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When Rule of Funny is used with foreign languages and Translation Tropes, it often results in one or more of the following:

Tactful Translation: Perhaps Alice wants to ask Bob out on a date, but there's a language barrier. She asks Carol to translate, and asks Bob out. He responds rudely, but Carol translates his response into something more polite, perhaps to spare Alice's feelings or because she doesn't use profanity herself. The exchange might go something like this:

Carol (Translating for Alice): Bob, would you like to go on a date with Alice?
Bob: *looks disgusted, yells for several minutes, and spits on Alice's shoe*
Carol (To Alice): He says he'd like to, but he must politely decline.

Translation: "Yes": Often overlapping with Tactful Translation, this is when an incredibly long word or phrase translates to a much shorter one, usually a single word. Also covers the inverse, when a single word translates into whole sentences or paragraphs. Sometimes used with Fun with Subtitles.

David: Mashakatara vazookary bashabasha nook, vazoopti kanazook tri, flabbalabba dingdong dooda, sizzabizzaborp.
Subtitles: Yes

Pragmatic Translation: There are certain phrases that are common in the English language, but derived from other languages. Often, their literal translation is only loosely related to their common usage. Sometimes, it's easier to just tell someone what a phrase means in context, rather than translate it. It's also commonly used condescendingly by Insufferable Geniuses.

Eric: I'd like a refund. This toy you sold my son broke after five minutes.
Eric: What does that mean?
Fred: It means you're shit outta luck.

Fun with Subtitles:

Gag Dub: Inaccurately dubbing a show from one language to another for laughs.

Obviously False Translation: When someone says something, which may or may not even be a real language, and then offers his own translation, usually as a bad comeback.

George: *says something insulting in French*
Harry (Obviously not understanding): Oh yeah? Well vuvu zoo la moo to you too.
George: That was gibberish.
Harry: Gibberish for "Screw you"!

Completely Unnecessary Translator: A character is introduced speaking a foreign language and has someone translate for him. The native-language-speaking characters may mutter something insulting under their breaths or casually discuss something meant to be a secret, but find out that the foreign character does, in fact, understand what they're saying.


Conveniently Precise Translation: When a word or name in a foreign language translates into something incredibly specific to the situation. Happens often with Meaningful Names. May overlap with Translation: "Yes" if a name actually tells a whole story.

Tour Guide: This place is called Drom by the locals, which loosely translates to "Ancient forest protected by mystic spirits where legendary heroes will one day find a magical sword."

Who's on First? Translation: When a translation causes confusion because of the wording.

Tommy: What does "je ne sais quoi" mean?
Merton: "I don't know what."
Tommy: That's what I'm asking you!

Prank Translation: Someone asks a friend how to say something, perhaps to impress someone. Instead of giving him a real translation, the second character gives the first an insult or rude remark. Hilarity Ensues.

Bob: How do you say "You're beautiful" in Spanish?
Carol: "Tu eres un burro."
Bob: Thanks!

False Cognate Translation: When someone translates something, either seriously or sarcastically, as whatever it sounds like in his language regardless of the real meaning.

"El Niño" Is Spanish for "The Niño": Someone is asked to translate a certain foreign word, and they answer that it means a foreign word.

Bizarre Multiple-Choice Translation: A character attempts to translate a statement in a foreign language and comes up with two possible meanings for itnote . One of the possible translations is grammatically well-structured, makes logical sense, fits the context the characters are applying it towards, and is just very likely to be correct in general. The other possible translation is a Non Sequitur.


  • Prank Translation in the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch in which John Cleese remarks, "My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels!" after buying an intentionally misleading translation book.
  • Played with in the Friends episode when Phoebe dates an Eastern European diplomat.
    The Diplomat kisses Phoebe
    Phoebe: Oooh...
    Translator: Oooiih...
    Phoebe: "Can you please tell him I was impressed by what Bouthros Bouthros Ghali said to the National Assembly earlier today."
    Translator: [Eastern European sounding gibberish.]
    Phoebe: "You didn't mention Bouthros Bouthros Ghali."
    Translator: "Bouthros Bouthros Ghali."
  • In Phenomenon, there's an inverted Prank Translation. Nate has a crush on a Portuguese housekeeper but does not speak Portuguese, so he asks George, who does, to teach him some phrases related to asking her to clean his house. The ones George teaches him are polite, but very romantic phrases having nothing to do with housekeeping.
  • Scrubs: Dominican nurse Carla provides The Todd with a few prank translations when he asks for Spanish pickup lines, resulting in him telling women he has a "tiny penis" or "genital herpes, for you!"
    • In another episode Eliot is mad at Doctor Cox when he asks her how to tell a German patient he has fluid in his lungs. She tells him how to say "Your wife has nice cans", which he repeats while miming a pair of lungs.
  • On an episode of House, where House gives us this quote:
    "Idiopathic, from the Latin 'idiot', meaning we're idiots because this kid's lungs are turning into Swiss cheese and we don't know why."
  • A joke with various permutations, whose gist is a white boss thinks that "Tu madre" is Spanish for "Yes, sir."
  • Top Gear (UK):
    Clarkson [reading from the car's manual, trying to figure out why the fuel filler cap won't open]: Consola centrali con intoratori aperturi sportello rifornimento. We are useless Italians and we haven't built this properly.
  • In the New 52 issue #11 of Supergirl, after beating the villain (who was a guy being controlled by a nanotech suit), she figures that there's someone after her, and she wants to figure this out, so she needs to leave Tommy and Siobhan (this continuity's Silver Banshee, who is friends with Supergirl and, via magic, can speak Kryptonian) alone. We then get this exchange:
    Tommy [holding Kara's hands tenderly]: Tell her it's alright. Tell her I'll be waiting.
    Siobhan [in Kryptonian]: Tom said yer real stupid and gotta stay here forever.
    Supergirl [in Kryptonian]: No, he didn't.
    Siobhan [in Kryptonian]: Yeah, okay, he didn't.
  • Prank translations are remarkably common among native peoples, with an anthropologist or other first contact as the victim. Just give the anthropologist some obscene words (all languages have them) and tell him the words mean something else. Many a joke has an explorer point to a landmark, ask what it is, and write down the word used, unaware that it's completely unrelated ("A mountain", "That's my village", "I don't understand what you're saying", "Your finger, you fool", etc.).
  • A justified Prank Translation occurs in Beanjamish's version of the last round of the DeviantArt OC Tournament "Burning Avalon". His character Melody and his opponents' character, Huitzi, are captured by an army of angry spirits who want the rest of the soul coins they had. Unfortunately for the army, Huitzi (an Aztec warrior spirit from ancient times) doesn't have his coins on him or speak English. He does know a little Spanish, though, and Melody is bilingual (Spanish and English), so she can understand him. But since she wants to stop the army, she deliberately mistranslates what he says.


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