
  • Used in a serious way in Stanislaw Lem's Imaginary Magnitude, with the future science of "prognolinguistics" which tries to reconstruct future languages. The more advanced a language is, the higher is its information density. In a "level 2" language, a short sentence is the equivalent of a long encyclopedia article, while a similarly short sentence in a "level 3" language would take 140 years to read aloud when translated to a modern-day language.
  • X-Wing Series: According to Tal'dira, the name Wedge Antilles sounds a lot like "one so foul as to induce vomiting in a rancor" in Twi'leki. He pronounces it Wedgan'tilles instead.

     Live Action TV 
  • In an episode of 30 Rock, Jack discovers that Liz can speak German. When he asks her in German whether Jenna was trying to hit on the last in the Hanover royal line, her really long answer is translated in subtitles to "Yeah."
  • This used to be a Running Gag on the Australian TV comedy series Fast Forward (later Full Frontal) whenever they'd spoof the multicultural TV channel SBS. Either a long stream of gibberish that went on and on would be translated as "Yes", or a single word in the made-up foreign language would lead to an endless stream of subtitles.
  • In She Spies, a show that likes dragging jokes out, D.D. is teaching English to Icelandic workers. One of them offers her some flowers, and says "D'boi". The translation is an awfully long sentence expressing his love and gratitude towards her for teaching him, and later develops into a hint of romantic feelings for her, ending on a sad note about how she would never love him back. She explains that she just wants to be friends, and asks if he can't understand that. He answers in a long sentence, the translation of which is "no".
    • Bonus points for a few dirty-sounding words in that long answer that strongly imply that he'd like nothing more than to bone her right then and there.
  • In an episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy voices the suspicion that translators of arthouse-style foreign films intentionally do this as a prank on Americans.
  • A frequent running gag in I Love Lucy is how Ricki will rant in Spanish when especially angry, which is most of the time. On on occasion, he says "Este mujer está loca. Hemos estado casados por veinte años y mira lo que ha hecho a mí." While the straight translation is "This lady is crazy. We've been married for twenty years and look what she's done to me", the sub says succinctly: "She's nuts"
  • The popular game "Foreign Film Dub" on Whose Line Is It Anyway? features one contestant vaguely imitating a foreign language, while the other "dubs" the dialogue into English. Frequent use is made of this trope.
    • Including a literal Translation: Yes where, upon being asked to dance, Stephen Frost answered with a drawn-out and very loud "NEIN!"...which of course was helpfully translated as a polite "Yes."
  • In the classic Doctor Who story "The Two Doctors," which was filmed and took place in Spain. A British man notices a sign reading "PROHIBIDA LA ENTRADA A PERSONAS NO AUTORIZADAS," which his Spanish girlfriend helpfully translates for him as "keep out."
    • In case you're wondering, the sign literally says "Entry forbidden to persons not authorized", or more idiomatically, "Unauthorized personnel prohibited"/"Authorized personnel only."
    • It IS a valid translation, though.
  • Have I Got News for You has a variant on this trope- in the Missing Words round, where a headline has some words blanked out for the contestants to guess, jokes are often made by giving an answer significantly too long or short for the given space.
  • A funny variation on Barney Miller: an attractive deaf woman is a witness to a crime, requiring Officer Levitt, who can sign (to the surprise of all), to translate for her. She and Dietrich hit it off, so he asks her out to dinner. In reply, she signs very rapidly and animatedly, finishing off with a flourish of hand gestures around her open mouth. Levitt turns to Dietrich and says: "I take it she prefers Szechuan."
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie featured a business meeting sketch with Stephen Fry acting as translator for Hugh Laurie and his opposite number from a fictional vaguely eastern European country, and opened with both variations on this gag: a short phrase translated into a much longer one, and a long phrase translated with a single word. It then went on to mine the other common language barrier gags, such as a mundane word in English ("price" in this case) which has no direct or even approximate translation into the other language, another mundane phrase in English which happens to be identical to a childish vulgarity in the other language, and yet another mundane phrase which turns out to be identical to a much more offensive vulgarity (leading the meeting - and the sketch - to break down).
  • In the language spoken on Chanel 9, "chinky chinky chinkenta chinkenta cancho canta canta chinkenta pentos" is the word for five.
  • One MADtv sketch parodying a badly-translated Korean soap opera had a character utter a single syllable, while the subtitles for the one-syllable sentence filled up the whole screen.
  • Chespirito did this in an early sketch, with a secretary reading while he typed on a typewriter.
  • An episode of Home Improvement has Tim and his hired "granite man" communicating using short grunts with very long subtitles.
  • Yes, Minister manages to do this English (theoretically) to English, thanks to Sir Humphrey and Bernard's inevitable waves of Bureaucratese (which inevitably translate to a short sentence of words of no more than two syllable, and sometimes literally "yes").
    Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister I must strongly protest in the strongest possible terms, my profound opposition to a newly instituted practice which imposes severe and intolerable restrictions upon the ingress and egress of senior members of the hierarchy and which will in all probability, should the current deplorable innovation be perpetuated, precipitate a constriction of the channels of communication and culminate in a condition of organisational atrophy and administrative paralysis which will render effectively impossible the coherent and coordinated discharge of the function of government within Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    Jim: You mean you've lost your key?
    • Or more accurately, "I want my key back!"
    Sir Humphrey: "I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice in government service as we approach the terminal period of the year — calendar, of course, not financial — in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One — and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation — indeed confidence — indeed one might go so far as to say hope — that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average."
    Jim Hacker: "Are you trying to say "Happy Christmas," Humphrey?"
    Sir Humphrey: "Yes, Minister."
  • During the latter days of the Attitude Era, Japanese tag-team Kaientai were given a push as a comedic Heel Tag Team whose entrances were badly dubbed English, with everything Funaki said and did translated, after several seconds of talking and gesticulation, into one long "In-DEEEEEEEED."
  • Happens in Only Fools And Horses from English to English when the trio meet Anna, a German girl who has just been fired from her job as au pair because she's pregnant. As the slightly more educated one in the family, Rodney is forced to translate for Del Boy and Albert. The exchange goes something like this:
    Anna: Mr Wainwright said that my disruptive influence on Spencer makes it inexpedient for me to remain.
    Del Boy and Albert: *looking at Rodney for a translation* Please?
    Rodney: He said, "On yer bike."
    Del Boy: *grins, nodding sudden understanding* Oh, on yer bike!
  • On Sesame Street, one Bert and Ernie sketch has them playing cavemen, with Bert as a father and Ernie as his son. They'd say "Ooga" or "Mooga," then translate it into an English sentence. After going back and forth for a while, Ernie says, "Oogaoogamoogamoogamoogaoogamoogaoogaoogamoogamoogaoogamooga!" and translates it to, "Thanks, dad!"
  • Played for laughs in Blackadder II, when Queenie — swept up in the national fervour over the return of Sir Walter Raleigh — greets him with 'traditional' sea-faring lingo:
    Queenie: Splice me timbers, Sir Walter, it's bucko to see you, old matey!
    Sir Walter Raleigh: ... I'm sorry?
    Blackadder: She says 'hello'.
  • Better Off Ted: As part of a complicated lie, Ted tells his date Danielle that he's an Indian and given her "translations" of various words in his invented native language. Linda finds out and uses this to force him to confess to the lie. At the end of the episode, she apologizes:
    Linda: Hey Ted—pillomaya. That means "I'm sorry I messed things up for you with Danielle, but I was pissed you dated someone from that stupid list when we had a deal we wouldn't, but ruining your love life was a douchey thing to do." Pillomaya: a simple word for a complex idea.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard is helping Raj communicate with a deaf girl with whom he is on a date, Howard knowing sign language. Raj gives increadibly longwinded Purple Prose descriptions he wants Howard to translate, which Howard stares at Raj, and signs stuff like "You look very pretty".

     Professional Wrestling 
  • The tag team Kaientai used this during the late 90s and early 2000s. Taka Michinoku would give a hammy promo into a microphone, though no one would hear what he was actually saying. It would come out sounding like a bad Godzilla translation and would be villainous scenery chewing, usually with Taka claiming that the team is "EVIL!" He would then hand the microphone to Funaki, who would speak for a few seconds to a minute, once again without any words being heard. No matter how long he went on or what he seemed to be saying, it would always be translated as "Indeed!"
    • Once when they had a woman with them that Taka referred to as his girlfriend, instead of handing the microphone to Funaki at the end of his part, he handed it to her. It was the same voice as Funaki's translation, but with a higher pitch, still only saying "Indeed!"

  • Les Luthiers do it in "Cartas de Color", where an African tribesman dictates a letter that is sent with drum beats. The word "but" requires more than ten beats, while the sentence "you must be very careful and pronounce the magical words exactly as I taught them to you" is conveyed in just two beats. This is explained as "tachygraphy".
  • Flanders and Swann did this in one of their comic songs in the 1950s...
    ''Oh its hard to say, olimakityluchachichichi, but in Tonga that means "no",
    If I ever have the money, 'tis to Tonga I shall go...
    For each lovely Tongan maiden there, will gladly make a date,
    and by the time she's said olimakityluchachichichi,
    It is usually too late!''

     Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In an early stand-up routine, Robin Williams did this gag, imitating a Soviet (this was 1978) ballet dancer being interviewed on American TV about being in New York for a performance. As the host, he asks "Did you like your time in New York?" He then goes into a 2-minute bout of the dancer speaking rapidly in Russian while pantomiming drinking, drug use, and random sexual encounters (complete with graphic pelvic thrusting motions). He then has the Soviet translator begin arguing with her, getting into a shouting match, then hitting her, both of them settling down, and finally telling the host "She say 'Yes!'" with a broad smile as if nothing were amiss. At the time it was as much a commentary on the ludicrous degree to which the Soviets would whitewash events to present themselves as morally superior to the West, while everyone else knew the truth.
  • For Kevin Johnson, ventriloquist from Legoland, CA, one of his acts is called "Godzilla Theater" where he and his friends Clyde (a vulture) and Matilda (a cockatoo) all move their mouths like in the Godzilla/Gojira movies, but they speak in English. After being told that they have to get out near the end of the act, Clyde rapidly moves his beak (confusing the other two) before saying simply, "No!"

     Visual Novels 
  • Happens a few times in Katawa Shoujo, when a complex set of sign language from the deaf/mute Shizune gets translated by her friend Misha as something extremely short and simple. Hisao suspects the girls are inserting private asides about him in between segments of conversation, and he's probably right.

     Video Games 
  • In Ar tonelico, the Con Lang Hymmnos puts a lot of emphasis on communicating the emotions of the speaker. Because they have special rules for this, it means that a relatively short phrase can end up much longer in English.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with Pastalie dialect, which is even less verbose and connotes even more meaning. As an example, hEmYEmArI can be roughly translated as, "I will gladly do my best to sing for your happiness, even though I'm a little nervous."
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, most of Visquis's dialogue is like this, including a string of dialogue that lasts for several seconds and translates simply as "Mira". It's also unskippable without mods, which is quite frustrating.

     Web Original 
  • Done in This Episode of Hey Shipwreck. For example, translating "What the f* ck" as "I do not understand why logic seems to be avoided at all cost for some reason, and I'm just very frustrated at the fact that we have been unable to let go of certain practices, that although have become routine, are not as beneficial as other options that have become available to us."
  • In an episode of Red vs. Blue, O'Malley orders his robot army to hurry up but, since they were built by Lopez who speaks in Spanish, O'Malley has to ask Lopez how to say "hurry up" in spanish. Lopez decids to mess with him:
    O'Malley (speaking in Spanish): Hey everyone! I'm a purple jerk who likes to drink motor oil! (in English) That seemed awfully long for just "hurry up".
    Lopez (in Spanish): It's a very poetic language.
    • Try not to think too hard about how O'Malley can perfectly understand Lopez—who only speaks Spanish—yet has no idea what he just said.
  • Used in an episode of the Haruhi Suzumiya Gag Sub "The Adventures of Yuki Nagato" by Chief Prophet Of Yukiism. Moreover, the word where this trope is applied to, "Yahoo", translates into a lampshade of the trope.
  • In Bee and Puppycat, it takes noticeably longer for Puppycat to say "Why not?" than it does to say "Hello Peon. Bow to me."
  • At the start of episode 9 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, a scene from the Spanish dub is shown and a particularly long quote of Bakura's is subbed simply as "Yes". In case you're wondering, the phrase is Tienes algo que yo deseo, Yugi, y pienso quitártelo (You have something that I want, Yugi, and I plan to take it from you.)
  • When Naruto falls down a tree and hurts himself in Naruto The Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show, this happens:
    Naruto: (rolling on the ground, clutching his head) Itatatatatatatatatatatatata!
    Yami Yugi: That was Japanese for, "Ouch!"

     Western Animation 
  • Lilo & Stitch:
    Stitch: Shibito! igota! Ih. if you do that, bebu.
    Jumba: Ah, 626 has offered a deal. If 513 proves he can take of things by fixing crack in planet, Stitch will give him precious citrus ball. *Beat* Stitch's language is very efficient.note 
  • In the South Park episode "Goobacks", Mr Garrison is obliged to teach Futurespeak (a guttural merger of every current language). The English phrase "The 11:15 bus from Denver arrived twelve hours late" becomes a single-syllable grunt in Futurespeak.
  • The Merrie Melodies short "Wackiki Wabbit" uses this: A really long stretch of Polynesian nonsense translates to "What's up, doc?" while a shorter one becomes "Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of his party." Then, One of the sailors says: "Gee, thanks!", which is subtitled back into the language Bugs was speaking, and is two lines long. His companion points to the subtitle and asks: "Did you say all that?"
  • According to The Simpsons, "Shimatta bakame!" is Japanese for "D'oh!" It's not a real phrase, technically. "Shimatta" literally means "done, but to a negative effect," and has the meaning of "drat!" or "dammit!". "Bakame" carries the meaning of "the damned fool" or "that moron!"
    • It is not, however, an inaccurate translation. He's calling himself a screw up (spoken Japanese often drops the subject), which is actually pretty close to what "D'oh" implies anyway.
      • A rough translation might be "now you've done it, you moron!"
  • Family Guy has an Imagine Spot where Quagmire is dreaming himself in Lord of the Rings, as Arwen's husband. He says a long, long phrase in Elvish. Subtitles: "Giggity".
    • Peter recounts the family's history in a different episode, and tells them of one of his ancestors, silent film actor Black-Eye Griffin. A clip is shown of Black-Eye noticing some pie and visibly speaking for several seconds; the intertitle simply reads "That's pie".
  • An episode of Rugrats has a parody of Godzilla ostensibly dubbed from Japanese. At one point a character moves his mouth quite a bit but the dubbed version only says "Yeah"
  • Used in a Tom and Jerry short, "Little Runaway". A runaway seal befriends Jerry and informs him of his plight in "seal-speak", which is translated at the bottom of the screen so that the viewers can understand what he's saying. When Jerry agrees to take care of him, the baby seal enthusiastically barks for several seconds with a short 'thanks' appearing on the screen.
  • Arnold's Parents' wedding ceremony in Hey Arnold! was done in the local language. It takes several hours to get through "Do you Miles take Stella to be your lawfully wedded wife", several more to get through "Do you Stella take Miles to be your lawfully wedded husband", but only a short phrase for "And by the power vested in me... ...I now pronounce you man and wife".
  • The "West Side Pigeons" Goodfeathers sketch in Animaniacs has one scene in which the Godpigeon talks to Squit, who completely misunderstands him. The last of the Godpigeon's lines takes seven seconds to utter. It's subtitled as "See ya."
    • There's also an episode where Yakko, Wakko, and Dot were abducted by aliens. The alien gives his leader a long response to his leader's command which subtitles to "Okay."
  • Happens in an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball. The title character, when inquiring about Darwin's job skills, asks if Darwin can speak Chinese. He responds in a long Chinese sentence which is subtitled "No."
  • Inverted in the "Shoyu Weenie" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, where a Japanese character's exclamation "Oi!" is subtitled as "They stole our song!"

     Real Life 
  • A lot of these are due to the speaker's cultural knowledge and background. Think of the words 'Nazi' and 'Pins and needles' which could be translated as 'Someone with dogmatic views and a harsh manner of enforcing them on others' and 'A numb or tingling sensation when a limb has been left in an uncomfortable position for a long time.' Anglophones may know what they mean, but we have picked up the subtler connotations over a long time. We could redefine them as 'bad people' and 'a funny feeling' to be more concise, but this does remove some of the meaning. A lot of internet words (Trolls, lulz, noob...) can be like this to the older generation. And let's not even get started on how to explain memes...
  • "Mamihlapinatapai", a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, isn't exactly a short word, but in contrast to its meaning, "a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start", it's eminently succinct, much like "Twice Shy" in Tropese. With words like that, they could condense romance novels into romance pamphlets.
  • Relatively easy when using synonyms. Consider "Yes" (three letters, one syllable) and "Affirmative" (11 letters, 4 syllables).
  • According to Cracked, the Pascuense (the language spoken in Easter Island) word "tingo" means "to remove every object from a person's house one by one until nothing is left."
  • Finnish, due to its structure, can be capable of this. The word "juoksentelisinkohan" roughly means "I wonder if I should run around aimlessly?"
    • Interestingly enough, removing the "-han" suffix changes the meaning into "Should I run around aimlessly" meaning that in this case, "I wonder if" is three letters.
      • In quite a few English-speaking communities, appending "eh?" to a sentence will have a similar effect. Two letters and a shift in inflection.
  • In Ithkuil, virtually every sentence or phrase seems to be short, and becomes much longer in translation. For example, a sentence made of 5 characters in Ithkuil means "On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point." Its rendering in phonetic script is "Tram-mļöi hhâsmařpţuktôx".
    • Even in terms of words, Ithkuil has some simple roots that have really complex definitions: one root, "-ŠPʰ-", means a "mix of humor and shame one feels upon pulling a joke on someone or at their expense but the target doesn’t 'get it' or remains ignorant of the joke".
  • Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri, upon first joining the club, didn't speak a lick of English, so he had a translator translate in between sentences. Thankfully, the first match went well, and the manager ended with a 'thumbs up' sign. Which got translated.
    • One of the men assigned as his translator early on apparently didn't speak any Italian and simply made up his own analysis of a match as a translation of Ranieri's summary. He was sacked upon being found out. Ranieri did eventually learn a modest amount of English, but it could be argued that at the time (and some would say to this day), speaking English was not a requirement to be manager of Chelsea since the entire first team hailed from outside the UK.
  • The days of the week in Ojibwe are another example of the role of nuance, as the names for each day describe what is traditionally done on that day. Saturday, for example, is 11 syllables because its name actually means roughly "the day to wash the floors."
  • The title of Gone with the Wind is reduced to one character in Chinese. (飄 piāo, roughly translated as "drifting (randomly) in (hidden) breezes", or slightly less accurately as "moving with the wind".)
  • Happens very often in Chinese with four-word idioms. A whole slew of meanings, nuances, and connotations can be contained within, most commonly, four characters, and many are virtually impossible to understand without knowing the story behind the phrase. Some have simple translations or English idiomatic equivalents ("Play the lute to a cow" = "Casting pearls before swine"), ones that require longer explanations ("A spot in the jade": A tiny flaw in something otherwise perfect), and some poetics ones that turn out longer than an English equivalent ("Once bitten by a mosquito, fear mosquito bites all day". 10 characters in Chinese, same meaning as the English "Once bitten, twice shy".)
    • Classical Chinese in general is often like this, with its one-syllable words, compact grammar and tendency to drop subjects.
  • ''Jayus'' in Indonesian is once listed as among the most difficult words to translate. It refers to the nature of jokes that are so poorly made or told that the audience laugh anyway, precisely because it's not funny. It has a convenient Tropese translation though: So Unfunny It's Funny.
    • Sounds like what in English would be called a "groaner".
    • Its verb-form (ngejayus) goes into Mind Screw territory: to tell a jayus on purpose, not because he/she actually thinks its funny, but because it's a jayus, he/she knew it will make people laugh.
  • American Sign Language (and probably other sign languages) uses very succinct gestures and relies a lot on facial expression and directionality. So, the phrase 'she helped me reluctantly again and again' can theoretically be communicated with one sign. Likewise 'I'll do it myself' is one sign, and 'she asked me to tell you to take the keys from her and give them to me' can be communicated in four signs.
  • Irish Gaelic does not actually have words for yes or no. Instead one responds to a yes/no question with the verb and a positive or negative indicator. If asked "Ar mhaith leat X?"(Do you like X?), on would respond either "Is maith liom" or "Nior maith liom", "I like" and "I do not like", respectively.
    • And despite the profusion of letters, each of those words is monosyllabic, so this is a lot easier to say than to spell.
    • Mandarin Chinese is the same. There are words that can be used as "yes" or "no", but translate to "correct"/"it is" or "it's not", respectively. Most of the time, you answer a question by repeating the verb in the affirmative or negative. So if someone asked you "Ni you ni de shu ma?" (Do you have your book?), you could respond with "dui" (right), "you" (I have), or "mei you" (I do not have). This is the cause of the infamous Recursive Translation that rendered Darth Vader's Big "NO!" from Revenge of the Sith as "do not want".
  • Subverted in one Nike ad, which featured a Masai tribesman holding up a sneaker and speaking in his native language. This was subtitled "Just do it"...but as it turned out, he was really saying "I don't want these. Give me big shoes."
    • Nike didn't have a translator for the obscure language the tribesman spoke. They didn't count on someone in the United States actually knowing the language and pointing this fact out to them.
  • Jerry Potts, a Metis guide and translator, was notorious for not liking to talk a lot. Once, after a Native Chief had spent several minutes greeting some White guests, he translated the speech as "He says he's damn happy you're here."
  • Latin usually translates to large sentences because Latin tends to use suffixes instead of modal verbs and such. Latin has no articles and pronouns can be freely dropped. Censeo aliquid agendum poni means I reckon that something that has to be made will be shown.
    • Latin also uses tenses that can be expressed with a single word in that language but requires quite a bit more in English. Nothing more blatant then the Future Perfect tense which can take a small word like "Ceno" which means "I Eat" change it and add a suffix to make it "Cenaveritis," longer yes but to translate "You all will have eaten." Not much longer in speech, but much more so in writing.
    • A better example is the phrase "Mutatis Mutandis" (sometimes abbreviated to MM, even) which translates as "after the things that should have been changed, have been changed".
    • This can also apply to individual words, even those that were imported into another language from Latin (usually due to centuries of definition drift). It is hard to give a good translation of Roman governmental offices, for instance, without essentially making it into a job description.

      As an example, take the office of censor. As with the modern definition, the censor was responsible for upholding the standards of public morality, but he was also responsible for taking the census, or the citizenship rosters. Specifically, he combined the two roles into a single job; if he judged someone to be of less-than-satisfactory character, he could expel the man from the Senate (if he was a senator) or revoke other privileges as he saw fit.
    • 'Yes' and 'No' in Latin are 'Ita vero' (literally, 'thus truly') and 'Minime' ('leastly'), respectively. In Late Vulgate, which would become the Romance languages, though, they're 'sic' or 'hoc' (ancestors of, respectively, 'sí' and 'oui', and meaning literally 'that way' and 'this') and 'non' (ancestor of 'no(n)' in most of the Romance languages, plus possibly English 'no', and literally meaning simply 'not (this or that)'). The change is probably due to Gaulish and Celt-Iberian influence, see Irish Gaelic, above.
  • Body Language and Intonation can convey large amounts of information with a single word.
  • Italian comedian Fabrizio Fontana is known to mock the hell out of this trope with his best-known characters, James Tont (in English that translates to "James Dumb"): after pretending to read a sign on a door, with a very intricate and long sentence written on it, when asked what that meant he always says, "Please knock.".
  • Depending on the context and the tone, a short vulgarity can convey a lot and mean extremely varied things.
  • Sometimes justified, as phrases such as "Does the Pope crap in the woods?" might be a tad difficult to explain to someone unfamiliar with the two phrases it spawned from: "Does a bear crap in the woods?" and "Is the Pope Catholic?" This is even worse if the audience is from a culture where neither of those questions would invoke an immediate "yes" and you only have two seconds of subtitles to get all of this across.
    • That depends what you want to do with the translation. If you only want to convey the meaning, a "very obviously so" or "you should know that" would almost always do, since the main use is as a rhetorical question piled upon another question with precisely this meaning. Often, there would be idioms which may differ slightly but carry a meaning similar enough to be understood. In short: most of the time translating does not need to include etymological or other background to the exact phrase or words used.
    • "Is the Pope Catholic?" is referenced in Jon Stewart's Earth (The Book) in a Future Alien Questions section. Jon goes into a long-winded explanation of the phrase.
  • Despite common belief, this isn't actually a particularly common phenomenon of the German language. Words like Schadenfreude, Zugzwang, and Doppelganger have been adopted into the English language since they describe complex concepts in a short word, but even in German this is not a result of gramatical rules but just common consensus. Translated literary they simply mean "Damage-joy", "Move-compulsion", and "Twice-walker", though they are used to describe "Joy at the misfortune of others", "Being forced to take any action, though not taking any action would be preferable", and "A person looking identical to another person". To German speakers, these complex meanings are known only because someone once explained to you what they mean. They are no different than the english terms "social security" or "collateral damage", which require additional explainations to understand their meaning of "govermentally founded national programs to to financially support people without an income that covers minimum neccessary expenses" or "people injured or killed as a side effect of military action taking place in their proximity". However, German philosophers and scientists do have a long standing tradition of creating such words and making extensive use of them throughout all their works, which often end up not being translated.
    • An actual case is the German word "doch", which can be explained as "I deny that your negative statement is true, and in turn declare the opposite". For example if someone states "there is no milk in the fridge", you could simply reply with "doch". Meaning "Your statement is not true. There is indeed milk in the fridge."
      • Which could also be translated as "Is so!"
      • This is similar to how French "si" works. Meaning "No, the answer to your negative question is in fact 'yes'."
    • Interestingly, Russians went a different route. Instead of straight adopting "Schadenfreude" into Russian, which would sound weird in common speech, they translated the two parts and put them into a new word: "zloradstvo" coming from "zlo" (evil) and "rad" (happy). Of course, most Russian aren't aware where the word came from and probably think it has always been there (same for relatively new loan words such as "piar", a transliteration of English PR or "public relations").
    • More German words which have not made it into the English language yet are better examples though, like Backpfeifengesicht ("a face that makes you want to punch it"), Kummerspeck ("fat that you accumulate on your body as a result of overeating when troubled or sad"), or fremdschämen ("to be embarrassed for someone else", often as a result of watching a Point-and-Laugh Show).
      • Spanish has an equivalent idiom for "fremdschämen": vergüenza ajena (literally "someone else's embarrasement")
      • In British English the words 'awkward' and 'uncomfortable'can be used this way
  • The Finnish word "sisu" is most accurately translated as "having the will to keep going, no matter how many times you fail and no matter what difficulties you encounter", or roughly "perseverance".
    • There's also the verb "jaksaa" which means "to have the ability and will to not succumb to physical or mental stress (or laziness)". It's not the same as "sisu" at all, but it sure sounds like it when described in English!
      • English has a perfectly good for that: "to endure". Not a 100% direct equivalent, but used in the same situations.
  • English has its fair share of small words with complex or self-contradictory definitions, partly because it's so fond of loan words and will steal a word like Schadenfreude rather than find a native equivalent. Try explaining the meaning of "kitsch" or "Irony" to someone who doesn't speak English (or, in the former case, German.)
    • "Kitsch" is found as a loanword in many other languages, though maybe not used as often as in English or German. "Irony" however is found in every European language (and it's practically always the same word). Probably there's a word for this in almost every language. So you should rather say that it may be hard to explain those terms to native speakers who don't understand them yet, like children.
      • It is true, however, that non-European languages have trouble with the word "irony," particularly distinguishing it from "sarcasm" (in many languages, the terms are one and the same). at least partly because the extended concept of irony in Western culture derives specifically from Aristotle's Poetics and what followed from there: dramatic and situational irony are often not immediately recognized as such, and Tragic and Socratic irony are specific in their origins to the West (specifically Greece, and even more specifically Athens).
    • English's tendency to steal large number of words and its overall extremely large vocabulary often allows for very succinct, even laconic translations of many concepts, given enough time to find the right way of saying it.
  • A few Armenian words are like this; for instance, shaganakagoyn is the word for brown. It is however a lot more fun to say.
  • The wonderfully useful Scottish word "tartle" means "to hesitate before introducing someone because you've just realised you've forgotten their name".
  • "Maintenant", which is French for "now", can be an example, given the length difference, despite how quickly it may be pronounced.
    • On the same fashion, Watashi (3 syllabes) means "I" in Japanese, "Izquierda" is "Left" in Spanish and "straight ahead" are 2 words for meaning, well, straight ahead! As for the translation of a single long word into a short word, Spanish "murciélago" (10 letters, 4 syllables) translates into English "bat" (3 letters, 1 syllable). The word murciélago gets bonus points for cramming the entire Spanish set of 5 vowels in a single word (and as such is used frequently as a trivia question).
      • However, this doesn't mean that it is the only Spanish panvowel word, as the Spanish writer Lucia Etxebarria once claimed on TV. A newspaper published a letter containing a text with over thirty panvowel words, among them "menstruación", "euforia" and "educación". (Of course, those three words are Renaissance Humanist coinages, essentially re-spellings of technical Latin and Greek words; "murciélago" is a Spanish word, its Latin roots obscured by a millennium of sound-change—"blind mouse", "mur(em) caeculum", which gave "murciégalo", whose last two consonants then switched places.)
  • "Banzai!" is a Japanese battlecry, right? Well... it means "Ten thousand years!" (The idea that you are wishing ten thousand years of life to the emperor, or La Résistance, or whatever.)
  • Not exactly foreign, but use of technical jargon can often replace extremely complex phrases with single words. In anatomy, for example, "anticubital" translates as "of the inside surface of the crook of the elbow", while "interior portion of the chest cavity lying between the right and left lungs" is designated "mediastinum".
    • This is deliberate for medical jargon, to allow large amounts of very specific information to be conveyed rapidly between people. For example, an EMT needs to let an ER doctor know exactly what he knows about the patient and his condition, in great detail, in a matter of seconds, or the patient could die.
  • "Orka" is a Swedish verb that means something to the extent of "to have the energy/strength/stamina for something" or "to not be too tired/fatigued/weak for something". When the word is said with a frustrated tone it carries the meaning of "but who would bother with what you just said, not me, that's for sure!" (The meaning is pretty much the same as in the Finnish verb "jaksaa" above.)
    • There is also the Swedish word "Lagom" that, due to being equivalently translatable in very few languages, English not included amongst those, forcibly invokes this, and the fact that it is a very flexible word does not make things easier. A proper rough translation of "Lagom" into English would be something along the lines of "neither too [insert adjective] nor too [insert the adjective's antonym], but just simply adequate for this given situation".
      • Basically "the Goldilocks zone", only that that story isn't as well-known outside the English language, making it a reverse Translation: Yes for many viewers who aren't familiar with it.
      • The Tale of the Three Bears is well-known in Spanish; the little girl's name is translated as «Ricitos de oro» (a literal translation). Now, when talking astronomy, the «zona de ricitos de oro» phrase is rather confusing and thus usually changed to «zona habitable» ("habitable zone") or something close to that.
      • The story is also very well known in Swedish (the girl's name being Guldlock), although since the language already has 'lagom' "Goldlockszon" is limited to astronomy.
    • Two other words that are hard to translate are "Fika" and "mysig". Fika refers to having a coffee/tea and preferably something to go with it, but it's only used between two or more people. Mysig basically means Cozy or Comfy, but can also mean "in harmony with" for example when taking an autumn walk in the forest.
    • "Blunda" is a word used whenever someone has their eyes closed. The short sentence "jag blundar" becomes in English "I am keeping my eyes shut."
      • In fact, Finland's (yes, Finland's - the country is bilingual, after all) entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 was a Swedish-language song titled "När jag blundar". It was given the official English translation of "When I Close My Eyes".
    • The Danish versions of "Mysig" and "Orka" ("Hyggelig" og "Orker") is exactly the same.
      • No surprise; the Norwegian equivalents ("Koselig" and "Orker") rounds off this semantic coherency. Norwegian also uses "ork" as a noun, meaning roughly "work that is considered too heavy, too complicated, too boring or longwinded to be considered a pleasure to be doing right now."
      • Norwegian also uses the term "flink". Most bluntly it translates as "skilled", but it also conveys a sense of eagerness, diligence and general desire to become skilled and get recognition for it. Swedish also has "flink", but with less of the conveying and more of requiring speed as well as skill. (In Danish it just means "nice/friendly".)
  • Kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition, is named for a word that in the Ga language of Ghana means "the disease the baby gets when a new baby comes", referring to the lack of protein when a baby is weaned from breastmilk onto polished rice, corn, and other carbohydrates.
  • Also happens with translating translations - the phrase "I'm going to the place in which I need to go" was said in a 1.5 second burst of Japanese. It was then retranslated from the Purple Prose into "I'm going back to camp" which was the original meaning of the sentence.
  • In Dutch, the word "gezellig" (literally: "companion-like") means "a friendly and cozy atmosphere, provided by an event, a location, and/or the people who are there". A single person can be "gezellig", but so can a forest, a slice of cake, a cup of tea, a church, a date, a festival, a wedding or even a funeral. It's considered one of the most central concepts in the Dutch language and culture. The same is true for their German cognates "gesellig" and "gemütlich".
    • Good translations would be "convivial" or "Happy Place" perhaps (but less "happy" and more "comfortable" or "enjoyable")
      • Compare with the Scandinavian terms above.
  • Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, up top, is awesome. Translated, it means "fishing place at the boundary," which local wags have rendered as "We'll fish on our side, you fish on your side, and no one fishes in the middle". The locals are quite proud of it.
  • Can happen very often in Georgian. Due to use of prefixes and suffixes the verb reflects the relations between almost every part of the sentence, so only verb gives us a lot of information. For example, "amishena" means "somebody built something for me", while "aashena" means "somebody built something". And, besides that, there are words like "shemomedjama", meaning "I ate the whole thing without intending to do so".
    • Something similar happens in Slovak too, mainly with prefixes. Take the basic verb "piť" which means "to drink". Then you have words like "zapiť" meaning "to wash something down", "odpiť" meaning "to take a sip of something", "pripiť" meaning "to make a toast to something" and "prepiť" which refers specifically to money and means "to spend all of (the money) drinking alcohol"
  • In Hungarian, "megcsörget" means "to call a mobile phone only to have it ring once so that the other person would call back, allowing the caller not to spend money on minutes". "Prozvonit" means the same in Czech and Slovak, and in addition, teenagers and young adults use it often as a signal ("I'll give you a missed call when I'm ready to go."). In Romanian "dă bip" is the imperative version of that phrase; a not-quite-but-almost literal translation would be "beep me." In Finnish, the word for that type of call is "häläri", whose etymology probably is in a word that translates as "alerter".
    • In Australian slang, the phrase "prank me" is used to describe the same thing. It originates from people calling their friends while said friend is in a meeting or a class, causing the phone to ring and the friend to get in trouble with their superior.
  • As with technical jargon above, fan-jargon often does this as well. For example within the Doom fandom "tutti-frutti in vanilla" means "a rendering error that causes textures on walls higher then their texture, or with unidentified transparent areas, to be rendered distorted and with colors not from the texture itself, in any unmodified, official version of the Doom engine".
  • There's an improv game that involves two people having a conversation in a made-up foreign language and two "translators," one for each person, making up meanings for what they say. This trope tends to happen a lot. Also, sometimes someone will speak with a certain emotion and have it translated otherwise; for example, someone going on a long, angry-sounding rant, and having it translated as "I love you".
  • The ancient Egyptian ma'at, which is basically "the correct balance of things in life", incorporating what was essentially the entire system of religious belief.
  • In formally correct French, the common question words of 'who', 'what' and 'where' translate to 'qui est-ce que', 'qu'est-ce que' and 'où est-ce que'. Admittedly, though, in everyday language, 'qui', 'quoi' and 'où' are fully suffiecient.
  • In both Dutch and French, 'please' is rendered as 'if it pleases you', that is, 'als het u belieft' ('alstublieft' for short) and 's'il vous plaît', respectively.
  • In an inversion of sorts, English is somewhat less concise than many other languages (in Europe at least) when it comes to reflexive forms (someone doing something to oneself). English uses no less than two (sometimes three, if you count prepositions) syllables where most European languages would just use one or even, depending on the context, a single letter. As a result, reflexive forms are pretty rare in English, while in some European languages they're all over the place.
  • Many Polish words, especially curse words:
    • "kurwa", the most famous Polish word around the world, originally means "a prostitute" or "a promiscuous woman" (both meanings covered by whore in English). But it's also used in a situation of anger, excitement, pain, shock, joy, disappointment and virtually everything else, just like the English word "fuck". However it is also used in a completely untranslatable manner, for example in the somewhat popular Internet metalhead expression "Slayer Kurwa!". It has a very positive meaning, showing that the person feels positively about Slayer and is especially excited to hear their music.
      • ..."Slayer, dammit!"?
      • The French word putain is very similar.
    • "pierdolić" as a standalone word means "to have sex, screw, fuck", "to say bullshit" or "to not care, not give a fuck". However, with a great amount of prefixes, each of which has more than one meaning, this word can replace virtually any verb. Some of them: "przypierdolić" - to hit someone; "podpierdolić" - to steal something or to rat someone (eg. to the police); "wypierdolić" - to screw somebody, to make somebody leave a place, to hit somebody, to drink (esp. alcohol) fast; "spierdolić" - to screw something up, to get out of somewhere, to run away from somebody; wpierdolić - to piss somebody off, to beat someone up heavily, to eat something fast. Most of them can mean something completely different when combined with the reflexive pronoun "się" (myself, yourself etc.)
  • "Ilunga" is a word in one of the Bantu languages spoken in Africa that means "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time".
  • Inverted with the English language: Some words like Jaywalking doesn't have equivalents into another languages. The biggest example is Spanish: Since Jaywalking is somewhat tolerated in many Spanish-speaking countries, there's no equivalent to this word and, when the word gets translated to Spanish, the translation is more or less Crossing the street carelesslynote  This is the reason there is no equivalent to the Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking in that language and sometimes it needs to be replaced with another cultural equivalent.
    • Ditto in Japanese: The equivalent is 道路横断歩行 (Dōro ōdan hokō, translated roughly as Highway Crossing Walk) despite jaywalking not being tolerated there.
  • TV Tropes.
  • Slang in general can be this way. Imagine explaining to someone what "Duh" means.


  • TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary.
    • The biggest offender seems to be Zeerust. Which upon translation into plain English, approximately means "the Narm-inducing phenomenon in which a work created in the past had its own sense of futurism which, to modern audience, ironically makes the work seems dated." Oh wait, I need to explain Narm first!

They Just Didn't CareApathy IndexTrue Love Is Boring
Translation With An AgendaTranslation TropesTrolling Translator
Translation Train WreckSelf-Demonstrating ArticleThe Treachery of Images
Torpedo TitsImageSource/Video GamesYet Another Stupid Death
Translation With An AgendaLanguage TropesTranslator Microbes

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