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Blind Idiot Translation / Folklore

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Anecdotes the People of (Folklore)

  • There's the wonderful urban legend that the advertising slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation!" was mistranslated in China as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead."
  • Allegedly, the expression "Out of sight, out of mind" was once translated from English to Russian, and then back into English. It became "invisible idiot", which makes sense really.
    • As of October 2009, trying this with the Babel Fish online translator yields the utterly incomprehensible result "From the eyes down, from the heart there."note 
      • And now, in 2013, it becomes "But it's not."
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  • There's an apocryphal story of the Chevy Nova failing to sell in Spanish-speaking countries because the name transliterates into "No Go" in Spanish. In truth, the English word "Nova," in Spanish, means...Nova. (The two-word-phrase "no va" would indeed mean "doesn't go"— but it's stressed totally differently. The myth is equivalent to suggesting a dining room set from Ikea failed in English speaking countries because it was named "Notable.")
  • The Soviet car brand "Zhiguli" whose original models were derived from licensed Fiat designs, when marketed overseas - Top Gear loved to hate the end result of that - was renamed "Lada". The apocryphal story goes, this was to avoid any connotations with "Gigolo" for possible Western customers.
  • A character which appears in English folklore is the "Chichevache". In French this means "skinny cow". It's so skinny, you see, because it devours faithful and obedient wives, and hence the poor thing is starving (ha ha). It has been suggested that the name came form a humorous or accidental mishearing of the French name/nickname "Chichifache" ("Pinch Face"), which is pronounced almost the same way.