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Lost in Translation

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"Traduttore, traditore." note 
Italian adage

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


Puns, figurative speech, connotations and cultural references: they all create problems. Long runner series can also create the problem of conflicting translations when those are made by different translators over time or at different countries that share the same language. Characters and made-up concepts may be translated under different names, or even kept in their original form by some and translated by others.

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

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


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

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

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

See Dub-Induced Plot Hole for when a translation not only causes something to not make sense, but also ruins the plot in the process.


Some Dub Name Changes may cause this, and some Blind Idiot Translations can, as well. May result in (or be caused by) a Widget Series.

Examples with their own pages:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Episode 3 of Lucky Star, Konata, after listening to an explanation about fraternal twins being from different eggs, makes a joke to the effect of "Speaking of eggs and sausages, I'm getting hungry!" The joke comes from the fact that the Japanese word for fraternal twins (souseiji) sounds almost identical to the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "sausage" (so-se-ji). Translators apparently couldn't find a way to Woolsey in a better joke. (Fortunately the joke is explained in the "Liner Notes" pamphlet included with the DVD.)
  • In Episode 17 of Maid-Sama!: "Your enemies aren't your only opponents!"
  • In Gundam Wing, one factor that made some fans decide Relena was an idiot was her seemingly random declaration that Heero was "the prince of the stars"; the translators didn't realize that this is the Japanese title for The Little Prince, which makes Relena's statement make a lot more sense (as Heero came to Earth from space on a "shooting star").
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo parodies this during "Bobobo theater", when the ridiculously long string of Japanese characters are read as simple words like "Youth", with Beauty complaining about it.
  • Futaba-kun Change!
    • A fire-fighting cyborg that was a shoutout to Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain used a monkey brain, which was afraid of fire. "Sol" in Japanese would be written "soru", while monkey is "saru".
    • A somewhat wacky bit of odd translation happened in a different arc of FKC. In a wrestling match, Futaba is forced to fight a genetically engineered giant flytrap. In the first chapter, the flytrap was called Dancer II. In the second, they reverted to a direct transliteration of its name, Odori II, rather than translating it as Dancer. Thus revealing the pun.
  • Rozen Maiden:
    • In a French fan sub, it became very obvious the sub was based off an English sub when Kanaria said she was going to play a requiem "pour la sorciere perdue" (for the witch that was lost), which is a mistranslation of what she said in the English sub: that which was lost.
    • Fansubs in non-English languages tend to do this with a rather high frequency: in a Brazilian Portuguese fansub of Excel Saga, at one point when Watanabe was trying to hit on Hyatt, he said to her that he was just a "corredor do moinho" (mill runner), when he was supposed to say he is a run-of-the-mill type of guy.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the character Chazz had a nickname and catchphrase inspired by some rather complex wordplay - his nickname was "Manjoume Sanda" in the Japanese version, Sanda meaning "thunder" and being a pun on "Manjoume-san da", meaning "It's Manjoume-san," ergo Manjoume is demanding people refer to him with a respectful honorific. His catchphrase incorporates this into a chant involving the Japanese words for the numbers ten, one hundred, one thousand, and ten thousand (the "man" in his name means 10,000). All of this was left out when 4Kids dubbed the show, and Chazz's catchphrase is a much less catchy and meaningful "Chazz it up."
  • The closed captioning for the English dub of Spirited Away labels Yubaba's baby's rat-form's "chu" (Japanese onomatopoeia for a mouse's squeak) noises as "[sneezes]".
  • Urusei Yatsura:
    • The original run's DVDs in the US included pamphlets full of explanations on the puns involved in the episodes on the disc they were included with, rather than translators attempting to localize the translations.
    • AnimEigo's dub of the series also used the title Those Obnoxious Aliens to translate the pun of the Japanese title. "Those Obnoxious Visitors" would've made a better localized title, considering the double meaning of the word "Visitor".
  • In Green vs. Red, a Mythology Gag involves one Lupin-impersonator spray-painting "Rupan" on a wall, and another asking, "Isn't that wrong?" This is a reference to the Market-Based Title "Rupan" that AnimEigo used on its English-language Lupin III releases. This is an example of an inverted Lost in Translation, given that relatively few Japanese viewers would catch the reference.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, upon first being referred to by the name, Kero-chan complains that it sounds like a frog's name. Makes perfect sense in Japanese, where "Kero" is the onomatopoeia for a frog noise, and a common cutesy way to refer to an animal is to append "-chan" to the sound it makes. In English, it's a Shout-Out to Sanrio character Keroppi at best, or a complete non sequitur at worst.
  • One reason the Akazukin Chacha anime and manga never made it to the US is that they're absolutely stuffed with Visual Puns that are completely untranslatable and need to be explained in English.
  • One slightly glaring example from the Love Hina manga: The Christmas themed banners in one panel say "Satan" instead of "Santa".
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In one episode of Sailor Moon, there is a shot of several boxes; one of them reads "天地無用" (tenchi muyo). Some fansubs interpret this as a shoutout to Tenchi Muyo!; the ADV Films "uncut subs" translate it as "no need for heaven and earth". "天地無用" is actually extremely common to see on boxes, and in that context means "This Side Up".
    • Sailor Moon in general can be very tricky to translate due to the amount of puns and cultural references used. Certain jokes (such as Minako's warped proverbs) also stop making sense when translated literally.
    • There's also the small matter of the main character's name. Usagi means 'rabbit', and in Japan, the Man in the Moon is a rabbit, so her name has a bit of moon-based wordplay. Unfortunately, that joke doesn't translate, and no Western parents would name their child "Bunny". The English dub team threw the whole thing out and renamed her Serena, which is a normal name that evokes the moon. Chibi-Usa became Rini, a cutesy diminutive form of Serena. In one of the manga translations Usagi is actually renamed "Bunny", but it's implied to be a nickname for "Serena".
    • All of the soldiers' names lose their meaning with the name changes. "Mizuno Ami" = "Asian Beauty of Water," "Hino Rei" = "Spirit of Fire," "Chiba Mamoru" = "Protecting Earth," etc.
  • A great deal of the humor in the American Funimation dub of Crayon Shin-chan comes from lampshading this trope.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Z, the name of Vegetto (ベジット, Bejitto), Goku and Vegeta's combined form, comes from a portmanteau of Vegeta's name (ベジータ, Bejiita) with Goku's Saiyan birth name of Kakarrotto (カカロット). However, the name "Kakarrotto" is romanized as "Kakarot" in the Funimation dub of the anime, while "Vegetto" for some reason became "Vegito", rendering his name meaningless. The Viz translation of the manga avoided this problem by renaming "Vegetto" into "Vegerot".
    • In the original Funimation dub, Frieza was portrayed as a short tempered Smug Super who had Ho Yay undertones, a brutish way of speaking and a feminine voice. In the original Japanese version, however, Frieza was portrayed as a sophisticated well-mannered, but Faux Affably Evil tyrant, who only showed anger when stopped going his way. It was not until Dragon Ball Kai that American fans were introduced to the sophiscated, well-mannered tyrant he was originally intended to be.
    • In a more mild example, there's a point in the original Dragon Ball where Chi-Chi is trying to talk to Goku about their engagement (kon'yaku). Goku misunderstands, assuming she wants to talk about food (konnyaku). This joke doesn't really translate into English, so the English version had Chi-Chi wanting to talk about their impending marriage, and Goku assuming that "marriage" was some kind of exotic food. Luckily for the translators, this fits the character to a T.
    • The way Bulma addresses Goku in Japanese. She mostly calls him Son (Son-kun), although that's his family name, she calls him that way to show how close and familiar she is with him while the rest of the cast appropriately calls him Goku. Bulma referring to Goku as Son in English would make many children scratch their heads in confusion, so it was completely dropped in the English localization, and curiously in some other countries as well. The English manga did keep this in some instances, though.
    • Another one from early Dragon Ball, from the first Tournament arc: the announcer misreads Goku's name when calling for him. In the original, this was due to Alternate Character Reading (and the incident from the manga is the current page image for that trope). For the English dub of the anime, however, this was changed to the announcer having a hard time reading Goku's poor handwriting, which also fits the character.
    • There's also that all of Dr. Gero's creations were called "androids", even though 17 and 18 were cyborgs and Cell was organic. This is because the Japanese word used, Jinzōningen, has a more broad definition as any sort of Artificial Human.
    • There's one bit where Krillin attempts a Kamehameha. Once he pronounces "Kame-" there's a quick shot of Turtle perking up (kame meaning "turtle").
    • In general, a lot of characters in the series have (usually food-based) puns in their names that aren't translated.
      • All of Bulma's family have underwear-related names. The dub keeps Trunks and Dr. Brief. Bulma is translated from Buruma ("Bloomers") and Bulla from Bura ("Bra"). To be fair, Bulma is wearing a shirt that says BULMA in the first episode.
      • The Ginyu Force has dairy-related names.
      Jeice = Jīsu ("Cheese") - translated in the manga as "Jheese"
      Burter = Bāta (Scrambled version of "Butter") - translated in the manga as "Butta"
      Recoome = Rikūmu (From Kurīmu - "Cream") - translated in the manga as "Reacoome"
      Guldo = Gurudo (From Yōguruto - "Yogurt") - translated in the manga as "Gurd"
      Ginyu = Ginyū (From Gyunyu - "Milk")
      • The Saiyans' names come from vegetables, with Vegeta and his kid brother Tarble forming the word together. Kakarrotto comes from "carrot" (hence the aforementioned writing change to "Kakarot"), Raditz from "radish", their father Bardock is named for a type of edible herb named "burdock", and their mother Gine is a reversion of negi ("onion").
      • The Nameks have snail-related names. "Nail" and "Cargo" translated well, but there's also Dende (from Denden-mushi - "Snail") and Moori (from katatsumuri - also "Snail").
      • Chi-Chi = Udder/milk
      • Krillin = Kuririn = kuri ("chestnut") + shōrin ("Shaolin"). The chestnut reference is retained with his daughter (Marron).
      • Launch = Ranchi ("Lunch")
    • A major naming theme lost in the English translation, at least, is that many of the characters' names aren't really names, but titles. Shenron (a Japanese transliteration of Shen Long), Muten Roushi, Kame Sen'nin, Urunai Baba, and quite a few others are meant to be titles, but the dub treats them like proper names.
    • The Tuffles—the humanoid aliens who lived on the planet Vegeta before the Saiyans conquered it—got their English name from a rough anglicization of their original Japanese name "Tsufuru-jin". "Tsufuru" is a play on "furutsu", the Japanese pronunciation of the word "fruit"—hinting at their enmity with the Saiyans, who have vegetable-themed names.
  • I Will Definitely Protect You is an unusual example. The original phrase zettai ni mamoru is almost always translated as I Will Definitely Protect You. The awkwardness of the phrase sounds like someone couldn't be bothered to translate it appropriately for the context, since the depth of its meaning is very contextual. However, if the translation took into account the context, it would entirely lose the humor of its use, which is almost always based on a misunderstanding of the context in which it's used. Then to get even more meta, it's probably also entirely unintentional that the original context is missed and probably really is just lazy translation.
  • An episode of Samurai Champloo has the protagonists caught in the middle of a conflict between two yakuza families, and Jin and Mugen each ends up as a bodyguard of separate family. What's lost in translation is that the word used for bodyguard is yojimbo, and that film is what the episode is giving a Shout-Out too.
  • Some of the cases in Case Closed/Detective Conan are lost in translation. Some cases can only be solved by realizing something about a common Japanese game, and the Japanese language is often used as codes. Many of the codes have the Japanese pronunciation written, followed up by "which means", but some of the references to games that help solve a case are nearly impossible.
    • One case is proven by a lighter being placed in a specific position on a mat that matches a piece in Shōgi, a Japanese game.
    • Another case is solved by the suspect saying he was at a Pachinko parlor late at night, which is disproven when Conan brings up that there's a law stating that Pachinko parlors can't stay open that late. How is someone from another country automatically supposed to know that?
    • Another, several-parter case involving a serial murderer had the fact that all the victims played Mahjong together a lot be important. Translating this case resulted in lines such as "Going to the doctor" and similar, which make no sense to anyone - in the Japanese version, it would make sense since the Japanese original sentences were apparently misheard things you say while playing Mahjong. Exactly how anyone who doesn't have the original text in front of him and knows a lot about Mahjong is just beyond them.
    • Aoyama Gosho actually knew this trope would happen a lot when he heard that Detective Conan would be translated into different languages. He apparently told them "Good Luck", knowing how many clues he made that were connected to Japanese sayings, mythology or culture that people without Japanese knowledge would find incredibly difficult to figure out.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho:
    • You can't blame them for not trying to localize this joke, but at one point, Kuwabara says "A mulberry is a tree, and Kuwabara is a man!" The pun that would be virtually untranslatable is that the word "kuwabara" means "mulberry tree." In the English translation, it just comes across as a bizarre non sequitur on Kuwabara's part. The line in the original Japanese was "Just as a cherry blossom is a flower among flowers, Kuwabara is a man among men." They changed it in the dub specifically for the Bilingual Stealth Pun.
    • One other example of a common way to dodge around this trope/localize it comes when Itsuki recalls how he got Sensui to spare his life when the latter was a Spirit Detective. Sensui asks Itsuki if he had any last regrets, he regretted that he couldn't see Jun Togawa on a show the next day. Obviously, the chances of anyone outside of Japan knowing who this person is would be rather slim, so he merely said he had a TV show he wanted to watch. The Shonen Jump translation left mention of Jun Togawa in, with a side note explaining who that person was. The Japanese version of the anime left out Jun Togawa as well.
    • Translating Yusuke's signature attack to Spirit Gun is accurate, but the dual-language pun is gone. In Japanese it's called "Rei Gun." Rei (霊) means spirit, but it's pronounced like "ray," hence the pun.
  • The stock phrase This Is Unforgivable! suffers from this. The Japanese word yurusanai doesn't just mean "to not forgive"; it also means "to not allow". In quite a few cases, "I won't stand for this" works better than "This is unforgivable" (similarly, "I won't stand for anyone doing X" almost always sounds better than "I won't forgive anyone who does X"). Many, many subbers don't realize this, leading to lots of awkward translations.
  • One Piece:
    • Edward Newgate's nickname, Shirohige, is usually translated as "Whitebeard", which gets across the reference to the real pirate often called Blackbeard, but seems like a non sequitir in that "Whitebeard" does not have a beard, but a mustache. As it turns out the word "hige" just means any sort of facial hair.
    • The puns that Oda loves so much.
    • A "sakazuki" is a type of ceremonial sake cup. This wouldn't mean much on its own, aside from the fact that "Sakazuki" is the real name of Marine Admiral (later Fleet-Admiral) Akainu, but as revealed in the Dressrosa arc it's instrumental in how an amnesiac, Luffy and Ace's thought-dead brother Sabo, regains his memory. It happens when he sees a newspaper article about the death of Ace, who was killed by Sakazuki. He and the others had sworn vows of brotherhood over sake as children, so the news linked the two for him in a way that doesn't translate into English well.
    • The series uses a joke when eight year old Nico Robin first meets Jaguar D. Saul. The Viz translation just had Robin repeat "Wa-water?" in confusion.
  • There was a scene in the second "Urusei Yatsura" movie in which Ataru is getting a wish granted. In English his words are translated as "Wa-water. No! Water. It's just water." As the room fills with water, which makes no sense. In Japanese, however "Mimizu" is earthworms and "Mizu" is water, which helps explain his sudden panic.
  • Castle in the Sky had "Laputa" removed from it not because it was meaningless in other languages, but because "Laputa" looks like "La Puta", which, to people familiar with the Spanish language, means "The Whore." Considering it's a pretty family friendly movie... you can tell leaving it intact probably wouldn't have been a good idea, so the localization team thankfully changed it. This goes both ways, as the name is originally from Gulliver's Travels, with it supposedly being because the island had no visible means of support. A rather dirty joke in territories where Spanish is well-known, but just sounds like a harmless fantasy name in Japan.
  • The Sengoku Basara franchise suffers from this to an extent, mostly due to the characters' different speech patterns carrying implications that are difficult to reproduce in English. But the anime has one specific instance: in the first episode Date "One-Eyed Dragon" Masamune says "There's more to the One-Eyed Dragon than just show." In Japanese this carries an untranslatable pun on Masamune's surname, "Date", and the word "date" which means "showy" (and which was historically coined for Masamune). You see?
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The English translation of "Fullmetal Alchemist" created a very-delayed-reaction translation problem by not literally translating Hagane no Renkinjutsushi as "Alchemist of Steel" when the epigram at the very start of the manga ("A lesson without pain is meaningless, for you cannot gain something without sacrificing something else in return") was finally completed at the end of the series nine years later ("but once you have overcome it and made it your will gain an irreplaceable fullmetal heart"), as "heart of steel" would make more sense. The English dub of Brotherhood rectified this by saying "...a heart made fullmetal" instead.
    • The character "Truth" is, in fact, a representation of a person's soul connected to all the world's knowledge. Brotherhood represented this by having it speak in the voice of any character talking to it. The English dub seemingly missed this and gave it a single voice actor, blurring its identity a bit.
    • Alphonse, who is for most of the series Animated Armor, is usually called "Al", which in Japanese is pronounced the same as "aru", which means "is/exists" — but only for inanimate things. "Iru" is used for living things.
  • In 20th Century Boys, the euphemism that the Friendship cult uses for killing people is the Japanese verb that means to break up a friendship. Since there's no single verb for that in English (at least until the advent of social media gave us the word "unfriend"), they simply use "banish" instead.
  • Several jokes have been lost in Yotsuba&!:
    • One is concerning Yotsuba explaining what her dad's job is. In the ADV translation, Yotsuba thinks he's a 'trainspotter' when she's suppose to say 'translator'. The joke is that the word 'honyakuka' means translator and that Yotsuba said 'konnyakuya', a store that sells a type of gelatin-like cake made from a yam-like plant or the proprietor thereof. In a later chapter, Fuuka sounds like she was making a non-sequitur about Yotsuba's dad's konnyaku business being a trade secret when the reality is it's a callback to Yotsuba's earlier misunderstanding.
    • Another is when, in English, Jumbo refers to Torako as a "she" while looking at her photos of the hot air balloon event. This is problematic because the running gag is that Jumbo has never met Torako before and assumes that she might be Asagi's boyfriend (while the feminine "-ko" in her name would normally be a dead giveaway, Torako is generally just called "Tora", meaning "tiger"—pretty macho). This can be explained by the fact that, while Japanese does have gendered pronouns, they can very easily be avoided entirely.
  • A Filler episode of Full Metal Panic! has Sosuke, Kaname, and their school friends go to some war games at the local military base, thanks to their classmate Shinji Kazama's father being a pencil-pusher there. The head of the Opposing Sports Team is a parody/Homage to Gundam's Char Aznable, something which the ADV team either missed or didn't bother translating. In particular, at one point he starts giving one of Char's famous quotes ("Nobody likes to admit to the mistakes caused by their youth and inexperience"), but both the sub and dub render his line as something entirely different.
  • Sucking up the baby Lobzillas in "Kirby 3D" makes Kirby turn into Kabuki Kirby. (rather than Ice Kirby, as his powers would suggest) This seems like a non-sequitur in the English, especially when Tiff claims that Kabuki Kirby is a magical ninja. It makes more sense in Japanese. Kabuki Kirby is actually a kabuki actor, and Lobzilla's Japanese name is Ebizou, which means "Shrimp Elephant" — an apt description of the creature — but also sounds like a notable Kabuki stage name.
  • Pokémon:
    • It can happen with visual puns as well. Jessie's Wobbuffet and its constantly interrupting everything, in particular, was inspired by a Japanese comedian. Non-Japanese Pokemon fans were completely lost on it. It would have been semi-intelligible (though losing its full meaning) if Wobbuffet kept a name that sounded like a situationally-appropriate conversational phrase, like in the Japanese, Sonans (said phrase was part of said comedian's well-known Catch Phrase, sō nansu = "that's about right").
    • In one episode, May tries to have her Torchic use Hinoko (Ember) but accidentally says Kinoko (Mushroom) instead due to the similar sounds. This joke wouldn't make any sense in English, so the dub has her say Amber instead of Ember. Despite this, the thought bubble of a mushroom still appears when Max corrects her.
    • In Japan, Misty's family has a Floral Theme Naming scheme. In the English dub this is lost as Misty doesn't have a plant related name. Her sisters do, making her the Odd Name Out.
    • In the Japanese version of "Challenge of the Samurai", Misty freaks out among seeing another bug and cries out "Mushi! Mushi! Mushi!", which is Japanese for "bug." But Ash plays dumb and dresses in a cow costume, asking "Ushi?" which is Japanese for "cow." Because the English words for "mushi" and "ushi" sound nothing alike, the dub changed this to Ash making his corny "Cow-terpie" joke when in the cow costume.
    • The dub got a little better with this over time. In the Japanese version of "Pokémon Paparazzi," when Todd Snap claims to our heroes he is a "genius cameraman," Ash mistakes the Japanese word "kameraman" as "Kamekkusu", which is Blastoise's Japanese name, to which Todd is suddenly wearing a rubber Blastoise mask as a Visual Pun. The English dub had to change this so that Ash mishears "master" (as in "Pokémon camera master") as "masker", hence the Blastoise mask.
  • Detroit Metal City at one point has Krauser starring in an indie film. At the climax, he ends up spitting into the mouth of the male co-star and ad-libs the line "You are already... Unfashionable", a bastardization of Kenshiro's well-known Catch Phrase. The film's director, following suit, makes the man's head explode in post-production. Sadly, the official translators completely failed at picking up the reference and mistranslated it as "there is nothing chic about you anymore".
  • Haruhi Suzumiya's Disappearance movie has a scene where Kyon is standing next to Yuki. He says her name because it's starting to snow, and "yuki" means "snow." As it is, the line would be meaningless in English; so the dub somewhat awkwardly converts it to "Yuki...means 'snow,' doesn't it?", and the sub has an equally awkward annotation to point out the double meaning.
  • The manga Mangirl. The title is supposed to be a portmanteau of "manga" and "girl" because it's about girls making a manga magazine. Unfortunately, an English-speaker tends to see the first word as "man" instead of "manga" and assume that the story is about something very different.
  • Episode 8 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica ends with Kyubey revealing that magical girls become witches. The exact line in the English dub is, "On this planet, you call females who have yet to become adults 'girls'. It makes sense then, since you'll eventually become witches, you should be called 'magical girls'". This makes little sense in English. Girl is 少女 (shōjo) and magical girl is 魔法少女 (mahō shōjo). 魔 (ma) actually means "devil". This is also the first character of the word 魔女 (majo), meaning witch. At least in the dubs context, you still get the idea of "girls" being the underdeveloped version of a female adult. In other words a "girl" grows up to be a "woman", a "magical girl" grows up to be a witch. However, one early fansub group (that happened to be one of the most watched ones) insisted on translating the words "Mahou Shojou" as "Puella Magica", leading to Kyubey's whamline being along the lines of "On this planet, you call females who have yet to become adults 'girls'. It makes sense then, since you'll eventually become witches, you should be called 'Puella Magica'" Which makes zero sense at all.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, Accelerator's name is written down using the kanji for "One-Way Street" (一方通行). Accelerator makes a pun in one of his fights off of this, saying "The situation from here on is a one-way street!" The soundtrack also names his theme song as "One-Way Street". This is lost on English viewers, though fortunately it still comes off as a fairly badass line regardless.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei:
    • One episode/chapter has most of the girls visit Nozomu at his ancestral home, but Nami doesn't make it on time, because she's "normal." Nami's name's literal meaning is 'normal/ordinary', but more than that, 'normal' is the Japanese equivalent of a 'local' train. That is, a train that stops at every small individual station on the route, rather than skipping directly to larger hubs for commuters like the 'express' trains do.
    • Nearly every character's name is a pun of some sort, most of which aren't explained very well when translated.
  • Digimon Fusion made OmegaShoutmon into OmniShoutmon, making the greek symbol for "omega" appearing on the Xros Loader a bit pointless.
  • The English dub of Higurashi: When They Cry doesn't translate the nicknames (for example "Kei-chan" is just "Keiichi"), which loses some of the significance of how the characters refer to each other. The manga translation instead opted to keep the honorifics.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, some characters think that Yugo, a Synchro duelist, is an agent of the Fusion faction just because "Yugo" is Japanese for "Fusion". Yugo is very irritated about this. Some fans are already commenting on this and wondering how the English dub will do this joke.
  • In Ping Pong, Peco's consistent use of puns throughout the manga created a slew of problems for translators. It was so bad for French distributors, some sections were deemed untranslatable, and their own jokes had to stand in.
  • This is mainly why Gintama hasn't had much success in the western world; the humor is deeply rooted in Japanese pop culture and wordplay, and the show sometimes references anime that are either obscure to American fans or haven't even been released outside Japan.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a recurring problem with English translations in that they tend to drop the prevalent references to Western music throughout the series. And in the seventh part of the series has the occasional scene of Gyro telling Johnny a joke that he thought up. Thing is, some of these jokes are heavily reliant on Japanese culture or puns, so they're really difficult to translate into English.
  • In Bakuman。, when Mashiro and Takagi are trying to come up with a Catch Phrase for the main character of their manga, one of Takagi's suggestion is "This is not a wig !" ("Zura ja Nai!"), refering to the character's Anime Hair. In japanese, the phrase was a Shout-Out to Katsura's Catch Phrase "It's not Zura, it's Katsura!" ("Zura Ja Nai, Katsura Da!") in Gintama , who use it because people keep calling him by his nickname Zura instead of Katsura. Aside from the pun not being translatable, the Shout-Out would have probably been lost on many western readers anyway, since Gintama isn't as well known in the west as it is among Japanese Shonen Jump readers.
  • The title of Akame ga Kill! when read literally reads "Kill Akame" or "Akame Kills" and, due to its phrasing, is left untranslated. This causes issues when, in Chapter 64, Tatsumi tells Akame that, should Tyrant take over and he turns into a dragon, he wants Akame to kill him and delivers the last part with the exact same phrasing as the title. The untranslatable nature of the line however causes the significance to be lost, leaving it with a lot less meaning.
  • The protagonists of the Pokémon Adventures arc adapting Pokémon X and Y are named... "X" and "Y". Those are not nicknames, they're literally their names. Even in a manga where protagonists have are named after colors and gems, their names stand out. It makes sense in Japan where their names at least sound like names when pronounced. Their oddball names resulted in translations making them into nicknames. "Y" is a nickname for "Yvonne" in the English translation while "X" is short for "Xavier" in France.
  • Code Geass:
    • When Suzaku and Euphemia discuss the Special Administrative Zone of Japan, Euphemia asks if Suzaku will continue to help her. He starts saying "Yes, your Majesty" in English before getting interrupted, after which he says "Hai" in Japanese, signifying that he's helping as a Japanese person rather than as an honorary Britannian. The change and its meaning is lost in the dub, as he says both lines in English.
    • Japan becoming the "United States of Japan" is a plot point. The problem is Japan doesn't have states, but prefectures. In Japanese the U.S. is translated in a way where the term can make sense when referring to Japan (gasshūkoku, lit. "Nation of United People").
  • Naruto:
    • When Neji and Hinata battle during the Chunin Exams Hinata refers to Neji as "Neji-niisan", which causes Naruto to mistake them for siblings only for it to be clarified that they're cousins instead. The English dub couldn't avoid this plot thread so they had Hinata refer to Neji as "brother", which comes off as awkward as it doesn't have a dual meaning. It's also seemingly random as Hinata otherwise simply calls Neji by his name in the English dub.
    • In the Japanese version of the scene where Naruto is reunited with his mother, Naruto realizes who she is due to how similar their Verbal Tics are. Naruto says "dattebayo" at the end of his sentences, Kushina says "dattebane", and Naruto's oldest child Boruto ends up saying "dattebasa". In early English dub episodes they gave Naruto a catchphrase of "Believe it!" but scrapped it after the second arc, with only the rare Call-Back afterwards. When Naruto meets Kushina in the English dub they translated her tic as "Ya know?". Naruto however isn't known for saying that term and thus the scenes loses the aspect where he identifies her by how similar their speech patterns are.
    • The English dub translated Naruto's Affectionate Nickname for Tsunade, "Tsunade-baachan", literally by using "Grandma Tsunade". Though this is accurate, it comes off as rude- granted, in the original Japanese, Naruto's remarkably casual toward Tsunade as a Sannin (and later Hokage), since almost everyone else in the village calls her "Tsunade-sama" ("Lady Tsunade"). "Auntie/Aunt Tsunade" would have kept the tone of the Japanese term, even if it's not as accurate.
    • In the English dub, Kimimaro calls Kabuto "Kabuto-sensei," as though the latter were his teacher. While every other use of "sensei" in the series is from a student to a teacher, he's actually addressing Kabuto as a doctor, something that the localization of the manga got correct.
  • The title of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer suffers a huge one in the first portion, which refers to Samidare being "Lucifer" for her wish to destroy the world. This seems unbelievably flimsy unless you know that "Samidare" can be read as "Morning Star".
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: During Asuka's Mind Rape scene, different voice actresses are doing an impression of her during the repeated portion of it. Thus, her screaming "That's not the real me!". The English dub had all the voices as Asuka's, which loses some of the implications.
  • ViVid Strike!: The name of the Winter Cup can come across as a Non-Indicative Name for people in the United States since it takes place on December 15th. (The first day of winter on the Japanese calendar is November 8th.)
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Those who have read Cool-Kyou Shinsha's other works should know his works tend to become The 'Verse, and Kobayashi works at the company founded by Haru Jigokumeguri at the end of Ojojojo. However, Jigokumeguri doesn't look or sound like a surname, so Seven Seas Entertainment translates it into "Hell Tours Ltd.," omitting The 'Verse implications.
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, early fansub translators and even fansubber-turned-pro translator Neil Nadelman managed to miss that gooto in the description of the forged bills and the language on the rings refers not to "goat" as in "goat bills" or "goat letters" ("Capran" in the dub), but to Gothic as in the ancient Gothic language based on the Greek alphabet. (They were apparently confused by Miyazaki's use of goats as an Arc Symbol resulting in a bilingual Stealth Pun. Unsurprising, as puns don't generally translate well in the best of cases.) It wasn't until the new subtitle translation by Discotek that this error was noticed and corrected.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: When Kenshin is first introduced to Shishio Makoto early in the Kyoto Arc, he addresses him as simply "Shishio Makoto", and Shishio complains about him being rude: "Shishio Makoto-kun, at least." This is a Japanese cultural thing that Western readers may not get: it's considered impolite to leave off the honorific (of which Japanese has several) unless you're very closely acquainted with a person.
  • The official subtitles for Serial Experiments Lain calls Lain's best friend "Arisu". Her name is actually "Alice". The series ends up losing its Alice Allusion (and the change makes it confusing on why "Arisu"'s name is so odd in-series).
  • One Pop Team Epic strip sees Popuko threaten to fight a flight attendant after being asked if she wants beef or chicken. In Japanese "beef or chicken" is an idiom that means something along the lines of "are you gonna fight, or are you a coward?" (akin to the English "are you a man or a mouse?"), hence Popuko's aggressive response. Because the phrase doesn't have that meaning in English, it ends up looking like Popuko is either a really Picky Eater or simply angry at being asked to decide in the first place. That said, the joke still works because Pop Team Epic is a gag comic and Popuko's only consistent character trait is her Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Several in the English localization of My Hero Academia:
    • Regarding Endeavor's use of niisanra; both Viz and the scanlators made the mistake of assuming that he meant Shoto Todoroki had "older brothers", when in reality Endeavor was simply saying the latter had "older siblings."note  A clue-in to this a few chapters later is during a flashback wherein Todoroki watches children playing outside, assumed to be his siblings, and one of them is wearing a skirt. Several chapters later, that sibling turns out to be Fuyumi, his sister.
    • Regarding All Might's mention of Venomous Chainsaw, despite the scanlators' assumption, that villain was not the one who caused the limitations on All Might's abilities. The manga had been picked up by an independent scanlation group before it was licensed, and when Midoriya asked All Might if Venomous Chainsaw was the one to injure him, they translated it as "Yeah, he wounded me but I wouldn't let that stop me." When Viz released an official translation, it came out as "That lowlife? He could never do this to me." It later turns out that All For One was the one who had injured All Might.
  • In the dub for the anime and fan and official translations of the manga, both meanings of Deku were lost, since they both involved readings of Japanese characters, which they presumably couldn't explain for non-Japanese viewers in the timeframe given. So Bakugo calls Midoriya "Deku" because it sounds wimpy and Uraraka likes the name Deku because it sounds heroic and cute.
  • Bakugo's two prospective hero names, King Explosion Murder and Lord Explosion Murder, were actually examples of Steven Ulysses Perhero (being Bakusatsuou and Bakusatsuga, respectively, in the sub). Since the puns were untranslatable, the names were just literally translated.
  • When the localized manga shows the results of the Provisional Hero License exam, a close-up of the names of those who passed shows a name that starts with T(Tokoyami) coming immediately before a name that starts with N(Naito) on the listings. The notes in the margins of the page had to explain that in Japanese, the latter name would be close to the former in the alphabet, and then spells out the point of that panel- Todoroki's name isn't on the list.
  • Near the end of Bokurano, Ushiro unexpectedly starts using "boku" as his personal pronoun(instead of the rougher and less polite "ore") while speaking with Waku's parents, out of politeness. Machi teases him about it a little, but as he reminisces about how the pilots had a sense of unity despite not having been close friends, he says "Ours" in Japanese- "boku" for I, the plural suffix "ra," and "no" to signify a possessive article. In the English localization, he says to Mr. Waku that "My name is Jun Ushiro, sir," which conveys Ushiro's unusual politeness, but lacks the reference to the original Japanese title (although the localized version is called "Bokurano: Ours").
  • Assassination Classroom uses a lot of puns that are really hard to translate, so lengthy translator notes have to be included with every chapter.
  • Granny Girl Hinata-chan: Hinata is a six year-old with the personality and mannerisms of an 88 year-old woman as a result of retaining memories of her past life. Some of Hinata's less obvious mannerisms, specifically her speech patterns, don't carry over well to English. The first chapter features her being corrected about using "ore" instead of "watashi" by her mother, a habit Hinata had developed in her previous life. She also has a Verbal Tic of ending sentences with "dappe", something that can't be easily translated since English doesn't have that kind of convention.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • The infamous Heh Heh, You Said "X" chapter/episode focuses on the word "chinchin", which is a slang term for "penis" but is also the Japanese term for "beg" (as in, the dog-training trick). The official translation goes with "weiner", which loses the latter connotation entirely and makes it sound like Fujiwara really is talking about her dog's penis apropos of nothing.
    • The show's Market-Based Title change ended up causing some of this. The Japanese title is Kaguya-sama Wants to Be Confessed to: The Genius' War of Love and Brains, but as the series progresses and the titular geniuses start being more honest with each other, Meta jokes are made about how the subtitle (and possibly even the main title) no longer fit the story. The second season of the anime gets this, being titled Kaguya-sama Wants to Be Confessed to? with the subtitle completely struck through — a joke which doesn't get even the slightest explanation in the US release.
  • New Game!
    • Hajime once suggests that if she becomes Ko's boss, she'll stop using "-san" on her, calling her "Yagami" instead of "Yagami-san." In the dub, which doesn't include the honorifics (or even use the rough equivalent "Ms. Yagami") Hajime's Imagine Spot merely has her speaking to Ko in a more bossy and demanding voice.
    • When Umiko's discusses her new hires with Kou, she says that Naru was putting on "a cat act," (a reference to Naru's acting polite while Umiko's around but being hostile to Nene), while Nene was like an excitable puppy, prompting Kou to muse about Umiko comparing Naru and Nene to pets. The localizations retain the cat reference, but not the idiom.
  • In Kemono Michi, pro wrestler Masked Ogre (or "MAO" for short) ends up transported to a different world by a Demon faction, because they wanted the help of another "Maou" (Japanese for "Demon Lord").
  • In Sword Art Online, Sugou, the Arc Villain of the Fairy Dance arc calls Kayaba, the man behind Sword Art Online and the main antagonist of the Aincrad arc, "Kayaba-senpai,"note  a reference that he once worked under Kayaba, not unlike Kirito. In the dub, Sugou refers to him as "Mr. Kayaba," a respectful mode of address that doesn't say anything about the two men's relationship.
  • In If I Could Reach You (also known as My Unrequited Love), Kaoru's friends express surprise that she got married to Reiichi, who'd repeatedly rejected her. The word used for the action in question, "furareta," was translated as "dumped" in a fan translation, which is technically valid, but seems to imply that Kaoru and Reiichi were in an on again off again relationship, something that wouldn't explain why Kaoru's friends (and later, her mother-in-law), were surprised. The official translation says that Kaoru had been "brushed off"; in other words, that Reiichi had rejected her advances.
  • In Bloom Into You, the dub fails to convey some of the subtext from Sayaka's encounter with her ex. Sayaka calling Touko by her first name without honorifics loses some of its meaningnote , since most of the cast is on a First-Name Basis in the dub, and the "Sempai" honorific isn't translated. As Sayaka leaves arm-in-arm with Touko, she says "Goodbye" to her ex; the word used, "Sayonara," indicates that Sayaka believes she will never see her ex againnote .
  • Carim Gracia from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers suffers from an in-universe version. Her Prophetinschriften ability allows her to see into the future, but the prophecies take the form of poems written in Ancient Belkan, which results in them being very difficult to accurately translate and interpret.
  • Cells at Work and Friends!: Early in the series, one of the videos this Killer T rents is MHC & JK. To the Japanese, this is a Shout-Out to P to JK, another series serialized in Bessatsu Friend, but since this series is localized into English under the title My Boy In Blue, the shout-out is lost.
  • Due to myriad trademark issues and an attempt to preserve existing trademarks, a lot of characters in the Unicron Trilogy of Transformers got a Dub Name Change. This meant a lot of characters who are obviously meant to be Continuity Nods to characters from prior shows getting the homage somewhat garbled. For instance, the guy named "Wheeljack" in the Japanese version and clearly intended to be a design homage to the original Wheeljack got renamed as "Downshift."
  • Shirokuma Cafe has a Running Gag where someone will say something, and Shirokuma will mishear it as another similar word several times in a row. This is accompanies by images related to the misheard words, so coming up with new puns isn't an option. The subtitles on Crunchyroll don't even try to translate these, and just write the Japanese word with its translation in parentheses so people know the words are supposed to sound similar in Japanese.
  • The seventh episode of the Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu anime was titled "Yawarakai Namida," a Double-Meaning Title that can mean "Gentle Tears," or "Kai Yawara's Tears," (since Kai Yawara, who'd broken off her friendship with Bocchi until Bocchi befriended her entire class, cried after seeing Bocchi again). The localization goes with the former title, and the double meaning is lost on English audiences.

    Asian Animation 
  • A variant of this appears in the Simple Samosa episode "Doctor D". After Dhokla's reputation as the celebrity Dr. D is suddenly overshadowed by the mayor becoming the celebrity Dr. M, Dhokla's friends Samosa, Jalebi, and Vada show him that they haven't forgotten their friendship with him by singing a short song where they take each letter of the word "dost" (Hindi for "friends") and use them at the beginning of words that can describe Dhokla and their friendship with him. The word "dost" slowly pops up on-screen one letter after the other as they spell it in the song. The English dub changes the song so that they spell the English word "friends" instead... thing is, they forgot to change the word "dost" that pops up on the screen in the English dub, causing the spelling in the song to get inconsistent with what shows up on-screen since only the audio is changed. This decision starts to get confusing when you realize that the original Hindi dub uses Gratuitous English in this song that could have worked in the English version - the original Hindi lyrics say that D is for "Dhokla", O is for "omelet", S is for "special", and T is for "tasty". The Tamil and Telugu dubs don't change the word that Samosa and the others spell in the song and just go with the original Hindi version's "dost".

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

    Comic Books 
  • The Indonesian version of Asterix kept the original French names of the Gaulish villagers instead of translating it, rendering the Punny Names inherent in the series lost.
    • There's stuff that gets lost in many versions too, like how some characters are caricatures of French-specific celebrities, and various French regional stereotypes - for instance, Asterix in Corsica is well recognised as a thorny one to translate since the whole section plays on Corsican stereotypes, and outside of France, no-one knows anything about Corsica except for that Napoleon was born there. The English version is therefore forced to replace more cryptic regional references with jokes about Napoleon that were not in the original.
    • Then there's Asterix and the Banquet, where a lot of the jokes are regional stereotypes and wordplay based on how various French regional accents pronounce certain things...
    • The pun in the title of Asterix Le combat des chefs (literally - the fight of chiefs) is utterly lost in English, where it's called Asterix and the Big Fight. This story is the Boxing Episode, and 'combat des chefs' is the French phrase referring to an important, spectacular upcoming match between two boxers - the story itself has the conceit that there is a Gaulish custom under which two literal Chiefs must fight each other. The English version just explains that the custom is called "The Big Fight", but the joke that makes it make sense is lost, so it just comes across as a random anachronism for the sake of absurdity.
    • There's a weird gag in one story where Asterix and Obelix get their chariot serviced by a funny-looking little Gaulish warrior drawn in a different art style - the mascot of a French petrol station chain. English editions (though not the digitally-coloured reprint) had him redrawn as the Michelin Man, which preserves the basic gag, but not the context - it makes sense for a Gaulish warrior to have a job in Gaul, but a small, fat homunculus made of rubber tyres? To make it more annoying the English dialogue is altered to have Obelix make a catty comment about his weight ('his spare tire!'), which is retained in editions which shift the art back. Most other translations kept the original art, and changed the characters' dialogue into remarks about how odd the man looked, turning it into surreal humour.
    • The iconic Opening Narration in France is phrased in a theatrical, slightly quirky way that sounds a lot better in French than in English - something like "It is 50 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. All Gaul is occupied by the Romans. All? No...". The English version streamlines the phrasing into the blander "The year is 50 B.C. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely..." This causes problems far further down the line where callbacks to the odd "all. all?" phrasing gets used for humour - most notably, a messenger being told to go to Caesar and tell him "'All Gaul is occupied by the Romans.' He will say, 'all?'. You will reply, 'all'. He will know what you mean." There was really no way to adapt this exchange for the English phrasing, so it just comes off as Evil Gloating rather than a joke.
    • In another album, the Gauls are inexplicably shot at with arrows in the city of Tyre. In French, this is a pun on "Tyre" being pronounced the same as tire, meaning "shoot", as in shooting arrows. Since the pun doesn't appear in the English edition, the translators added a new pun on the experience being "tiresome", but it explains nothing about the joke behind them being shot at in the first place. The whole sequence therefore feels like a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, if not an unmentioned Brick Joke to an earlier album in which Asterix and Obelix went to Tyre and were later shot at with arrows.
    • In the French edition of Asterix in Britain, the Briton chieftain's name is Zebigbos, which is "the big boss" in a French accent. While this can be understood fairly well by most English speakers, the translators changed it to Mykingdomforanos, which is a pun on "my kingdom for a horse" in their local accent, but is confusing to anyone outside of certain regions of England.
  • The Flash's Chinese name is 閃電俠 (literally lightning-hero) - which misleads many into thinking he has lightning-based powers, despite the common usage of lightning as a metaphor for speed.
  • Green Lantern becomes 綠燈俠 (literally green light hero) - which indicates an association with literal traffic lights. A different translation makes it somewhat possible to confuse with RoboCop.
  • The foreign Disney Duck comics are almost never translated faithfully from the original (actually, pretty often, the "translator" is just given the synopsis of the story and the art with the dialogue already edited out of the speaking bubbles). Although the translators can sometimes come up with funny and inventive replacement dialogues, it renders the readers unable to appreciate the story as it was originally conceived.
    • Ultraheroes at one point has a footnote explaining that two characters had met for the first time in a story titled "The Confederation of Outside-da-Law". The problem here is that the story the footnote is referring to originated from Brazil, and it was translated into French and Italian, but never into English. Thanks to Ultraheroes, however, it got an English title despite never getting an official English translation.
  • Iznogoud:
    • As with most René Goscinny-scripted comics, the dialogue in Iznogoud relies heavily on puns and wordplay which don't translate well into other languages, forcing the translators to either come up with puns that do make sense in their language or change the dialogue so that the density of jokes is the same but they don't happen in the same place. For example, the title story in the album Des astres pour Iznogoud translates as "Stars for Iznogoud", but is a homophone of "Désastres pour Iznogoud", meaning "Disasters for Iznogoud". The title was rendered in English as "Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom".note 
    • One of the wax statues Iznogoud brings to life in "The Wax Museum" is real life Bluebeard Henri Landru; he is uninterested in bumping off the Caliph since he specialises in killing women, so he brings a waxwork of Lucrezia Borgia to life instead, and they go off together, each plotting the other's demise. In the English translation of the Animated Adaptation, the waxwork is identified instead as Jack the Ripper (with the number of his victims changed from 11 to 5 accordingly), since Landru is not as well-known in the English-speaking world, but the waxwork still looks like Landru, and since Jack the Ripper's identity - and appearance - are a mystery, we have no idea if it looks like him.
    • Finland being possibly one of three countries that changed Iznogoud's name (the other ones are Poland — where he was named as Wezyr Nic-po-nim, but this translation was used only in Polish dub of the comic's Animated Adaptation — and Italy, where he was named Gran Bailam, again only in the cartoon), plenty of jokes about his name (is no good) instantly become void, and the tone of the whole series is somewhat changed around his Finnish name — Ahmed Ahne (lit. "Ahmed Greedy").

    Fan Works 
  • The Touhou M-1 Grand Prix is a Bokeand Tsukkomi Routine with many puns that lose comedic effect when accompanied by a Wall of Text trying to explain them.
  • In-Universe example in the Trollhunters story Becoming the Mask: the title of Trollhunter, in the original trollish tongue, is said to translate more accurately as "the troll who is the hunter" rather than "the one who hunts trolls". (The Trollhunter often does hunt trolls, being something of a law enforcer among trollkind, but is also responsible for hunting down monsters that attack trolls.)
  • Another In-Universe example in the Naruto and Young Justice Shinobi Justice, where after Zatara grants Team 7 a translation spell to help them speak and understand English, it turns Naruto's Dattebayo! into Believe It!, which the Team finds unbearable.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In “The Autobiography,” Bolt tries to memorialize his life story into a computer file using a speech program. It translates his attempts as barking sounds.

  • Some Finnish subtitles for Star Wars translated a Stormtrooper's line "Maybe it's another drill" as "Ehkä se on pora". Technically, it's a pretty correct translation - except that "pora" is the Finnish word for the hole-making tool. This (Finnish) site showcases some other translation bloopers from the film.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Italian dubbing of the whole franchise is completely crazy; it changes many character names (Han Solo -> Ian Solo, Leia -> Leila, Darth Vader -> Lord Fener, R2D2 -> C1P8, C3PO -> D3BO) and even borders on Completely Different Title, with The Empire Strikes Back becoming L'Impero Colpisce Ancora (The Empire Strikes Again), but most of all it seems to be fond of just replacing random words with something completely unrelated; as an example, not only the Death Star became "Morte Nera" ("Black Death"), but during its firing sequence the "primary ignition" became "ignizione preliminare" ("preliminary ignition"), which doesn't make any sense even considering lip synch (which would actually have worked better with "primaria", the correct translation for "primary").
    • This trope is the reason for the infamous "Do Not Want" from a Chinese bootleg of Revenge of the Sith: there is no Chinese equivalent to the English Big "NO!", and the only form of "no" that can be used in that language is as an adverb.
  • Older or cheaply subtitled Bollywood movies often forgot subtitling the songs. As these often introduce, develop and resolve plot points or whole subplots, viewers not fluent in Hindi are left wondering just why there is suddenly a happily ever after.
  • Lost in Translation:
    • Appropriately enough, this trope is played with several times in the film. The director of a TV ad says a minute's worth of Japanese to Bob, which the translator renders in English as two sentences. The scene is especially hilarious if you find out what the director really says; the translation is technically correct, but a lot of emotional and cultural context is lost.
    • Also a "meta" example: The movie was released in Israel with the title "Lost in Tokyo". So the meaning of the title Lost In Translation was, well, lost in translation.
  • Intentionally used in the movie Whisper of the Heart with Shizuku's various attempts to translate the song Country Roads into Japanese, a task she finds especially difficult since she's a city girl without any notion of what life in her own countryside is like. (She translates "Mountain Mama" to "My mother the mountain" at one point) Eventually she decides to ditch the country homecoming theme entirely and write something new that speaks from her own heart.
  • In the movie The Great Raid, the "translated" Filipino lines makes sense in the context of the scene. Several, however, were clearly erroneous. One of the more poignant examples was a Filipino driver asking for payment being subtitled as him saying that there was only limited room for refugees in the vehicle.
  • In the Norwegian subtitles for Independence Day "Oh my god, there's nothing left" is translated as "Oh my god, there's nothing to the left"
  • Used in-universe in Charlie Wilson's War, when Gust tries to explain the animosity between Tajiks and Pashtuns by telling a derogatory Pashtu joke. Nobody laughs.
    Gust Avrokatos: "Well, they say when a Tajik wants to make love to a woman, his first choice is always a Pashtun man. [beat] It's funnier in the original Pashtu."
  • In the Italian version of Back to the Future, for some reason unknown to mankind the Flux Capacitor got mistranslated as "flusso canalizzatore", which roughly means "channeling flux" and has almost nothing to do with the original name; however, in the third movie, Doc's letter talks about the broken "condensatore di flusso", which is an exact translation of "flux capacitor"; the Italian audience was never able to understand what this "condensatore di flusso" was and why would it be of any importance.
    • The (European) Spanish version names it "condensador de fluzo" in every moment despite fluzo meaning absolutely nothing in Spanish. Many people that saw the movies as children feel a bit disappointed when they realize the mythical, quasi-magical "condensador de fluzo" was just a "condensador de flujo" or flux capacitor.
    • The flux capacitor seems to give a lot of translators grief. In the German version it was called "Fluxkompensator" (flux compensator), where the right translation would've been all of two letters different: "Fluxkondensator."
    • In the first film, Marty comments that he knows the plot line of an old Jackie Gleason film. When asked how, as it's a new show, he explains he saw it on a re-run. When dubbed in Italian - as Italy in the 80s had not taken up the practice of re-running old shows - he instead said that he had seen it on VHS.
  • Used for laughs in the Russian movie The Diamond Arm (Brilliantovaya ruka). The (supposedly) Turkish speech of Istanbul residents is dubbed until they start to get...emotional. Then the interpreter explains that "Cue untranslatable play on words based on traditional idiomatic expressions."
  • Whoever wrote the Russian dub of Death Becomes Her misheard Lisle's impression of Greta Garbo's famous quote "I vont to be alone-ya" as "I vont to be a lawyer."
  • In the Norwegian dub of The Lion King "meerkat" is translated to "marekatt", the Norwegian word for Guenon. So Timon was essentially called a monkey until the release of the third movie...
  • Italy has an odd habit of translating English titles into... English in some cases; the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Hush had its title translated into... Obsession.
    • Sometimes seen in France too. It's a mid-way between Gratuitous English (because everyone knows English is cool) and a title that people actually understand (via using English words that originated in... French).
    • In Germany, Horrible Bosses was called Kill the Boss— in English, not German.
  • The translated Norwegian title of the second Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, was inexplicably translated into Transformers: The Defeated Strike Back (with Defeated being plural, rather than the singular Fallen).
    • Ditto the Swedish version; Transformers: De Besegrades Hämnd (Transformers: Revenge Of The Defeated)
    • The Danish version decided that "The Fallen" was plural, thus sorta assuming that these "fallen" were a group, instead of the name of the film's Big Bad.
    • The Finnish title, Transformers: Kaatuneiden Kosto, is also implying that there are multiple "fallen".
    • And, what's surprising, in Polish version too - they got the word "Fallen" right, but plural instead of singular: ''Transformers: Zemsta Upad³ych" (should be "Zemsta Upad³ego").
    • The Russian version also assumed "the Fallen" applied to multiple fallen characters and named the movie Месть падших instead of the singular (and capitalized) "Падшего". The character Fallen was simply transliterated as "Фолен", losing all meaning.
    • The Mexican Spanish got the name Transformers: La venganza de los caídos; which as you may guess is plural, so yeah everyone thought it was about the Decepticons and not that other guy.
    • According to the Brazilian dubbing director, where the title is "Transformers: A Vingança dos Derrotados", meaning the same as the previous examples, it was a deliberate choice to translate the word "fallen" as if it was referencing the Decepticons rather than the Fallen himself.
  • Similarly to the above, the Finnish title of the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is Hyvät, pahat ja rumat (implying that the movie isn't so much about three persons, one of whom is considered good, the second bad and the last ugly, but several of each.) It's also sort of Hilarious in Hindsight since the movie names that refer to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, like The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Hyvä, paha ja outo) are translated right.
  • In the Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall (1990), there's the scene where the bad guys are trying to track Arnie's character with a radio-beacon he carries in his head. One guy has the tracking device and tells the others "I have a lock" (meaning, a lock on the beacon). In the German version, this becomes "Ich habe ein Schloss" - meaning either "I have a door-lock" or "I have a castle", since the word has two meanings in German, none of them meaning that sort of lock.
  • The Swedish subtitles for the Bond movie "A View to a Kill" contains a real gem. As the bad guys are flying in their blimp over San Francisco (with the obligatory view of the Golden Gate bridge) they comment: "What a view." "To a kill." In the Swedish subtitles it goes: "What a view." "Yeah, Tokyo."
  • Italian titles of foreign movies sometimes get either way too literal (the Italian title of Vertigo is La Donna Che Visse Due Volte, The Woman Who Lived Twice) or misleading; The Evil Dead (1981) is called La Casa (The House), the Prom Night movies (the original and the remake) are called Non Entrate In Quella Casa (Don't Go In That House, knockoff of the terrible Italian title for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Non Aprite Quella Porta, Don't Open That Door), despite there not being any dangerous house in the movie, and Che La Fine Abbia Inizio (Let The End Begin). And these are just a few examples! But the most annoying is the trend started with the italian title of Runaway Bride, Se Scappi Ti Sposo (If You Run Away I'll Marry You) which brought many variations of If You ___I/I'll ____ You slapped on as titles, including the egregious case of titling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Se Mi Lasci Ti Cancello (If You Leave Me I'll Erase You).
  • German titles try to drop a clever pun or phrase in the title, but often are hit-or-miss among German-speaking audiences:
    • Miss: Big Hero 6 was "Baymax: Riesiges Rohuwabohu", which means something like "Baymax: Giant Chaos-Bot" or "Baymax: Giant Robo-Mess". "Rohuwabohu" is a pun on "Tohuwabohu", a German term for "chaos" or "disorder"note , but little kids aren't likely to get that.
    • Hit: DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story became Voll der Nüsse which literally means "Full of the Nuts" but is more accurately translated as "In the Nuts".
    • Miss: Airplane! is Die unglaubliche Reise in einem verrückten Flugzeug or "The Unbelievable Trip in a Wacky Airplane". Good luck making references to the film title in Germany.
  • In Mexico, the movie Outlander, for some incomprehensible reason has been titled La Tierra Media y El Tesoro del Dragon Solitario (Middle Earth and the Treasure of the Lonely Dragon), there seems to have been no translation attempt going on at all for the title, which could have easily been translated as Extranjero.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in Malaysia, the part where Quirrell bursts in and announces "THERE'S A TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!" has "troll" translated in the Malay subtitles as "orang kerdil" - "tiny person".
  • The Return of the Living Dead falls victim to this, as the funniest line in the movie ("You mean the movie lied!?", spoken in shock by Frank after finding out that Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain doesn't kill the zombies) is translated in the Italian dub as "Continua a muoversi!"note  Frank's mouth moved enough in that one line for a literal translationnote  to fit almost perfectly.
  • Pan's Labyrinth runs into this in an early scene. When the Captain welcomes Ofelia and her pregnant mother to his villa, he greets them with "bienvenidos." This instantly tells the Spanish-speaking audience who he's really greeting, since normally when greeting a group of women one would say "bienvenidas." Unfortunately, since both words mean "welcome," the implications couldn't be communicated through the subtitles. The director was aware of this, and the Captain checks Carmen's pregnant belly before greeting them.
  • Frozen:
    • One of the lines in "Love is an Open Door" is "We finish each other's - sandwiches!" However, the wordplay of "sentences" vs. "sandwiches" isn't really translatable into other languages - for instance, in the French translation, the line ends up being something like "How a stranger finishes - all your sentences?" and completely ignores the "sandwiches" bit.
    • "Fixer Upper" is a hard song to translate as many languages don't have a similar phrase. Various dubs had to work around it.
  • The Marx Brothers movies were famous in Spain for having literal translations, making every other pun and joke a complete Non Sequitur. They were still funny, mind you, but it was a different kind of humor.
  • In The Ten Commandments, when Bithia adopts Moses, she says, "Because I drew you from the water, you shall be called 'Moses.'" This makes no sense in English. In Hebrew, she calls him Moshe (the Hebrew equivalent of Moses), because she mishituhu (which translates to, "I drew him out") from the water.
  • The Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes is called "El Secreto de sus ojos", seems like a perfectly accurate translation if it wasn't for the fact that "Sus ojos" could refer to the eyes of a single person as well as those of many, losing the double entendre that referred either to the eyes of the suspect or the eyes or Prosecutor Irene.
  • Airplane!: The iconic combo "Surely you can't be serious!/I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!" is nowhere in the European Spanish version, because the dubbers could not find a way to adapt the joke into Spanish. Nielsen's line was changed to a boring "I am serious. I will repeat it if you want." At least in the Latin American Spanish version, they change it into "God, you can't be serious!/I am serious, and I am not God!"
  • 7 Dwarves - Men Alone in the Woods: Foreign viewers might not understand why the castle is formed like a giant locknote .
  • The Japanese version of Mad Max: Fury Road uses standard Japanese in place of all the future-slang - for example, "you a blackthumb?" is translated as "you a mechanic?".
  • The Greek dub for Aladdin, while an example of Superlative Dubbing for the most part (thanks to a famous clown actor playing the Genie), ruined the "Doubting Thomas" pun by making it "Κύριε Μουστάφα Αμφιβάλογλου" (for an English equivalent, there's "Mr. Mustafa Doubtingman").
  • Actually a plot point in Men in Black. The Arquillian prince is dying and leaves a cryptic clue, "The galaxy is on Orion's belt". The prince didn't know the English word for "collar" and was trying to say that the Galaxy was the little trinket on his cat's collar.

  • A common problem in poetry, since so much of a poem's meaning can depend on rhyme, rhythm, and the connotation of words, none of which are anything close to constant across languages, even similar ones. Many translations of poems are valid, but it's a hard job for translators to balance the need for clarity with preserving the author's original intentions with the poem.
  • In one of Stanisław Lem's books, one robot has a battle cry "awruk!". Some translators put it literally, some not. In fact, this is a Polish word spelled backwards, thus can be represented in English as "oh!" In this particular case, a more faithful translation would be something along the lines of "kcuf!". In fact, Michael Kandel translated it as "tickuf!"
  • Remember good ol' Aesop? Remember the Sour Grapes? Well, at some point some unnamed Swedish translator of Aesop decided (since grapes don't grow there, at least not normally) to replace "grapes" with "rowan-berries" (the orange berries of a rowan tree) The problem? Rowan berries are really tart, thus ruining the entire point of the Aesop.
  • All the translations of the Fighting Fantasy books have this to an extent due to the need to work out which paragraph to turn to next based on information already received.
    • Many books require the player to solve a riddle, then convert the answer into a number using a code based on each letter's position in the alphabet. For example, egg is 5+7+7=19; in French, oeuf is 15+5+21+6=47. This wouldn't be so bad, but the translators generally didn't bother to re-order the references so that the codes pointed to the correct ones.
    • Others disguised information in acrostics. Translators usually just translated the poem directly, causing the initial letters of each sentence to become meaningless. Both these practises made many books unwinnable.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward inherits his father's fierce stallion, and renames the horse "Pansy". The German translation makes a "little flower" out of it, which works fine, but completely omits the connotations that "Pansy" has in the English original. There just is no flower name in German that also works as a synonym for "wuss".
  • One particularly heinous Dutch translation of Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead, which includes snatches from well-known pop songs in a passage featuring a radio, actually translates a line from Bohemian Rhapsody. Word for word.
  • Discworld:
    • The Swedish translations, while usually good, do fail a few times. An example is in Pyramids, where, in the original, the mummies originally translated the inscription "And Khuft said unto the First: ..." as "Handcuffed to the bed, the aunt thirsted". The Swedish version translates the misunderstood inscription word for word, without keeping the similarity in sound.
    • The French translations also have at least one misstep: Granny Weatherwax's line "You'd have to be a born fool to be a king" instead has "un parfait crétin" (a perfect cretin). To be fair, the joke ( that by the end of the book, the position will be filled by a hereditary jester) is pretty well buried, and the translator isn't the only person who didn't spot it.
    • A Running Gag in the books is the Librarian (an orangutan) going into a rage whenever someone calls him a "monkey" rather than an "ape", as orangutans are apes. Unfortunately, this doesn't work in Polish, a language which doesn't have separate words for "monkey" and "ape". The translators usually resort to translating them as "małpiszon" (an informal and somewhat dismissive form) and "małpa" (the regular form), but not only this loses the spirit of the original joke (the Librarian getting angry at someone's biological ignorance), but ends up sounding rather unnatural since "małpiszon" isn't a word a typical person would use spontaneously.
    • The German translations of the books also have their problems with the librarian's Berserk Button. While different words for "monkey" and "ape" exist ("Affe" and "Menschenaffe" respectively), one can usually get away with using "monkey" as an umbrella term outside of scientific contexts. Faced with this dilemma, the translator made the librarian react badly to the word "Tier" (literally "animal") instead, but the Running Gag is still lost as calling an orangutan an animal isn't wrong from a biological standpoint.
  • Translations from Swedish can be equally problematic. Some of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's Martin Beck detective stories feature a country policeman whose surname, when the readers first meet him, is translated as "Awright", complete with the inevitable puns. However, for some reason (possibly a different translator), when he reappears in one of the later books of the series, his name has become "Content" — but without any more puns.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Swedish translator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone left the name of the Erised Mirror, and its inscription, untranslated, apparently believing they were in some sort of fantasy language, while in fact they are simply sdrawkcab. When the mirror was mentioned again in the seventh book, it was renamed the Mörd-spegeln (the Maerd-mirror), which is almost worse, considering the fact that "mörd" brings one's thoughts to "mörda", which means "to murder". Quite different from the intended meaning.
    • Separated by a Common Language version: In the second book, Ron tries to repair his broken wand using "Spellotape", a pun on "Sellotape". Sellotape is a brand of cellophane tape common in Britain to the point of becoming a Brand Name Takeover. In America, this type of tape is called Scotch Tape (another Brand Name Takeover), so the joke is lost on American readers.
    • In the Italian translations of the Harry Potter books, Professor Dumbledore is known as Albus Silente. The translators took the first part of Dumbledore's name — 'dumb' in the sense of 'unable to speak' — and made a literal translation. This is misguided given that "dumbledore" is an archaic/obsolete English word meaning "bumblebee."
    • The German translation was particularly bad at translating some puns. When Ron is corrected on the fact that one of Jupiter's moons is "Covered in ice, not mice", this was translated as "Covered in ice, not maize", since this rhymes in German. But the translator then forgot that pun when later on, Harry is taking the test and "at least he remembered the moon wasn't covered in mice" (using the word "mice" instead of "maize"). Another example: Malfoy at the end of book 4 teases: (paraphrase) "Now that Voldemort is back, Muggle-friends like your family will be first to die. Well, second. Cedric was the f..." before he is interrupted. The last word, starting in F, was obviously meant to be "first", but the German translator assumed it to mean a swear word, translating it as something like "And, secondly, Cedric was the f**..." (even though there was no "firstly")
  • The German translation of The Lost World (1995), besides cutting a few sentences, manages to confuse left and right.
  • In Agatha Christie's novel "Remembered Death" (also called "Sparkling Cyanide") the victim's name is "Rosemary", and Christie plays around with how the herb rosemary symbolizes remembrance. However, in the Spanish translation we have a problem. The Spanish word for that herb is not used as a feminine name, and the herb in Hispanic culture does not symbolize remembrance. In "A Murder is Announced" a character remarks that she doesn't like dachshunds, not because they're German (the novel was set right after WWII), but that she just never cared for them; the problem is that the Spanish name for that breed is 'Can Inglés'—English Dog.
  • Many translations of the Qu'ran begin with a lengthy apology from the translator, for both theological (it's supposed to be a direct transcript of a book in heaven) and practical (it's heavily stylized and archaic poetry) reasons. Without fail, the translators will encourage the interested reader to attempt the book in the original.
    • Swedes have chosen to grapple with this dilemma by saying 'Fuck It!' We have 2 Korans now!:
      Koranen [The Qu'ran) = A pocket book that is a word for word translation from Arabic to Swedish of the Koran. This is the one that non-Muslim Swedes reads in order to learn about Islam.
      Koranen i Svensk Tolkning [The Qu'Ran in Swedish interpretation] The official Swedish translation of the Qu'ran, as the official statement is: The Complete Koranen in Swedish interpretation, shown with ample annotations and the Arabic original; That is to say that each page has the original Arabic in the left column and the Swedish translation in the right. It is printed as an oversized brick.
  • Don Quixote: A joke in the Spanish version is that even when everyone understands the term island, only truly sophisticated people understand the term ''insula''. So, Sancho doesn’t really understand what an insula really is, but he desperately wants to rule one, so he would be tricked later in a Massive Multiplayer Scam to rule a little town that is not an island. In some English translations (for example, the Gutenberg project this joke is Lost in Translation at Chapter II of the Second part:
    "May evil [[insulas]] islands choke thee, thou detestable Sancho," said the niece; "What are [[insulas]] islands? Is it something to eat, glutton and gormandiser that thou art?"
    "It is not something to eat," replied Sancho, "but something to govern and rule, and better than four cities or four judgeships at court."
  • Some information says that the Spanish translation of A Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami lacks an entire chapter. That perhaps explains a little more about the Cinnamon and Nutmeg characters -or perhaps not.
  • The "H" sound doesn't exist in Russian, so transliterations replace the letter with "G" or "Kh". For instance, Harry Potter is known there as Garry Potter. This leads to an interesting case with Robin Hood, who becomes Robin Good - leading Russians with some knowledge of English to completely misinterpret the meaning of his name. It still kinda fits, though.
  • The French translation of Robin Hood is similar. Due to confusion between Hood and Wood, he became Robin des Bois (Robin of the Woods) in French, which is still wildly adequate. It's sometimes explained by the fact that the Celtic name of Robin Hood actually meant Robin of the woods.
  • The Dutch translator for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy apparently found it impossible to translate the sentence "The yellow ships were hanging in the sky just like bricks don't", as it ended up being nowhere to be found.
  • The title of Albert Camus's novel "L'Etranger" was given the title "The Outsider" in its English translation (the same word can also mean "stranger" or "foreigner"). Unfortunately, SE Hinton later came along and wrote The Outsiders, which became hugely popular in high school English classes, to the point that it overshadowed the earlier book for many native English speakers.
  • Les Misérables:
    • Jean Valjean was imprisoned in the Bagne of Toulon, a term which has long created problems for translators, since it literally means "galleys", conveying the misleading impression that Valjean was in a Slave Galley (something which has carried over to some adaptations). In her 2013 translation of the novel, Christine Donougher opts to use the term "prison hulks" instead, which has the advantage of preventing this confusion and being historically accurate (the Bagne replaced an earlier system of galley slavery and for a significant period, prisoners continued to be "housed" in ships even though they did not serve as rowers).
    • "Les Miserables" literally means "the miserable," but can also be taken to mean "the guilty." The double meaning, and the complexity it implies, is often lost on English readers, who (correctly) assume that the title's a cognate and stop looking.
    • Hugo employs a lot of puns that only work in French. Most translations will note that Les Amis de l'ABC is a play on Les Amis de l'abaissénote , but skip over more minor ones.
  • Jane O'Connor's Sir Small and the Dragonfly is about a tiny knight who rides an ant on a quest to slay a dragonfly, which is drawn to resemble a dragon. In the French version, the word for dragonfly, libellule, indicates nothing about dragons, which completely eliminates the pun.
  • The Polish translation of The Guns of Tanith was titled Karabiny Tanith (literally: The Rifles of Tanith). Since the original English title is a reference to The Guns of Navarone, translated into Polish as Działa Nawarony, the proper choice of words would be Działa Tanith.
  • In The Exploits of Moominpappa, when Little My hears that the Muddler and the Fuzzy have just gotten married, she cheerfully announces that they've gone off and poisoned themselves — because in Swedish, the word for "married" note  is the same as the word for "poison." This pun was impossible to translate into most languages; in the English translation she just says something generic about "they're in real trouble now."
  • The Lord of the Rings: In-universe example. When reading the inscription on the doors to Moria, Gandalf translates the phrase pedo mellon a minno to "Speak, friend, and enter", and interprets it to mean "if you are a friend, say the password out loud and the door opens". He then spends hours trying every manner of password, until he realizes he's made a bad translation. The phrase is in fact "Say 'friend' and enter", and the password is the Elvish word for "friend", mellon.
  • Imperial Radch: The Radchaai Galactic Superpower has no societal concept of gender and uses female pronouns as a matter of Translation Convention, which sometimes confuses or offends male outsiders. Played for Laughs with the historic Culture Clash when the Radch conquered the planet Athoek: they mistranslated the pronoun usage as an implicit demand for the emasculation of all men and invented the Athoeki Penis Festival as an attempt to placate the Radchaai with a cornucopia of genital effigies.
  • In I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Azusa made Meaningful Rename by rewriting her name from kanji to katakana, with the connotation that she no longer sees herself as Japanese. This only works in languages that have multiple syllaberies with different connotations; which means in most languages, Azusa won't even appeared to have changed her name at all, let alone the connotations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: A lot of official translations fail to recognize the difference between a "wight" (a re-animated corpse) and a "White Walker" (the ice demons who create them). Admittedly, the same applies to many English-speaking viewers since it hasn't quite been explained yet.
  • The Spanish subtitles for the R1 DVD release of Wonderfalls suffered from this here and there because English-language TV is able to be a tad crasser than is really acceptable in Spanish. Unfortunately, this meant they could not quite capture the same rude, crude, outright crass flavor of the English idiom "my ass" (a somewhat obscene variant of the idiom "my foot" - or for those not fluent: "That's an obvious lie, so shut up" - that uses a ruder synonym for one's bottom), as used by a bitchy, self-absorbed tourist in the pilot episode. The closest they could find translates as "to the devil with you". Incredibly, undeniably rude, particularly in Spanish if you use it in conversation with a stranger? Yes, but downright classy in comparison, and thus lacking in a very subtle bit of characterization (it is, however, incredibly hard to find a better phrase that would have been acceptable language in Spanish anyway).
    • They also killed a joke in the second episode, by translating Jaye's dad's deliberately, ridiculously silly, nonsensical, innocuous choice of words "Those sons of biscuits!" (an oath he didn't need to mince, since his daughter is in her 20s) as... "those lazy loafers!". This probably happened because the phrase it was a pun on in the original English - "Those sons of bitches" - is a lot more offensive in Spanish than it actually is in English, but alas, the oddly childlike minced oath that was so funny and cute and strange and characterizing in the original is lost in the process.
  • Cuatro, a TV station from Spain has decided to translate Primeval as Invasión Jurásica (Jurassic Invasion). This would be a great title if not for the fact that there isn't a single Jurassic critter in the whole damn series.
    • Possibly carrying on the tradition of Cretaceous Jurassic Park.
  • In Latin America, Kid Sitcoms and cartoon dubs state that the language everybody is supposed to be talking is Spanish in instead of English. As a result children couldn't understand why in the Lizzie McGuire Movie characters were saying "Sorry I can understand you I speak Spanish" when an Italian character was saying something that sounds so alike in Italian and Spanish that a 5 years old could understand it.
  • Two Disney series during that time, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Power Rangers Dino Thunder, had literal ones in their episodes, Lost In Translation and Lost And Found in Translation, respectively. Both are Played for Laughs.
  • The French dub for the show 'Allo 'Allo! suffered heavily under this, especially since most puns involved French townspeople (who, since it was a British show, spoke English obviously) not being able to understand British pilots/police officers
  • A Running Gag in Doctor Who is people asking "Doctor Who?" whenever the main character introduces himself as the Doctor. In French, the series is still called "Doctor Who", but the question is translated literally as "Docteur Qui?", which not only loses the joke, but also sounds rather awkward in French (people would more likely ask "Doctor How?" or "Doctor of what?").
    • The Japanese subtitling for the episode The Doctor Dances translates Father Christmas literally as クリスマスのお父さん or "the father of Christmas".
  • The Supernatural episode title "Jus in Bello" translates (from Latin) as "justice in war". But from dialogue, it's clear that the intended meaning had more to do with "the rules/laws of war", which would be "leges belli".
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok", the Tamarians, a race that the Enterprise encounters, speak entirely in allegories referencing their people's historical events. For example: when Picard and the Tamarian captain Dathon are transported to a nearby planet, Dathon tosses a knife to Picard while brandishing one of his own, saying "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra". Picard initially thinks Dathon wants to fight him, when Dathon is actually proposing cooperation.
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, one of the lesser Armored Riders is named Gridon, which is an anagram of "donguri", the Japanese word for acorn (upon which his armor is based); it's supposed to be an Atrocious Alias and is treated as such In-Universe. Fansub group Æsir tried to preserve the meaning and avert this trope by renaming the character "Ornac", particularly because in the run-up to Gaim's debut some Western fans had already latched onto Gridon as an Awesome McCoolname. It didn't quite work, because there were still some fans who complained about the name change and wanted Æsir to stick with Gridon because it sounds cooler.
  • Root Into Europe: A lot of comedy occurs because Mr. and Mr. Root only speak English and thus are unable to understand what the foreigners they meet mean or say. For instance, in Brussels, they meet someone from Antwerp who doesn't understand what they are saying. Afterwards Mr. Root assumes he is "probably a Walloon". note 
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The French dub seriously mangled the infamous "Jaffa joke" in episode "Seth", by confusing a "Horus Guard" with a "Horse Guard".
    • In-Universe: finding an ancient inscription, Daniel admits his translation is a bit rusty, but he thinks it means "The place of our legacy," then admits it could also mean "the piece of our leg," but in context, the first makes more sense.
  • The dubbing of The Big Bang Theory for Latin America has drawn heavy criticism for many reasons, but among others; simply disregarding the source material and making up jokes, using to many Mexican local expression (generally voice actor in dubbing tend to avoid that and use standard Spanish) and changing the meaning of some jokes apparently thinking that the Latino viewer is not going to get it. For example, when the guys bought a replica of the machine use in The Time Machine, the Spanish dubbing change the jokes to make references to Back to the Future. Like if no one in Latin America knows what The Time Machine is.

  • The intended translation of Japanese singer Gotō Mariko's third solo album's title, こわれた箱にりなっくす (romaji: Kowa reta hako ni Rinakkusu), is Linux in a Broken Box. Sensible enough. One linguistic anomaly of the title is that the final five characters, which represent "Linux", are written in hiragana. Normally (though not exclusively), loanwords from other languages are written in Japanese using katakana characters, which are otherwise mostly used in Japanese writing for the sake of emphasis. (The katakana for "Linux", or more specifically "Rinakkusu", would be "リナックス"). A probable reason Gotō used hiragana is that there's an untranslatable double meaning in the title, explained by the title of the second track, "Re:なくす" (romaji: "Re:nakusu", pronounced identically to "Rinakkusu"; note the identical final three characters to the album title). The meaning of the song title is "Re-Lost".note 

    Myths & Religion 
  • Many idioms and phrases in The Bible and other ancient religious texts are lost to us, making this one of The Oldest Ones in the Book.
    • To give you a measure, the interpreters say outright that the day the Septuagint was made has been as bad for the Jews as the day they made the Golden calf.
    • Even those still known can pose a problem. Most clergy and studious laymen are familiar with three of the four Greek words for love: 'eros,' meaning a romantic attraction; 'philia', more of a friendly type of caring or loyalty; and 'agape,' which in ancient Greek was the kind of unconditional, absolute love that would cause you to sacrifice your life for a person. All three are translated 'love' in most versions of the English Bible. While it's not always detrimental, it really subtracts from the passage where Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him. The first two times, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him with 'agape' and Peter responds that Jesus knows he loves him with 'philia'. On the third time, Jesus asks if Peter loves him with 'philia', for which occasion John relates that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time 'Do you love me with philia.' Some of the Bible translations preserve this distinction by translating 'agape' with "truly love" and 'philia' with simple "love" (this distinction was made in 1984 NIV translation, which was removed in the 2011 update, when both instances were translated simply as "love"; there are commentaries that argue that there is no meaningful difference between 'agape' and 'philia' in this passage.).
    • Also, Jonah. When studying the original Hebrew, Jonah's prayer of repentance in the big fish is actually a list of quotes from Psalms. When each complete Psalm is taken in context, Jonah's repentance seems less than genuine, making his later behavior consistent.
    • One example can be seen near the very beginning, when Adam names his wife Eve "because she was the mother of all the living." In Hebrew, Eve's name is "Chavah" and the Hebrew word for "life" is "chayah," but this is lost in English and other languages.
    • In the passage where Jesus is talking about Peter and says he is the rock on which he will build his church; 'petra' in Greek means rock and it was also close to Peter's name in Greek. So 'Rock, on this rock I will build my church.' That Jesus, quite the joker.
      • Peter's actual name was Simon, Jesus called him the Rock (in Greek petros), hence "Simon called Peter".
      • It wasn't lost in translation in modern Greek or romance languages though, where the word for rock and the name Peter are still the same (or almost the same, since they belong to different grammatical genders).
    • A lot of translations have occasional footnotes that read "the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain".
    • To someone who doesn't read Hebrew, the types of work Orthodox Jews avoid on Shabbat seem kind of arbitrary. Why would cooking be considered work but walking to synagogue isn't? The reason for this is that the English word "work" isn't a perfect translation for what the Torah forbids on Shabbat. What's forbidden on Shabbat is melacha, which is an unusual word (and not the usual Hebrew word for "work") meaning something like "creative work". So it makes sense why cooking would be melacha (since you're changing the food) but walking wouldn't be (since it's not really creative or changing anything).
    • Similarly, "kill" isn't the best translation for the Hebrew word (tirzach) in "thou shalt not kill". "Murder" is a little better, but it still isn't a perfect translation. This is why God orders so much killing despite the Ten Commandments seeming to forbid it; the killing commanded by God isn't retzach (which is never used for things like war or state executions).
    • Mary, Mother of Jesus is called "Mother of God" in Catholicism and some more Catholic-leaning offshoots of Lutheranism and Anglicanism. Although the term is derived from "Theotokos" (which means something like "God-Begetter") it seems blasphemous or idolatrous to low-church Evangelical Protestants, as it implies Mary is older than God. The Eastern Churches use "Theotokos" and occasionally translate it as "God Bearer" to avoid confusing or discouraging Evangelical converts.
      • To be fair, Catholics actually mean the term literally. Since Mary is the biological mother of Jesus, and Catholics believe Jesus is God, this means Mary is someone God views as his mother. It does not mean that Mary is God's creator or superior. Added to that, Catholics believe that Jesus still honors Mary as his mother in Heaven.
    • The references to "unicorns." The correct animal is either the rhinoceros or the wild ox. This error is in the King James translation of the Bible, which some denominations believe is the only "true" Bible.
    • Another example occurs in the apocryphal story of Susanna. Here, Daniel cross-examines two elders who falsely accuse Susanna (a godly Jewish woman) of committing adultery. However, they give conflicting accounts— one says that her and her lover were found under a mastic tree, while the other says they were found under an oak tree. Most scholars see this alone as evidence that the story is of Greek, rather than Hebrew, origin, as "mastic" (schinon) sounds like the Greek word "to cut" (schisei) and "oak" (prinion) sounds like the Greek word "prisai" (to saw in half). Hebrew lacks this wordplay, and it is also difficult to approximate in English (one translation uses "yew" and "hew," and "clove" and "cleave" to mimic the effect). It is considered inspired Scripture only in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches (which use the Greek Septuagint), and has never been recognized by Judaism or Protestantism.
    • There are English rhyming versions of popular psalms, although they are used strictly for worship and not for reading. Many churches have conceded that they "force" stilted rhymes, and detract from the original meaning of the psalm.
    • In the Book of Numbers, there's a Fidelity Test for a woman who's accused of cheating on her husband, in cases where he can't prove it. He is to bring her to the Temple, make an offering of coarse flour, and remove some or all of her clothing while the priests mix together water with dirt from the floor of the Temple. note  If the woman has been faithful, then the water will have no ill effect on her. (And according to some Midrashic interpretations, she'll have a healthy baby boy in the coming year. But if she has been cheating, then according to the text, her "belly will swell and her thighs will waste away." The exact meaning of this phrase has been lost to history. It may mean that the "bitter water" would cause her to become permanently sterile, or have a miscarriage, or develop an obstetric fistula, prolapse of the reproductive organs, or some other medical condition or embarrassing disfigurement, or simply die an Undignified Death right there. (And it may or may not also affect her lover(s) in some way(s) as well.)
  • The proverb Luck favours the bold, which is in original Latin audaces Fortuna iuvat. The stem word is audax, which means "bold" in the sense of "insolent", "impudent", "uppity", "rude" and "outrageous", giving English language the word "audacious". The proverb is intended to mean "know when it is time to break the rules and not get caught", not "be brave and you will succeed". Its intended meaning would be a Family-Unfriendly Aesop today: You are more likely to win by cheating and behaving impudently (and not getting caught) than by being nice and following the rules.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the more amusing incidents in Magic: The Gathering translation involves the card Yawgmoth's Agenda (i.e. the evil plans of the villain Yawgmoth). Due to misunderstanding or mix-up, it's said the Japanese version of this card was translated into a phrase equivalent to "Yawgmoth's Day Planner."
  • This happens a lot in Yu-Gi-Oh!, not least because the localizers who work on the English version (and consequentially, the other Western versions) take an awful lot of liberties with translation. Sometimes, it's just a she being incorrectly referred to as a he. But in many cases, due to the name-based mechanic of the game, this has caused a lot of problems and resulted in name changes or awkward and clunky additional work-around text (for example, look at this abomination compared to the original version; the problem could be even worse in other languages). In all fairness, Japanese names have used both Japanese and English words, which makes distinctive translations borderline impossible (for example, both the words majutsushi (Japanese) and majishan (English) translate to "magician") if you don't want to be creative and coin fake words of your own. In other cases, faithful representations of complex punny Japanese names are impossible, so they have to be ignored.
    • In some rare instances, such as the archetypes "Noble Knight" and "Ritual Beast", due to grammatical incompatibility, the Romance languages of Yu-Gi-Oh! (French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish) don't just translate names directly from English. In some other rare instances, English is the only one that sucks, such as the case of "Goblin Calligrapher" whose German and Romance names are translated from Japanese instead.
    • The French name of "Dharc the Dark Charmer" incorrectly refers to him as female, while all other non-English/Japanese/Korean names correctly refer to him as male.
    • This hit the entire Frog archetype, whose Japanese names are basically nothing but absurd double puns that almost never translate. Usually, one reading of the name reflects the artwork, while the other reflects the effect. For instance, "Ki Gaeru", whose name reads as "oni frog", but sounds like "kigaeru", or "changing clothes." The card art is a horned frog (i.e. an oni frog) whose effect basically allows you to trade out a Frog on the field for one in your hand. The English translation went for "Swap Frog", which gets across the effect but not why the frog has devil horns and tattoos. Needless to say, it leads to a pretty random-looking archetype, since they basically have to give something fitting the effect, or something fitting the artwork. Why does Ronintoadin revive itself? Why does Dupe Frog have a graduation cap? One of the lucky exceptions is Flip Flop Frog, as its name was a pun on "flipping frog" and "to turn inside out", meaning its artwork and effect both reflected it flipping around like crazy.

  • Translating plays is perhaps more susceptible to this than translating novels or other works; getting the words, grammar and tone correct is one thing, but having all that in a translation that sounds natural when spoken by actors is a whole other challenge. Translators, as a result, have to sacrifice either accuracy to the original language in favour of a script better suited to performance, or performability in favour of a more accurate translation. For example, due to a text stuffed with ancient greek puns and cultural allusions, Aristophanes' theatrical work is an awful task to translate.
  • As dramatists, the Frenchmen Racine and Corneille are considered fully the equals of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedians. Unfortunately, their dramatic effects and rhetorical tactics are almost wholly reliant on the specific conventions and history of the French language and culture—translation into any other language simply fails to convey the vast majority of their genius, because you can't "translate" the kind of 17th-century assumptions and specifically French literary conventions that the tragedies derive their power from playing against.
    • It gets even trickier for French-speakers themselves when some effects cannot make sense with the way French is spoken nowadays. For example the phonemes ai and oi only separated during the 18th century, they were identical and both written oi before that time, e.g. the name François ("Francis") and the word français ("French") were exactly the same thing at that time. One of François Villon's poems shows it plainly : Je suis François dont il me poise / né de Paris emprès Pontoise ("I'm Francis / French of which I'm weary, born in Paris next to Pontoise". poise and Pontoise are also a rhyme, but they wouldn't be in modern French as poise would be pèse).
  • Shakespeare's plays themselves contain loads of archaic wordplay, which are lost on everyone who doesn't have in-depth knowledge of Elizabethan slang. See Get Thee to a Nunnery for more information.
  • In opera you have the additional challenge of making the target language text fit the music; this is probably why opera is usually done in the original language; in operetta/singspiel/opera comique/opera buffa, where you have spoken dialogue between the songs, one often has the odd experience of hearing the dialogue in the audience's language and the songs in the original.
  • The Dutch have basically given up because of this trope. Things are either left untranslated, or they specifically ignore the actual language and translate for accurate emotional content as close to the original language as possible.
  • In The King and I, the musical's book itself notes that no attempt will be made to reproduce the Thai language. Instead, the sounds of different musical instruments are used to indicate that someone is speaking in Thai.

    Video Games 
  • Bloodborne:
    • The game has fairly few and minor hiccups, but the effect of the distorted language is made exponentially worse due to the Story Breadcrumbs style narrative and deliberately obtuse backstory making every world count for a lot. Ironically the biggest lost reference by far is one that isn't concretely written or spoken. "Kegare" is a Shinto concept that describes spiritual uncleanliness that is derived from earthly filth and bodily waste, particularly bloodshed and childbirth, which adds an entire layer of implications to Blood Ministration and the Great One surrogate pregnancies that flies over the heads of non-Japanese audiences. Now among the lost lore due directly to bad translating:
    • The Flavor Text of the Old Hunter Bone obfuscates the gender of the Hunter it was harvested from in Japanese. The English calls them male, which hits a snag when The Old Hunters DLC was released and heavily implied the Bone came from Lady Maria.
    • During the flashback cutscene showing how Laurance left the Byrgenwerth scholars, Provost Willem brings up another former student who also left the school, who is implied to be the one who provided Cainhurst with their "corrupt" blood. The English translation leaves out the mention of the previous rogue student and the lore connections it was attached too, which actually caused considerable confusion among some lorefans as to whether Laurence was the founder/leader of the Healing Church, Cainhurst, or both.
    • The handwritten note you find in Iosefka's Clinic at the start of the game is explicitly stated to be in your handwriting in the Japanese version, showing that your PC anticipated becoming an Amnesiac Hero and that they entered Yharnham already knowing something deeper about the Hunt.
  • At one point in Blue Dragon, the party must fight a robot ally who's being controlled by some kind of sweeper. In Japanese, the word for "sweeping" and "brainwashing" is the same, making it a pun that doesn't really work in English.
  • The Italian translation of Hollow Knight couldn't really use the literal translation for Hollow (Vuoto), because it is specific to being physically hollow instead of being ambiguous like the original, so they had to settle for mentally hollow, Vacuo (Vacuous), while the original name meant both, though the objective might have been to hide the second meaning of mental hollowness, while the Italian translation was forced to choose the most important meaning. Vessel had the opposite problem, where a word equivalent to vessel doesn't exist, so the word used was Ricettacolo (Receptacle), which is what you'd use for a container for a liquid, which is why it's the same word used for your Soul (mana) container. The only thing that might have worked would be Host but that would imply something akin to demonic possession. So it makes the vessel sound like a basin-like object, making the connection with the Hollow Knight harder to make because of his only being described as mindless while the vessel is described as not even alive. Other than that there is no word for Wyrm (only dragons and wiverns), so they ended up making up a new word, Uroverme (Ouroworm), which might actually be a good Woolseyism because it does look like a big worm and the Ouroboros part gets across the draconic aspect.
  • The Kingdom Hearts series (and first game in particular) suffers from some of this, perversely not due to bad or uncreative translation—indeed, it's actually really good—but due to Woolseyism.
    • The translation team worked to preserve tone and meaning in a lot of dialogue, rather than literalism, and successfully turned "conversations with friends in Japanese" into "conversations with friends in English." Good! Except for the fact that the Japanese dialogue, unbeknownst to the localization team, contained Arc Words and very subtle bits and pieces from Chekhov's Armoury that wouldn't come to full fruition until later games in the series. As a result, some of the Foreshadowing was gone, and the Kingdom Hearts series' growing a massively intertwined and complex plot came much more unexpectedly to Anglophones. It's an excellent translation for a stand-alone game, but unfortunately—it wasn't a stand-alone game.
      • A lot of this revolves around the word "hearts". The word in Japanese translates to the effect of "What makes you, you." Which an English speaker might translate as "souls". However Heart is valid enough translation and with the various heart symbols it was kept. Which was well and good... until the Nobodies came. Who "Lacked Hearts". But were not the Heartless, who lacked bodies. And there is consistent questions in the English fanbase if Nobodies had cardiological hearts. A question that is unlikely to come up in Japanese.
    • Sora's Awakening in the beginning of the first game is guided by a mysterious voice. In Japanese, it was obvious that this voice belonged to Mickey Mousenobody else talks the way the voice talks. In English, there's a lot less room for identifying features in a speaking pattern, and the English-speaking side of the fanbase was left wondering when it'd get explained until Ultimania confirmed what Japanese fans had known all along.
    • The symbolism of Xion's name in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days was unfortunately lost in translation. In Japan, "shion" (the Japanese pronunciation of Xion) is also the name of a plant that is commonly associated with memories.
    • The Kingdom Hearts translation team is usually rather good at catching Arc Words, but in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance they seemed to have missed Young Xehanort saying "We'll go together.", translating it as "Come with me." instead.
    • The first game created a What Happened to the Mouse? situation due to an awkward translation. When Donald is leaving on his mission to find Sora and King Mickey, he says to Daisy "Can you take care of the-?" and she replies "Of course". Take care of the what, exactly? Whatever it is, it's never mentioned or brought up again. This is because in Japanese, he starts to say "We'll find the king", which in Japanese word order would be "The king, we will find". Donald starts "The king-" and Daisy cuts him off with "Of course (you will)". However, this would be impossible to translate into English while preserving the meaning, since the only way you could preserve the word order would be to have it as "The king will be found by us", which sounds nothing like the way Donald (or most English speakers, for that matter) usually talks, and having him start with "We'll find-" wouldn't make it obvious that he was talking about finding the king, so the line had to be changed.
  • The PS2 game Ape Escape 3 features an unlockable parody of Metal Gear Solid, named Mesal Gear Solid. In Japanese, this is a pun- Metal Gear is transliterated as Metaru Gia, so Mesal becomes Mesaru- Saru being the Japanese word for monkey (the series is called Saru Getchu! there). In English, it's just confusing gibberish. This was actually the result of a collaboration between Sony and Konami which also resulted in the "Snake vs. Monkey" minigame in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. For what it's worth, a parody of the actual Metal Gear appeared in its final stage, also called "Mesal Gear" (complete with a monkey wearing Big Boss' trademark eyepatch).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The character who calls himself "Error" in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is often thought to be named that way as a result of "Blind Idiot" Translation. Not only was that his actual name in the Japanese version, his friend's name "Bagu" is actually supposed to be "Bug" ("Bagu" being a transliteration of the word "Bug" from English to Japanese kana and back to romaji). Naturally "Error" and "Bug" are common terms for computer glitches, but the joke was lost on many western players.
    • The name of King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a pun on the Japanese words for "ship" (fune) and "sailboat" (hansen). It is easier to see the connection in the Japanese localization of the game (Dafunesu Nohansen Hairaru). What makes the translation even unluckier is that Daphne, from which Daphnes derives, is a feminine name.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass contains an island called Dee Ess Island, which as the name suggests, looks exactly like a Nintendo DS. However, the French name for the island translate to "Island of Ess(es)". This is because in French, the word "de" means "of", and apparently, "Dee" was translated as "de". This means that the island's name's pun is lost on the French. The name is correctly translated in the New World versions of French, perhaps because Nintendo of America handles translations for all of North America. Italian belongs to the same language family as French, but the name was translated properly in that language, making a clever pun ("Diesse" sounds both like "DS" and "di Esse", "of Ess" in Italian).
    • In Gerudo Town in Breath of the Wild, there's a Running Gag that visitors have trouble speaking the Gerudo language, which has lots of "v"s in it. This is because Japanese has no such sound, and Japanese speakers emulate it with "b"s generally. Of course, English and many other languages have both sounds, so the joke loses its sense.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
    • A special case occurs in the German version of the Bloodmoon expansion - in one dialogue, the translator forgot to add the text link leading to a quest start, which resulted in a (small, but quite helpful) subquest being completely lost.
    • In the Polish translation of Morrowind it was pretty hard to rest in some taverns due to similar reasons... the option, when available, was listed last in handy dialogue sidebar, due to Morrowind's ordering system not recognizing letters of the Polish alphabet.
  • Disgaea:
    • Recurring character Axel/Akutare always refers to himself with the words "ore-sama" in the Japanese audio, "ore" being an equivalent of "I", and "sama" being a honorific one would use when referring to someone viewed as a superior, which stresses just how highly he thinks of himself, on top of his already often conceited dialogue.
    • In Disgaea 4, this is actually something of some importance, as beginning to use "ore-sama" in their speech is the first obvious sign that someone is being affected by the A-Virus of Chapter 6.
  • The French-language manual for Earthworm Jim on the Mega Drive translated "butt" (as in Evil Queen Overly Long Name Slug-for-a) as postérieur, which whilst technically accurate doesn't quite capture the idiom.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island:
    • You need a navigator's head being held by cannibals, who are unwilling to trade it to you because they are unable to find another one. You succeed by trading it for a leaflet titled "How to get ahead in navigating". The spanish translation of the game had the leaflet translated literally ("Como avanzar en la navegación"), losing the double meaning, and making this part a big Guide Dang It!.
    • The translator of the German version was smarter at this and titles the book "Klarer Kopf beim Navigieren", which means re-translated "get a clear head during navigation", which actually gives enough hints at the puzzle solution, as the cannibals will now say it's an instruction to get a "clear head", meaning they can make a better head.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man is named "Rock Man" in Japan. The joke about a boy named "Rock" being siblings with a girl named "Roll" is somewhat lost in translations. Mega Man's civilian name is still "Rock" though, but it's not mentioned nearly as often. In fact, Mega Man Powered Up and, implicitly, Mega Man 11 retcon his original name to be "Mega" instead, which many fans weren't keen on since it completely ruins the musical theme.
    • In Mega Man 3, once they learn a certain character's name is Doc Robot (or Doc Man), players are sure to be scratching their heads, wondering what this robot skeleton has to do with doctors (okay, sure, it's built by Doctor Wily, but surely "Wily Robot" would make more sense). The name comes from a pun on the Japanese word for skull—dokurothat for whatever reason, Capcom didn't see fit to change.
    • Vile is named "Vava" in the original Japanese version. Come Mega Man Zero's third installment, we're introduced to the character Dr. Vile, named Dr. Weil overseas to prevent confusion. As a result, the name of the Biometal that takes after him is also changed to a rather un-frightening "Model W" instead of the original "Model V".
    • In Mega Man Battle Network 6, there's a sequence where a classmate goes on about calling the 11 year old protagonist "Mr. Hikari" instead of "Lan." The end result is that Tab comes off as a little crazy with a unique and incomprehensible way of expressing himself and you spend the rest of the game waiting for a repeat performance.
  • Super Mario Bros. has a few of these, though many of them are saved through Lucky Translation.
    • In Japan, Luigi's name is a Punny Name. "Luigi" is rendered as ルイージ ruiiji, which is also a word that means "similar", befitting his original purpose as a Moveset Clone and Palette swap of Mario. That the name could be transliterated to another common Italian name was a bit of Lucky Translation.
    • Waluigi's name (ワルイージ, Waruiiji in Japanese) comes from an anagram of the word ijiwarui (いじわるい), which means mean-spirited, and is a combination of Luigi and warui, meaning bad.
    • Princess Peach's name in Japan is Piichi-Hime (ピーチ姫) which is a pun on the word Pichi Pichi (ピチピチ) meaning lively, spunky, energetic. Her English name has something similar though, as being "peachy" refers to being happy and chipper.
    • It's been mentioned more than once (dating back to her original manual synopsis in Super Mario Bros. 2) that Birdo prefers going by "Birdetta", yet the game's continuously call her "Birdo". This comes back to this trope: in Japan, it's stated that she's named "Catherine" but prefers being called "Cathy". It's just about nicknames, not preferred names. As a result, Nintendo usually ignores the old artifact of Birdo preferring being called "Birdetta".
  • Street Fighter:
    • The first Updated Re-release of Street Fighter II is officially titled Street Fighter II Dash: Champion Edition in Japan. Champion Edition was actually the game's subtitle, much like how The World Warrior was the subtitle to the original Street Fighter II and The New Challengers was to Super Street Fighter II. However, the word "Dash" is not spelled on the game's title but represented by an apostrophe-like symbol (′) known as a "prime" or a "dash", which is often used as a notation to denote the derivative of a mathematical function (i.e: f′ or f dash). Hence the title Street Fighter II Dash, as in a derivative of the original Street Fighter II. Instead of retitling the game Street Fighter II Prime for its American release, Capcom USA simply ignored the prime mark on the title screen and marketed the game as Street Fighter II: Champion Edition on the marquee. The same was true to the subsequent game in the series, Street Fighter II Dash Turbo: Hyper Fighting, which was shortened to simply Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting (although the American marquee carries the awkward title of Street Fighter II: Turbo Champion Edition: Hyper Fighting).
    • Balrog's Super Combo in Super Street Fighter II Turbo is called the "Crazy Buffalo", a reference to his Japanese name of M. Bison. Many of his other moves in later games continued with this buffalo theme.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In the first two games, Revolver Ocelot is known among his Russian comrades as "Shalashaska", which he claims to be a Russian slang word for "prison". The name "Shalashaska" is actually a mistranslation of the actual word "Sharashka" from Russian (Sharashka) to Japanese (シャラシャーシカ, Sharashaashika) and then from Japanese to English (Shalashaska). In addition, "Sharashka" is actually a slang word for a very specific type of prison — secret research and development labs where incarcerated scientists and engineers worked on scientific and technological projects for the state. They were in effect Gulag labour camps with intellectual labour instead of physical labour. All of them were closed after Stalin's death. This makes it an odd nickname for a guy who is into torturing POWs and started his military career under Khrushchev.
    • Metal Gear Solid:
      • Hideo Kojima has compared Solid Snake's personality to the classic manga character Lupin III, a hero defined largely by how funny and playful he is despite his hypercompetence. Snake certainly still does and says funny things, but generally his English dub performance plays him a lot more seriously, with his sense of humour coming across as very dry. His Japanese dub performance is more goofy and bathetic, and also shows him being overwhelmed by the hotness of the gorgeous women he meets (much like Lupin is), while the English performance comes across more like Snake's just hitting on them.
      • Snake remarks that the terrorists are armed with "five-five-sixers and pineapples". Seeing as 5.56mmx45 is one of the most common ammunition types in the world, it just comes off as a garbled attempt at tough-talk. In the Japanese version, Snake instead describes the guns as "trumpets", delivered in an incredulous tone. The point of the scene is supposed to be that the terrorists, mostly being inexperienced VR soldiers on a grotesquely inflated budget, are using obscure and flashily expensive Rare Guns (like the Hind-D helicopter that features earlier in the scene), and so Snake is making fun of how silly the soldiers look with their tacticool loadouts.
      • When spying on Johnny on the toilet, he dreamily describes Meryl as "kakko-ii", a word meaning something like "cool" or "handsome" which would normally be used to describe men (or occasionally manly things, like cars). In English, he just says "that woman is built, alright", which makes it ambiguous as to whether he means her muscles or her butt is what interests him, and also makes it ambiguous whether Johnny is into her or just commenting on how weird she is. For this reason, Japanese fans were significantly less surprised by the romance between Meryl and Johnny in MGS4, and particularly the revelation that he'd been nursing a crush on her since the first time he saw her.
      • Ocelot's personality and voice delivery is supposed to be a parody of a recognisable "gun fanatic" archetype in Japan, with rude, nerdy speech patterns and pitiful fixations. In the English version, he's given a much cooler, sleazier dub which makes him sound more like a real Spaghetti Western villain rather than a wannabe.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty:
      • This game introduces the shadowy group known as The Patriots, AKA the "La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo." In English, this just sounds like a string of alliterative but gibberish syllables. However, the name has a far greater significance in Japanese. Due to the Japanese language's lack of distinction between "R" and "L", it is impossible for anyone to vocalise or write down "La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo" in Japanese. To quote /u/FlashMedallion from Reddit:
        The Patriots, as a secretive organization, are hiding in the very blind spots of language itself.
        The Patriots are practicing a form of "memetic stealth"; they are an idea that has assumed a form that cannot be expressed, communicated, or reproduced.\\
    This ties in very well with the themes of information control explored in the game, but are totally lost on the English speaking audience.
    • Emma's parrot frequently says the phrase "Venus in cancer", which makes Emma seem like an astrology nut. In the Japanese version, what the parrot was actually referring was the Venusian from the 1956 B-movie It Conquered the World. That's because the creature in question is called the "Venusian crab", or Kinsei Gani (金星ガニ) in the Japanese version, which is supposed to reflect Emma's interest in sci-fi B-movies.
    • Rose's confusion about which building King Kong climbed up makes more sense in the Japanese version, where she's convinced he climbed the Twin Towers — climbed by the ape in the King Kong (1976). (The joke is that they're both actually right, and Raiden, who's convinced the ape climbed the Empire State as he did in King Kong (1933), ignorantly accuses her of mixing it up with The Towering Inferno.) This obviously had to be changed for the English version, in which Rose inexplicably thinks the ape climbed the Chrysler Building, and Raiden accuses her of mixing it up with the Roland Emmerich version of Godzilla (1998).
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Volgin uses the phrase "Kuwabara, Kuwabara" several times. It's a Japanese expression equivalent to the English "knock on wood" that is believed to ward off lightning. At the end of the game, he refuses to say the phrase, instead mocking the storm, and is promptly struck by lightning.
    • A good Actor Allusion joke in Metal Gear Solid 3 is lost in English. If the player decides to kill the unconscious Ocelot in Rassvet, you get a Non Standard Game Over where Colonel Campbell from the original Metal Gear Solid yells at Snake for causing a Time Paradox. In the English version, it's a non-sequitur. In the Japanese version, it's because Campbell's voiced by Takeshi Aono, the same actor who dubbed Doc Brown in Back to the Future.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots:
      • Sunny calls Otacon "big brother", which adds an allusion to Otacon's dead sister Emma. In the English she calls him "Uncle Hal", which has the right literal connotation (something a child might call a guardian they're not actually related to) but which loses the subtext.
      • One of the funniest gags in the game is where Ocelot feigns a death via FOX-DIE to freak Snake out, before suddenly getting up and revealing he was kidding. In Japanese, it goes: "FOX..." "DIE..." "...ja nai!" ("FOXDIE... not!"), which rhymes, and is additionally the established Japanese format for the old, puerile "...not!" joke. In English, to go with Lip Lock, it becomes; "FOX..." "DIE..." "...think again!", which isn't as funny.
    • In Metal Gear Solid V, "Punished" Snake comes off as a cooler codename if it's in Japanese, where it rhymes with older Snake codenames like Solid, Liquid and Naked. In English, it just sounds like '90s Anti-Hero gibberish. This is, however, downplayed in that MGSV's incarnation of Big Boss (who is, in fact, a Body Double for the real Big Boss) is officially known as Venom Snake, which can be interpreted as thematically closer to the other Snake codenames.
    • Numerous Internal Homage Casting Gag things that reinforce Metal Gear's extremely repetitive structure are lost in the English version, between No Export for You and generally different voice casting decisions. For just some of these:
      • Most of the Japanese voice cast are returning members of the Production Posse on Policenauts, particularly Meryl Silverburgh's voice actress reappearing as a similar character called Meryl Silverburgh, and Jonathan's voice actor appearing as Otacon, a character who has Policenauts merchandise.
      • In the Japanese version of MGS4, Big Boss is played by an actor who is the father of Solid Snake's voice actor, paralleling the characters' real relationship.
      • Sunny, Rosemary and The Boss all share the same voice actress in Japanese, which is intended to hint at the symbolic connection between these characters. (The English dub ran into casting issues because of this, and ended up with the voice actress for The Boss, Lori Alan, playing Rosemary in the joke "Snake Eraser" short.)
      • The Japanese voice for Richard Ames is the same as the voice of the DARPA Chief, and James Johnson shares a voice actor with Kenneth Baker, reinforcing the repetitive nature of their deaths.
  • A literal case in Dragon Quest II, where the character is accidentally directed to the wrong town in a translation error.
  • Dragon Quest IV DS and onward have a huge number of Dub Name Changes. Most are pointless, but harmless, but there are also several that ruin Mythology Gags and Continuity Nods to other games in the series, by using a completely different name from the previous releases that are being referenced.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Flynn's first name is rendered in the Japanese version as フレン (furen), which is a play on the word 'friend'. Since this is a pun born out of the Japanese pronunciation of English words/names which do not sound alike in English, there is really no way of preserving it in localisation. The name sounds perfectly normal, but ceases to be meaningful in the English version.
  • Myself ; Yourself — In Japanese, this would be Jibun Jibun, which is why its title in Japanese is Maiserufu Yuaserufu.
  • In Xenosaga Episode One, after KOS-MOS ignores one of Shion's orders, Shion remarks that she doesn't recall programming her that way. This is actually a spin on a Japanese idiomatic phrase (Originally: I don't recall raising a daughter like that!) often uttered by mothers to stubborn daughters. This serves as an interesting piece of evidence towards the fact that Shion views KOS-MOS not as a weapon, but as her child. This is sadly lost in the English dub track, where it comes off as just another example of KOS-MOS' mysterious nature.
  • At the end of Xenoblade, Shulk asks Alvis what he is, and he responds by saying he's "The Monado". While this just seems to be him claiming that he's the Monado (the name of the sword you've been using) in the English version, in the Japanese version it's a play on words with "Monad", which makes his explanation (and the ending) make a lot more sense if you know your way around Gnosticism.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X:
    • Black Tar's lyrics include, "Standing as long as we can until we get all Dolls up", which would make more sense if you understand that Skells are called Dolls in the Japanese game. At least it's not in the Skell combat part.
    • In-universe, Professor B's native language contains words that don't translate into English, so he does the best he can to describe it when asked. The words just appear as jumbled garbage text.
  • Happened with several Meaningful Names in Wild ARMs 1 and its remake. For instance, "Zakk Vam Brace" was translated as "Jack Van Burace," completely losing all meaning of the scene where Garrett Stampede receives the title of "Vambrace," indicating that he can protect his Love Interest who has the title of "Sword Arm". Also happened with the "Fenril" Knights, "Alhazad," and "Zeikfried." It's made worse in the remake where they translated his title as Gauntlet, showing that the translators missed the point of Jack's name the second time around.
  • In many Japanese-developed fighting games and beat-'em-ups, it is not uncommon to have a character whose fighting style is listed as "martial arts". Examples includes Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury, Cody from Final Fight, Joe and Guile from Street Fighter, Ralf and Clark from The King of Fighters, Axel Stone from Streets of Rage, and Sarah Bryant from Virtua Fighter series. This is because at one time the Japanese believed that the English term "martial arts" referred to a specific fighting style and not a general term for combative sports. When martial artist Benny Urquidez was asked what kind of fighting style he used, he stated that he was a "full-contact martial artist", which led the Japanese public to believe that "martial arts" was the name of his fighting style (in reality, Urquidez's main fighting style is full-contact karate). In the martial arts manga Shikakui Jungle (Squared Jungle), the term "martial arts" is defined as a "fighting style used by the American military" and many video game designers based their definition of "martial arts" on the manga's description. However, to anyone outside Japan, the term "martial arts" is meaningless as far as specific styles are concerned. How can a character have "martial arts" as his "martial arts"?

    By the mid-nineties, Japanese developers seemed to have figure out the redundancy of the "martial arts" style, so there's a couple of examples where they played with it: In Tekken, Marshall Law and his son Forest Law have their their fighting style listed as "Marshall Arts", while their Moveset Clone Lee Chaolan aka Violet uses "Martial Arts" — both are written exactly the same in Japanese. Likewise, Sodom from Final Fight also plays with the translation error in his Street Fighter Alpha appearances: his style is "Japanese-style Martial Arts", which is utter nonsense totally in tone for the character. note 
  • In the Monster Rancher game and anime, a particularly evil Dragon is named "Muu", which means darkness or emptiness. In English, he's named "Moo." Yes, after the sound a cow makes. (Which, to be fair, is how mu phonetically sounds to an English speaker.) The German translation instead went with Moe, calling forth weird associations with The Simpsons.
  • In Wild AR Ms 3 the wandering mercenary/treasure-hunter characters are known as "migratory-birds" (watari-dori) in the original Japanese. The translator realized that in English this sounds a little silly, rather than poetic, so he changed the title to "drifters". However, most of the dialog was translated fairly directly, leading to some rather out of place metaphors. (The "drifters" are constantly referring to "flapping their wings" and "flying to a new place".) In one egregious example near the beginning of the game, Virginia is warned by her uncle that "Unlike land, the open sky has no roads for you to follow," in response to her deciding to become a drifter.
  • In Civilization IV units speak their acknowledgements in the language corresponding to their nation. Unfortunately the idiom "we're on it" was translated literally into Dutch, where it means nothing more than a confirmation of positioning.
    • In Russian the unit says something meaning either "We are on the spot", or "We have arrived at the location already".
  • In BlazBlue, Hakumen's Badass Creed includes "Ware wa Jin" ("I am the steel") which turns out to be a Stealth Pun because he is later revealed to be the future version of Jin Kisaragi.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Japanese Pokémon name Togechick was translated overseas as "Togetic." This would appear to be a case of someone using a popular but less precise romanization system and then not bothering to pay attention to what they were doing; トゲチック can be written in romaji either as "togetikku" or "togechikku", with "togechikku" being phonetically correct and "togetikku" matching the syllable group the 'chi' kana actually belongs to.
    • The Japanese name of Krookodile, Waruvial (a combination of the Japanese word warui, meaning bad, and gavial), properly described what animal the Pokémon was actually based on, as it has the long, narrow snout that's typical of a gavial.
    • The move Aerial Ace is called Tsubame Gaeshi in Japanese, which is the name of a sword technique developed by Sasaki Kojiro, hence why virtually any Pokémon with claws or other parts to slash with can use the move, whether they're Flying-type or not. The move being Flying-type stems solely from the fact that the word "tsubame" means swallow, as in the bird. This is further confusing for English-speaking audiences because Ace is a term referring to fighter pilots with a certain number of confirmed kills. Hence, Aerial Ace takes on a whole different meaning.
    • The Dark type is called the Evil type in Japan. This mistranslation actually makes more sense in some ways; Pokémon belonging to that type are more often than not good, but it left many people wondering why there is no Light type to complement it. Also, the majority of moves that involve Casting a Shadow are actually given to the Ghost type, rather than Dark, which tends toward Combat Pragmatism.
    • The Pokémon Politoed is based on a pun that they did not even attempt to translate. It's based on what is known as the "lord-frog" in Japanese. Its Japanese name includes the word "lord" (Nyorotono) and its Pokédex entries talk about it ruling over its pre-evos. Something like "Froaking" would have been an obvious way to preserve the pun, and would have even been a good portmanteau, but for some reason they didn't do that; possibly because they may have wanted to preserve the "Poli" name all the members of its evolutionary line have (especially considering that Politoed's appearance is a radical deviation from the rest of the Poliwag family). This makes the fact that it evolves from Poliwhirl when traded while holding a King's Rock seem quite random.
    • Glalie's entire existence is a pun: its Japanese name is Onigohri, a portmanteau of "oni" (a mythical monster) and "kohri" (ice), but which sounds a lot like "onigiri" (rice ball). It's an ice monster that looks like a rice ball. This was obviously not possible to translate, so they went with a rather clumsy portmanteau ("glacier/goalie") that most people didn't really catch, as there's not much of a hockey theme in the design aside from its face vaguely looking like a hockey mask, and its relatives are clearly unrelated to hockey. This also made the line as a whole seem pretty random, as its members are based on and named after Japanese snow creatures (the zashiki-warashi, the oni, and the yuki-onna), but received the names Snorunt, Glalie, and Froslass in English.
    • Red's rival in Pokémon Red and Blue is named "Ookido Green" in Japan. Due to countries outside of Japan getting Pokémon Blue instead of Pokémon Green, he is called "Blue Oak" internationally. Red and green are opposite colors on the Color Wheel but people often think of blue as red's opposite, so this change worked fine originally. The problem comes in future games: In the remakes to Pokémon Gold and Silver his bedroom is completely green. Renaming him "Blue" messes with the Family Theme Naming (his grandfather is Professor Oak and his sister is Daisy Oak) as well. In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Red wears a red shirt and hat, while Blue wears... green shorts and shoes. Oddly, the remakes for Red and Blue were known internationally as FireRed and LeafGreen, giving the translators an opportunity to rename Blue to "Green", however his original name was still kept.
    • This also led to some oddities with the eighth Gym Badge. It's called the Green Badge in Japan, because it's the badge of Viridian City ("viridian" is a type of green pigment). In the English translation, this was changed to the Earth Badge, since it's Giovanni's badge, and he's a Ground-type specialist. Makes sense. But then Blue took over in Gold and Silver, and he has all of one Ground-type on his team—so why does he give out the Earth Badge? (Well, "Green Badge" doesn't fit his team all that well either, but it at least fits his name.)
    • In Pokémon Gold and Silver, the Gym Leader Clair was called "Ibuki" in the Japanese release, which can mean "breath." So when she gives the player the TM that teaches Dragon Breath, she mutters in the Japanese version, "...That's not a pun or anything." The English release changes this to "No, it has nothing to do with my breath," making a different joke. In the remake, as Clair now gives out a different TM that has nothing to do with breath of any kind (Dragon Pulse), she no longer makes the joke in either version.
    • As mentioned above, Wobbuffet was inspired by a Japanese comedian. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team a Wobbuffet speaks in Pokémon Speak (unlike the others, who use Animal Talk) and is paired with Wynaut. In the Japanese version its Pokémon Speak makes sense but in translations it's just a random sounding Catchphrase. For extra points, Wynaut's translated name does retain a conversational pun value (why not?); the original, Sonano, is a pun on sō na no? = "is that right?". In the sequel, the localization does pick up on this and peppers their dialogue with "Is it not?" and "That's right!"
    • At one point in Pokémon Sun and Moon, the protagonist is asked to pick between red, green, blue, and yellow. This is a clear reference to the original Generation I games. The NPC tells you a line based on your choice. When you pick blue, though, it's mentioned that it was an unpopular choice. While that might have made sense in Japan, as Blue was the third game and thus not as popular as the first two, players outside of Japan instead received modified versions of Red and Green which had some improvements taken from Blue, and as such had been renamed Red and Blue, with Blue being a primary version (and thus very popular) and Green not being present — this title issue causes that line to make no sense internationally, because independent of context, blue is generally the most popular colour.
    • Green in Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! has blue on her clothes. This is because her Japanese name is "Blue". The English version already has a character named that, so her name was changed to Blue's Japanese name.
    • Galarian Darmanitan's entire existence (as an Ice-type snowman-looking variant of the Unovan daruma-baboon) only makes sense if you know that snowmen are called "snow daruma" in Japan. Its Hidden Ability Zen Mode is an even bigger example: it's an appropriate Woolseyism for the Unovan variant, as its Zen Mode becomes part Psychic type and adopts a calmer Monkey Morality Pose... but the Galarian variant's alternate form is an angry snowman on fire. In Japan, the ability is named Daruma Mode, which can apply to both the daruma-doll-like Unovan form and the Galarian form's snowman.
    • In Japanese, the name of a certain move is "Noroi", which can be read as "Slow". Hence, for most Pokémon, it drops their Speed and increases their Attack and Defense. However, for Ghosts, it cuts the user's HP in half in exchange for causing the opponent's to rapidly drain over the following turns. This is because an alternative reading of the word is "Curse"—essentially, the gag is that most look at the name and think "slow," but the morbid and malicious Ghosts look and think "curse." Naturally, the entire concept was completely untranslatable, so the team just went with "Curse" for its name, causing players worldwide to be very confused as to why Curse for everyone except Ghosts is a self-buffing move.
    • Certain moves and Abilities have properties, or lack them, that might not make sense unless one knows what their original Japanese names were:
      • When Dracovish with Strong Jaw uses Fishious Rend, it gets the damage boost from Strong Jaw. This is because Fishious Rend's Japanese name translates roughly as "Gill Bite," so it would be obvious to a Japanese player.
      • Inversely, though some Pokémon with Iron Fist can learn Sucker Punch, that move is not counted as a punching move and thus won't get the damage bonus from Iron Fist, as its original Japanese name translates as "Ambush" or "Surprise Attack," with punching having nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, Meteor Mash gets that damage boost because its Japanese name is literally "Comet Punch," which had to be changed to something else in English because, by coincidence, that name was taken two generations prior.
      • Dancer copies every move with the word "dance" in its name, such as Quiver Dance, Teeter Dance, Petal Dance, Dragon Dance, etc., except for Rain Dance, as the Japanese name means "Prayer for Rain."
    • The moves "Lovely Kiss" and "Sweet Kiss", are, respectively in Japanese, Demon's Kiss (Akuma no Kissu / あくまのキッス), and Angel's Kiss, (Tenshi no Kissu / てんしのキッス). Knowing this, their animations make a lot more sense.
  • Cave Story had a password that the player is given towards the end of the game. In the original Japanese, this was the characters for the game's original title (Doukutsu Monogatari) written backwards. The translator has admitted to being half-asleep when working on this section of the game, as he didn't notice and the backwards kana came out as "Litagano Motscoud," though one has to admit it makes it harder to guess without it being told to you (which does happens in the game). Nicalis's official translation fixes this by using "Yrots Evac".
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade features several moments with its main villain Nergal that were almost completely garbled by the translation. Nergal's goal, as it turns out, is a badly Motive Decayed attempt to meet his wife Aenir again, but as a result of meddling with the substance known as aegir to reach her, he no longer remembers this. In his final moments, he starts musing on what he was fighting for, and mutters something along the lines of of "", which is meant to show how he has conflated "using aegir to find my wife" and "using aegir as an end unto itself", and no longer remembers the difference. As it turns out, the translators mostly missed that, because the one scene in the story where Aenir's name is mentioned talks about Aenir as if it's the name of a place rather than a person, and aegir got a name change to "quintessence," so his last words are instead him simply saying "Quintessence?" for no apparent reason. Particularly annoying, given that the whole subplot can only be found through Guide Dang It! methods.
  • In La-Mulana, the name of Duracuets is supposed to be an abbreviation of Dragon Quest II. Fixed somewhat in the remake, where it's translated as "Dracuet".
  • The English localizations of the X-Universe games give conflicting reports on the structure of the Argon Federation government. The games' internal Encyclopedia Exposita describes it as a modified American-style democracy with a president and a unicameral senate, while the X-Encyclopedia calls it a parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister. Factor in that the dev team is German, which makes the X-Encyclopedia's version more likely.
  • The little-known platformer The Adventure of Little Ralph received an English translation of its title by the game's publishers, even though it was never released outside of Japan. Since an English title translation had been conveniently provided for English speakers, the game is known as The Adventure of Little Ralph in America and other English-speaking nations. However, translating the game's Japanese title reveals that the title was supposed to contain a juxtaposition of Ralph's size and the size of his adventure (the literal translation is Little Ralph's Big Adventure.)
  • In The Night of the Rabbit, DJ Ludwig the mole's radio ident in the original German is "Welle Sumpf 103 Punkt Funf ... fünf!" — intentionally mispronouncing the word fünf ("five") to sort of rhyme with Sumpf ("swamp"). In English, this is changed to "Swamp Radio 103 Point", transforming the radio presenter from one who's fond of bad puns to one who can't remember the number of his own station.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge gets hit with this in probably the worst possible way — one of the puzzle solutions is based around a pun. Specifically, you use a monkey to tamper with a waterfall pump, a play on the term "monkey wrench". The problem is, this is a very American term. People in other countries, even other English-speaking countries, were unlikely to be familiar with this phrasing.note  Translators had a field day attempting to work this puzzle into other languages, with results ranging from "inelegant" to "didn't even bother, hope you have a walkthrough." The German translation has Guybrush say "He's so stiff, you could unscrew a nut with him" if you look at the frozen monkey, while the Spanish version put a "101 uses for monkeys" book in the library outright stating that monkeys could be used as "English wrenches". Ron Gilbert learned very quickly after this to try to avoid using wordplay as a solution to a puzzle again.
  • The Witcher features a character named Thaler. It is a Meaningful Name, he is a fence having the name of an old European money. In the French translation, he is named Talar, which is how he and thalers are called in original Polish, but has no meaning in french.
  • Trio the Punch: "WEEBLES FALL DOWN!" is the translation of "Daruma-san ga koronda." Translation  The game briefly pauses when the phrase finishes writing out in full; this is a reference to a children's game, but there also happens to be a Daruma doll jumping around in the stage.
  • Persona:
    • Persona 4:
      • Kuma's (Japanese for "bear") name was localized as "Teddie", which is fine in itself. However, the name change unfortunately removed a double pun that appears later in the game: when he grows a human body and starts leaving the TV World to visit the real one, Kuma uses the alias "Kumada": besides being an actual, common Japanese surname, "Kumada" can be interpreted as meaning "It's kuma." The joke was obviously lost with the localized name, and Teddie simply doesn't use an alias; the only reference to it is one female Junes employee being confused about his name.
      • Lecherous Teddie constantly refers to "scoring" with ladies, but it's not entirely clear he's aware of what the word even means and most of the party seems bemused or baffled by his word choice. In the original Japanese version, he uses the term "gyakunan", something he picked up from Shadow Yukiko, who is a woman. It's used specifically to refer to a woman hitting on a man, explaining the group's reactions. Obviously, there was no real way to translate that into English, so the joke was lost.
      • Yosuke's Shadow takes the shape of a cross between a ninja and a large frog. Not only does it tie in with how his Persona is the legendary Jiraiya, a ninja who transforms into a toad, In Japanese, "frog" and "return" are pronounced the same way, tying into Yosuke's desire to leave the boonies of Inaba behind and return to his hometown in the big city. In English, the significance is lost.
      • The Personas used to fuse Izanagi-no-Okami lost some meaning in the English version. In Japanese, the first kana of each of the Personas used in the fusion note  spell out "Izanagi-no-ookami-tsukure", literally meaning "create Izanagi-no-Okami." This almost barely works in English: the first one or two letters of the first few Personas spell out Isanaginoookami, but the names of the last few Personas simply don't translate, and the meaning is lost, making it harder to see why it's made from Personas with little in common in their level, arcana or origins.
      • The game itself references this In-Universe with the translation job that can be taken: the protagonist gets tripped up on translating a joke, and the player has to decide between rendering it literally or coming up with a new joke. The latter is one of several "risk" choices that can lead to a greater monetary reward, or backfire and result in a lesser yield.
    • Persona 5:
      • An oral double meaning is lost with the name of the protagonist's high school, Shujin Academy: in Japanese, "Shujin" is written with the characters that spell out "people." However, "Shujin" is a homophone that can also translate into "prisoner", tying into the game's themes of being held down by the chains of society. There was, obviously, no way to translate this into English. (Notably, Caroline and Justine, the wardens of the Velvet Room, exclusively refer to Joker as "Shujin" in the Japanese version, which was rendered as "Inmate" for the localization.)
      • When trying to come up with a Code Name for Yusuke, whose phantom thief outfit has fox motifs, Ryuji suggests "Abura-age", which comes off as a complete Non Sequitur to English speakers, although Yusuke's acceptance of such a strange name does fit his Cloudcuckoolander personality. In Japan, abura-age (fried tofu) is considered the Trademark Favourite Food of foxes.
      • On June 12, Akechi happens to run into Makoto at what looks like a school, even though it's clear from their uniforms that they go to different high schools. Various untranslated signs reveal that the two of them, both in their final year of high school, are taking a mock examination to prepare for college entrance exams, so a player who doesn't know Japanese will likely not get why they encountered each other or why Akechi had to leave (his test was apparently starting).
    • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth:
      • The title is meant to be a play on Sekaiju no Meikyuu ("Q" and "kyuu" are homophones), another Atlus series. Unfortunately, most fans in the West won't get that, because SnM is known as Etrian Odyssey outside of Japan, so the "Q" can come off as pointless to English-speaking players.
      • While most of Junpei's quirks in the original Persona 3 were Woolsey-ized consistently, one of them wasn't: the pose where he holds his hands up in the air originally had a catch-phrase associated with it. Q references this catch-phrase often, and most of these moments are lost on English speakers.
  • The quest boss "The Black Bishop" in World of Warcraft is a reference to chess, and his quotes are references to the bishop chess piece. This comes as a puzzlement to players of the Russian version of the game, who see no connection between his church title (yepiskop, bishop) and the Russian name for the bishop chess piece that he uses in his quotes (slon, elephant).
  • Splatoon:
    • One of the two signals is this. In American English it is translated as "C'mon!" but in British English, it is translated as "To Me!" The signal is meant to be used when you want other teammates to come to the same spot as you. "C'mon" is a direct translation of the Japanese version however Americans don't usually use "C'mon" to signal someone near them ("Come Here" would be more appropriate). Thus many American players spam "C'mon" when angry, which doesn't make sense to European gamers who see it as spamming "To Me". Splatoon 2 fixes this by changing the wording to "This Way!"
    • In-series this is the reason Inklings worship a fax machine. An Alternate Character Reading for "god" is "paper". The game takes place in Humanity's Wake and Inkling language evolved from Japanese.
    • If it sounds like Pearl and Marina are saying "tentacle" when they say "Stay off the hook!", that's because they are. In most regions Off the Hook is named "Tentacles", or some other similar "tentacle" pun. Due to the characters speaking in little more than gibberish, the English translation went with a different pun. However, their catchphrase still sounds a bit too close to actual English.
  • In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, after Phoenix and Maya introduce themselves to Layton, he says that their names aren't exactly what he would expect in Labyrinthia. This makes much more sense in the Japanese version, where Phoenix and Maya are from Japan, and have distinctly Japanese names.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door:
    • Some times after finding Koopok for his Trouble Center sidequest, he will send an e-mail saying he's hiding in a cold location. In the original Japanese and most translations, the location in question is the Crystal Palace from the original Paper Mario. The English localization, however, renders as the completely made-up "Goomstar Temple", losing the Continuity Nod.
    • The reason Beldam's text turns red when insulting Vivian by calling her "plug-ugly" is because that's supposed to be the reveal that Vivian is transgender by Beldam calling her a boy which, given Vivian's extremely feminine appearance, is meant to come as a surprise, hence the red text to draw attention to it. While this has the intended effect in most localizations of the game, the English and German translations remove all reference to this while neglecting to remove the red text.
    • After completing Pine T. Jr.'s trouble, you'll receive an email from him in which he tells you his dad has found a new job tending to the Li'l Oinks in Toad Town. It's supposed to say that, anyway, but like what happened with Koopook's email, the localization team missed the connection to the original Paper Mario and translated the name literally as "Bubu." What’s more, due to Japanese lacking a clear grammatical plural, it's written as though this Bubu is a single entity rather than the name of a species.
    • The final RDM email in the original Japanese script and most translation of the games has a special hidden section found by scrolling down for a long time, which mentions Chuck Quizmo from the first game as well as a recipe. For whatever reason, the English translation removed this section entirely but left in the statement alluding to its existence ("May we meet again... sooner than you think *wink *wink*"), confusing many players.
  • In Resident Evil 4, Leon talks to Hunnigan about the cult he faced, to which Hunnigan tells him that their name is the Los Illuminados and Leon replies that it's "quite a mouthful." Saying the name in English isn't exactly a tongue twister, but it's more difficult to say in Japanese, which makes Leon's quip about the name in the English script seem strange.
  • Since there are many puns and cultural jokes in the MOTHER games, it should be no surprise that several of them simply can't be properly translated. The most pervasive one would be the joke about the alien species known as Mr. Saturn, and how the entire species has the same name. This is because the word for Saturn is also (albeit with different kanji) the same word for "same name." Thus, in Japanese, you can read their name, "Dousei-san," as either "Mr. Saturn" or "Mr. Samename."
    • EarthBound has one strange example regarding the Apple of Enlightenment. In the original Japanese version, it's revealed late in the game to be a machine which tells the future that the bad guys are using - in the English translation, the line explaining this was simply cut for no particular reason, leading English-speaking fans to speculate for years as to what the Apple actually was.
  • Story of Seasons: In Harvest Moon Nina has a really odd way of speaking and speaks like a Third-Person Person. This is because the translators had difficulty translating her cutesy Japanese dialogue into English. When she was reintroduced in Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, her dialogue was smoothed out by the new translators.
  • As a rule of thumb, many fighting games translated to Spanish using the term "Ranked Match" struggles with this, since there's no valid translation for the term. In Japanese beat'em ups like Street Fighter and The King of Fighters, the term is translated to Partida Igualada/Juego Igualado, translated literally to "Equated Match." The problem here is the fact, especially with SNK games, while playing online, your game will rarely, if ever, will be with a player with the same rank as you, causing lots of frustations for players expecting a truly "equated" match. A better translation would be Partida Clasificada/Juego Clasificado.
  • Another recurrent translation hiccup in Spanish, especially in First-Person Shooters, is the translation of the term "Killed" when you kill or are killed by a player. In many games, the term is translated as "Asesinado" (Murdered) and, while the term is technically correct, in Spanish it normally means you murdered a person in Real Life, and is very narmy by itself. A better translation would be "muerto" or "eliminado", depending on the context of the game.
  • One of the promotional posters for Tatsujin Ou (lit. "Expert King") has the Tagline "Be a King rather than Expert!" The joke being that the previous game is called simply Tatsujin (lit. "Expert"). The slogan was kept for non-Japanese markets, where the games are called Truxton and Truxton II, thus causing the tagline to not make sense.
  • Princess Maker: For Refine, if the audio track is any indication... Where the English says "Sir" or something of that nature to refer to the father, the audio uses "Yuusha", a.k.a "Hero", since the father is a national hero, having fought back the Demon King as related in the Opening Narration.
  • Difficult-to-translate wordplay in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) made many fans think that Blaze remembers Sonic when that wasn't the intention. Silver and Blaze make mention of a "blue hedgehog" more than once. In Japan, "blue" can refer to color but also be slang for being naive or inexperienced (similar to how "green" has that connotation in English). Silver thinks of Sonic when he says "blue hedgehog", while Blaze thinks of Silver. This is why Blaze says that she needs to find Silver after realizing what "blue hedgehog" means.
  • Wizardry features a joke weapon called the "Cuisinart Blade", consisting of the blades portion of a food processor mounted to a handle. When it was released in Japan, where the Cuisinart brand was unfamiliar at the time, supplemental material interpreted it as a powerful sword created by an Ultimate Blacksmith named "Casinatto". Casinatto was also sometimes claimed to be the creator of the Infinity +1 Sword "Murasama" (a misspelling of "Muramasa" in early versions of the game).

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • In the official English translation of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, toward the end, Toko suggests that the mastermind has to be a high schooler, because they've been identified as an Ultimate, specifically, the Ultimate Despair. This doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense, but the Japanese term they translated as "Ultimate" literally means "Super High School Level", and thus would normally only be applied to a high schooler. It was changed because the phrase is overly long and sounds hopelessly awkward in English, but caused a problem here.
    • In a more severe example, Chapter 4 of Super Danganronpa 2 involves the characters debating over what the Octagon is. Since there's no other words that can really describe "Octagon", the localization keeps the names, even though it now makes it look like everyone forgot what an Octagon isnote .
  • The major significance of Rena from Higurashi: When They Cry's Meaningful Rename from "Reina" to "Rena" is this. Rena actually changed the writing of the name from kanji to katakana (which was very rare in the early 1980s). Fans who don't know about the Japanese writing system miss this importance and simply believe that Rena just removed the "i" from her name, making it seem rather melodramatic.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
    • One of the biggest twists of the game is that the line given out by Zero, "An exist is hidden, but it can be found. Seek a door. Seek a door that carries a 9", wasn't "seek a door that carries a 9" at all. But rather "seek a door that carries a q. Therefore meaning that the door's digital root number was actually 8, with Q being 26 in base-22. Near the start of the game, the rules of the game are read out by Junpei from a piece of paper, who must have mistake the q as a 9 when reading them out, which makes sense. But the moments in which characters think about Zero speaking the lines over the speaker doesn't make much sense with the twist in the English version. In Japanese, 9 is pronounced "Kyuu", making 9 and Q hard to distinguish audibly.
    • When discussing whether or not Zero is on the ship with them, Ace mentions how when Zero addressed them, he referred to the ship they were all on as "this ship" and that he wouldn't refer to it as "this" ship unless he was on it himself. This seems like flimsy logic, although the logic holds more water in Japanese, where referring to something by "this", rather then "that", has a much stricter meaning, and directly indicates that the user is in some way involved. In English, referring to something as "this [object]" doesn't hold as much meaning.
    • In the Operating Room, Junpei will have a Covert Pervert moment when examining a purple liquid bottle. In the Japanese version, Love Interest Akane's codename is "Murasaki", which means "Purple", and Junpei examining the bottle of "Murasaki liquid" gets his mind in the gutter. But, since in the English version, Akane's codename is "June", and has nothing to do with color, the joke becomes incomprehensible.
  • Virtue's Last Reward:
    • One of the game's bad endings has Clover manipulating Sigma into picking betray by seducing him, with the former promising the latter that she'll "listen to anything he says" if he picks betray. Of course, when she then gains her 9 BP and ditches everyone, she says that she promised she'd only listen to what Sigma had to say, not that she'd actually do anything. This sort of makes Sigma seem like an extremely gullible idiot. In the Japanese version, the phrase she uses in her promise is one that's used casually as an affectionate/seductive expression to mean the speaker will do anything that's asked of them, but does literally mean "I'll listen to whatever you say".
    • Continuing from the big example in 999 above, near the end of the game, the last puzzle room is called "Q". Tenmyouji's response to this is to call whoever is in charge a smartass. As once again, the Q/9 thing doesn't really translate (especially since it's an uppercase Q instead of a lower case q), Tenmyouji's line doesn't really make much sense in English though in Japanese it's another hint that he's really Junpei from the first game.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In-Universe, a certain witness from case 3 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney is somewhat prone to this due to being a foreigner. This naturally becomes a plot point when they cause a contradiction in their testimony by mistakenly referring to a vent as a window.
    • From Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, the veterinarian, Herman Crab, is described within various out of game sources as having a large potty-mouth which likes to run itself a lot. In the Japanese version, he often refers to Sniper, the penguin chick, by "kono yarou", which is a phrase that usually gets translated to "you bastard". The phrase, just like other such words in Japan, isn't actually profanity however. The severity of how inappropriate it is to say it depends on how the phrase is said. In this sense, any form of such insult isn't really inappropriate. In the English version, to try and recreate this, they have Dr. Crab call Sniper a "son of a gun". Although this obviously makes the entire "he has a large potty mouth" part of his character, less apparent, considering he's obviously purposefully censoring himself. Although this actually created a pretty clever pun in itself, in the fact that Sniper, in a sense, is literally the son of a gun. Aka, Rifle the Penguin.
  • Spirit Hunter: NG:
    • In the Screaming Author case, Akira overhears a young girl complaining that she's starving. In the original Japanese, the word she used was in a dialect that Akira wasn't familiar with, thus he couldn't parse what she said. In the English version, he's never heard the word "famished" and mistakes it for a name, with Ban baffled that he could make such an error. It stands out as odd since otherwise, Akira doesn't have any problem with large words (and would possibly be familiar with "famished", given that he used to live in poverty and would skip meals often).
    • When meeting her for the first time, Ooe mistakes Momo Kuruse for Banana Kuruse. "Momo" is peach in Japanese, meaning that Ooe got her fruits mixed up, but this isn't clear in the English version.

    Web Animation 
  • The Fan Sub of Homestar Runner (as seen here) can't possibly begin to translate as many of the puns and wordplay as the characters can make in the original language. Woolseyism helps a lot: for example, "hot Jones" becomes "heißen Jacob", a German coffee brand.
  • Paul and Storm's "The Captain's Wife's Lament" spawned a popular Machinima video using World of Warcraft, which in turn spawned one fan sub in Spanish. Unfortunately, the central pun of the song doesn't work in Spanish, so if you go by the sub it just becomes... a song about pirates being in unlikely places.

    Web Comics 
  • Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are similar enough that speakers can generally understand each other if they talk slowly. But Danish numerals sound really strange to Norwegians and Swedes, as lampshaded in this Scandinavia and the World strip where the author translates Danish numbers literally.
  • Tower of God: Bam's meaningful name (it means Night) and its homonymity to chestnut in Korean can't be properly translated, so several puns and metaphors need translator notes to explain them.
  • Schlock Mercenary had an in-universe example, with translations of the name of the Oafan AI "T'kkkuts-Afa". "Afa" means "wind", but has multi-layered religious connotations, and "T'kkkuts" designates something that is either destroyed or destructive. Several of the grunts dub the entity "Broken Wind" and make plenty of fart jokes, until someone points out that while "Broken Wind" might be literally accurate, so is "Angry God". An actual Oafan later suggests the translation "Breath Weapon", as "Afa" really isn't usually associated with what humans would identify as deities, and "Angry" severely undersells just how insane and destructive "T'kkkuts-Afa" actually is.

    Web Original 
  • CLW Entertainment: According to Collin, he used complete guesswork when translating "TV & Disc Do's And Don't's", a Doraemon short. As a result, the original moral of "watch TV in a well-lit room and don't sit too close or watch too much" was turned into simply "don't watch too much TV".

    Western Animation 
  • Angela Anaconda:
    • The antagonist is a pretentious rich girl that speaks French and brags about her collection of French things. The French localization didn't change any dialog or edit any imagery, resulting in something that made no sense for the French audience.
  • Asterix has some of the best translations for all languages it has been translated, complete with new puns for each language. However, in Brazilian DVDs of its old cartoons, the translator decided not to use the French to Portuguese translation, but rather a French to English to Portuguese translation. All of the puns were lost, and so 70% of the cartoons was lost with it.
  • An episode of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the '80s included a quest involving a hare. In English, the confusion between the words hair and hare are played up as the adventurers think they are looking for hair. In the version aired in Mexico, this was explained with one of the characters saying, "Oh, you mean the hair on the rabbit!"

    The Brazilian dub didn't deal with it too well either. The hare/hair wordplay was simplified by having the quest refer to a "white thing", which makes the main characters seem completely dumb for not noticing the bright white rabbit being held right there, in plain sight. Plus, Diana holding her hair while explaining the whole thing became a complete non-sequitur.
  • A Running Gag in the Fairly OddParents episode "Fairly Oddlympics" involves that whenever somebody shouts "cheater", Cupid gives them a cheetah. In most non-English speaking countries, this joke doesn't make much sense, because the words for "cheater" and "cheetah" do not sound similar to each other in their respective language.
  • Any humor in the pun-filled episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, "Pun Times with Punsie McHale", will be lost once translated and aired in a non-English speaking country. All that shall remain will be the horror...
  • The German dubs of The Simpsons and Futurama are infamous for their literal (some might say "plain bad") translation, including sometimes brand names or even band names, which led to a lot of stilted sounding lines of dialogue and rendered quite a few jokes incomprehensible. For example, in "Lisa the Simpson" a baseball cap is described as being "offensive". The German dub translates this with the identically sounding "offensiv", which however doesn't mean "insulting" in German, but rather "aggressive".note 
    • Also, Sideshow Bob's "Die Bart Die" tattoo. Since the German word for "die" sounds nothing like the German word for "the", this became a non-sequitur as Bob explained its "true" meaning.
  • The Italian dub of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic. In particular, the episode "Owl's Well That Ends Well" has a scene where Spike falls asleep in a nearly-empty punch bowl and Pinkie comments that "the punch has been Spiked" - in the Italian version, the line was rendered as "Look, the punch is finished... or should we say Spikished?"
    • The episode "May the Best Pet Win" has a Running Gag where Fluttershy corrects those who call Tank a turtle (an aquatic animal), rather than a tortoise (a land animal). This works much worse in the Polish dub, as this language doesn't have entirely separate words for both animals; the Polish terms for "turtle" and "tortoise" are basically "aquatic tortoise" and "land-based tortoise". So, in the Polish dub every time someone mentions that Tank's a tortoise, Fluttershy pops up to completely unnecessarily note that he's "land-based".
  • While most of the time Voice Acting in Latin Spanish dubbing is good, the translators themselves tend to do a lot of mistakes or forget to research previous works. Hence there was an episode in X-Men: Evolution when Juggernaut was translated as "Hacker" (precisely before the real Hacker character appeared making it completely meaningless).note  A sudden change in the translation of Juggernaut from "Destroyer" to "Leviathan".
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Latin dub translated the nickname "Twinkle-Toes" as two different things (one for each season where it's used), and a lot of Sokka's humor got lost in translation.
    • In the very first episode a point is made that bending is not magic. But in Russian there's no other way to refer to the stuff they do that would sound natural, so the benders are called "mages", and that point is lost.
  • The Tex Avery catoon "Symphony In Slang" is about a man telling his life story with lots and lots of idiomatic expressions, all of it illustrated by Visual Puns (e.g. someone's "old flame" is depicted as an actual humanoid mass of fire, someone "draws a gun" on the hero... with a ballpoint pen, etc.) The cartoon was dubbed into Polish, and is still occasionally shown on the TV there. How did the translators manage to translate all this wordplay, you ask? Well, they didn't. All the idioms were translated literally; result—seven minutes of utter gibberish. Really, this is definitely the kind of a work which one shouldn't even attempt to translate.
  • There are several Tex Avery and Looney Tunes cartoons where a character, witnessing someone else's bizarre or dimwitted behavior, holds up a card with an image of a screw and a baseball. It's a Visual Pun ("screwball"). This just becomes baffling when the cartoons get dubbed into other languages.
  • Every fourth wall joke built around the commercial break is lost in Italy, where the law forbids commercial breaks into 20-minute cartoons.
  • The famous Let's Get Dangerous! line from Darkwing Duck becomes a bland "Hay que entrar en acción" (let's get into action) in Spain, ruining a lot of jokes about "danger".
  • In a relatively mild case, the joke behind Eeyore's Punny Name in A. A. Milne's original Winnie-the-Pooh books is a bit less obvious now that Disney's many, many animated adaptations have long since overshadowed the originals. Why? When said with a British accent, as Milne's original British readers would have said it, it's much more obvious that his name is meant to resemble the sound of a braying donkey ("Ee-yaw" rather than "Ee-yore"). It's easy to forget that fact today, as Disney's adaptations were all produced and acted out by Americans, who pronounce the name with a hard "r" sound. Ironically, The Narrator is the only character in Disney's adaptations to pronounce Eeyore's name correctly on a consistent basis, being British and all.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • In the episode "Accent You Hate", a school bully hated kids with funny accents, to the extent of bullying Dexter's friends and challenging him to a fight, but in the Mexican dub every trace of a funny accent is lost, so it makes no sense that he disliked Dexter's since it's completely neutral. It makes even less sense considering that Dexter's voice actor for LatAm sounds very normal and not squeaky and young as in English.
    • In the Italian dub the bully's hatred was changed to "kids who look and sound funny, especially the ones wearing glasses"... but the accent part is still there in the other bullied kids who team up with Dexter.
    • The episode "The Big Cheese", in which Dexter says "omelette du fromage" and others find this charming because Everything Sounds Sexier in French, wasn't changed or corrected in its French translation (the phrase technically should be "omelette au fromage"). In the French version of the episode, Dexter endlessly repeats "omelette of cheese" and everybody finds that romantic for no reason.
  • Le Papillon ("Butterfly") is renamed "Hawk Moth" in the English and Korean versions of Miraculous Ladybug. Hawk Moth leads a swarm of evil butterflies.
  • The song "Stronger Than You" from Steven Universe is about The Power of Love involving two female characters. The French dub originally translated it as a song about The Power of Friendship. After complaints about the dub trying to Hide Your Lesbians, it was stated to be a translation issue and the song was redubbed properly.
  • Occasionally happens in the English dub of Kaeloo, which is originally a French series.
    • In the French dub of the series pilot, Kaeloo notes that the weather is nice, and suggests playing a game called "1, 2, 3, soleil", which literally translates to "1, 2, 3, sun". In the English dub, the game is called "Red Light, Green Light, 1, 2, 3", so Kaeloo randomly brings up the game after talking about the weather.
    • In one episode, Quack Quack tries to communicate with Stumpy via Hand Signals and inform him that his stash of yogurt has been stolen. Since the French word "voler" means both "fly" and "steal", he flaps his hands like wings to explain. Stumpy asks if the yogurts have been stolen, and Quack Quack says yes. In the English dub, Stumpy asks if the yogurt flew away, and Quack Quack still says yes.
  • In the episode "Sailor Mouth" from Spongebob Squarepants, there's a scene where Spongebob and Patrick are wondering what Mr. Krabs will do against them for swearing, Spongebob says "We'll probably get 40 lashes" and Patrick says "Oh no!" and imagines himself with several eyelashes. The brazilian dub kept that scene but translated it literally, which completely destroyed the pun (as the words for "lashes" and "eyelashes" doesn't sound similar in Portuguese). It arguably did still work as a joke, due to Patrick's thought being entertainingly nonsensical in the dub, but the original joke was completely lost.

    Real Life 
  • Most Punny Names only work in the original langauge, as the puns tend to be based on certain words sounding the same, or nearly so, and it's unlikely that in another language the words will be that similar. To cite a specific example: the Level Ate trope works because "ate" and "eight" sound the same. whereas in Spanish the equivalent words (comio and ocho, respectively) don't sound at all alike.
  • In English, half eight means 08.30; in German 'halb acht' means 07.30. In the dub of Bang Boom Bang, the translators got some instances right but then other instances wrong.
    • This idiom, as well as "a quarter eight", varies in English dialects (say between Canadian, British, and American English) and with regional dialects as well. A good translator would be able to understand the idiom at both ends of translation, but local or regional variances may still cause confusion with an already ambiguous statement.
    • English as spoken in much of America uses "quarter past", "half past" and "quarter till/to" due to this confusion. Examples would include 3:15, 3:30, and 3:45 being "quarter past 3," "half past 3," and "quarter till 4," respectively.
    • South African English does the same. However, occasionally you will hear some people mention something like "half three", which would mean 2:30, since it's halfway to 3.
    • It also existd in Germany, where in the North, it is common to say "quarter until eight" and "quarter after eight", but in the South, most people will say "three quarter eight" and "quarter nine". Northerners moving south always need some time to get used to it, while the other way round it is quite obvious.
    • Norwegian custom uses "kvart på/etter" (quarter on/after) to denote :45 and :15 respectively, but "half four" is 3:30. Some Norwegians alternatively prefer 24-hour time, e.g. "nineteen thirty-five of the clock"
    • In Russian, when quarters and halves are used, it usually means quarter/half OF the hour you're saying, as opposed to the hour PLUS what you're saying. It can be confusing, since Russian uses suffixes instead of many conjunctions and all articles. "Quarter fourth" is 3:15.
  • Written time can cause confusion as well — for instance, the examples above would all be considered to related to the morning for those parts of the world that use the 24-hour clock.
  • Related to written time is numerical dates: for example, 12-01-09 to most of the Western world would mean the 12th of January 2009, while in most Eastern countries, it would mean the 9th of January 2012; and in the USA and a few other countries, it would be the 1st of December 2009.
    • However, as XKCD notes, 2009-01-12 is unambiguously January 12. To remember this, know the principle behind it: it lets you sort dates as though digits were letters of the alphabet, which is easier to program into a computer.
  • James Randi, when interviewed by a Japanese newspaper, jokingly mentioned that a person he once talked to performed a Seen-It-All Suicide. The newspaper took it literally.
    • Sarcasm's not really big in much of East Asia. In fact frequently, when a Japanese person says something was "an American style joke"...they mean it was a lie.
  • Ever wonder why DVD players from different manufacturers do not always play discs as expected? The reason is because the DVD video specification was developed by an initially-Japanese consortium and published in a licensed manual printed in Japanese; early licensees of the DVD specification who were based outside of Japan had to translate from this manual to their native language when developing DVD players or commercial DVD-authoring software. Small parts of the manual that were incorrectly machine-translated unintentionally introduced minor incompatibilities among some of the early DVD players compared to those released later when an American English specification manual was made available.
  • They stole the giraffe's what now?
  • Often, the word "disc" (in DVD context) is translated into "disk" in Swedish, even though the Swedish word for "disc" is "skiva." "Disk" usually means "dishes" (as in, what you use a dishwasher for.) Swedish did use "Diskett" (disc-ette) for "floppy disc" and still uses "hårddisk" for hard drive, so it isn't as big a linguistic abomination as it may seem, though.
  • Some Cebuano (a Visayan language branch) jokes in the Philippines can confuse foreigners when translated since they seem to be lame jokes or simple puns yet can still get uproarious laughter from the native audience. This is because "Bisdak" note  humor has a lot to do with how the whole joke is pronounced, with minor inflections making or breaking the joke. This also makes up the humor of many of the Bisaya Gag Dubs is YouTube: it's not only the incongruity of characters in Western movies speaking Cebuano, it's about the exaggeratedly colloquial way it's pronounced.
  • Nikita Khrushchev's famous "Мы вас закопаем" ("We will bury you") quote was taken by many in 'the West' (NATO et. al) to be a promise of nuclear holocaust. While that was the literal translation of what he said, it was in fact a Russian-language proverb. The metaphorical meaning was that the Soviet Union would outlive the capitalist countries and be there to help out at their proverbial funerals.
  • The term Not Safe for Work has no equivalent in many languages, as it's normally considered formal/legal speech in English, especially in American English. Other languages refrain from using that kind of speech outside specific backgrounds. Per example, in Spanish the term is translated as Se Recomienda Discreción (Discretion advised) or sometimes, between younger people, it's normally left untranslated from English.
  • There are many words and terminology in Spanish that are very difficult to translate into English or other languages, due to the contextual nature of the language and the fact that the language is spoken in many countries:
    • The use of the term "Intellectual Property" (IP) is considered in English as formal speech, but in other languages is considered as legal speech, and as such, it's not used outside the field of law. This is especially egregious in Mexican Spanish, when the acronym IP stands for Iniciativa Privada. (Private Initiative, translated context-wise as "Private (non-government owned) enterprises")
    • In Spanish, the word ardilla stands for both squirrels and chipmunks, but not vice-versa. When both creatures are described in separated terms, the word "squirrel" is normally translated as just plain ardilla, while "chipmunk" is translated in scientific backgrounds as ardilla rayada (stripped chipmunk) or tamia, albeit no one of those terms are used in normal speech in Spanish. This causes lots of confusion between Spanish-speaking viewers when dealing with squirrel and chipmunk characters, like Alvin and the Chipmunks (Known in Spanish as Alvin y las ardillas) , Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, who are chipmunks, and Slappy Squirrel (Spanish name: Slappy Ardilla), who is a squirrel.
    • In a similar way, turtles and tortoises are named as tortugas in Spanish, but not viceversa, since they're related. In scientific terms, however, tortoises are named "tortugas gigantes" (Giant turtles), compared with their smaller cousins.
    • A subversion of this happens in Japanese: While turtles and tortoises are commonly named as "kame" (亀), their giant cousins are named as "rikugame" (陸亀) instead in scientific backgrounds.
    • The word bully doesn't have a very good translation in that language. Many translators leave the word untranslated or it's sometimes translated as Acosador but that word is normally translated as "stalker", and it's not a good equivalent. Some online translators like Google Translate, translate the word as Matón, but that word is normally translated as "hitman" in Spanish. There's lots of heated discussions about how to properly translate "bully" in Spanish, to the point the topic could became into a Flame War.
  • The English language, especially the American dialect, is very analogy-based and full of idioms that translated literally in languages without its proper context could lose its meaning in other languages that don't do this, like Japanese, Spanish and possibly others, as you can see in this example:note 
    English text with idioms: The staff member responsible for the rejection is not familiar with the politics of the day, and didn’t realize he used dog whistling language.
    English text with the idioms removed: The staff member responsible for the rejection is not familiar with the politics of the day, and didn’t realize he used discriminatory language used in coded form.
  • The political term Impeachment doesn't have a good equivalent in almost any language outside English, Japanese, Korean, and some others, since its use is mostly exclusive from countries using The Common Law, and other languages doesn't have an equivalent in the own legal codes. In other countries, the closest equivalent would be "motion of no confidence" or other terms, It should be noted that, due to its ties with the Common Law, the word is normally left untranslated from English in other languages in order to keep the nuance between any other used local term for the same legal procedure and the English one.
  • Some languages, like English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and many others don't have grammatical genders for many words and it can be a pain to translate to languages that features them, like Spanish, Italian, French, Norwegian, etc, especially when the original author keeps the gender of the person as ambiguous. This can become nightmarish when Values Dissonance are involved, especially when the Ambiguous Gender Identity trope is involved between countries when that trope is normally accepted or tolerated and countries when this is definitely out of question.
  • Emoji:
    • As emoji were developed initially for the Japanese market, they contain a lot of symbols that only have meanings in a Japanese cultural context, causing Western users to find other uses for them. According to research, "Fish Cake With Swirl Design" tends to be used as a negative 'downwards spiral' symbol in many western countries (where most people have never seen a narutomaki before), and "Face With Look Of Triumph" looks to Westerners like someone being "steaming mad" (the allegorical expression about someone being so angry that smoke came out of their nostrils) rather than the haughty snort that it appears to be to Japanese users. This makes each culture's use of emoji confusing to the other, annulling one of the main benefits of using emoji.
    • The 'Emoji Gap' refers to the difference in emoji appearence between different providers' emoji sets which alter meaning. One particularly alarming example of this is Apple's decision to replace their "Gun" emoji with a water pistol to protest gun violence, which has the effect of translating an iPhone user's playful threat into a serious death threat to a user on any other platform. The Apple version of "Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes" for a while looked like a grimace or cringe on that platform, but appeared happy on others, causing its art to be changed. Android inexplicably rendered "Yellow Heart" as a pink heart with hair growing out of it for a while.
    • Certain emoji with no clear meaning have developed different meanings on different social media. On Twitter, "Upside Down Face" is used to indicate something like 'I'm smiling because if I don't I'll lose control of my emotions' ("found the lunchbox I lost six months ago while clearing out my room, and when I move it I can hear the sound of cockroaches skittering around inside 🙃"), while on Instagram it indicates being goofy ("i dont usually wear colourful stuff but its fun to try out new LEWKS while im still young lol! 🙃"). "Thinking Face" is virtually never used without sarcasm on the more 'extremely online' platforms like Twitter and Reddit, instead being used to indicate a ridiculous train of logic or draw attention to an implicit but obvious conclusion ("all the guys spamming her with seemingly reasonable questions were posters on Holocaust denial boards 🤔"); on more 'normie' platforms like Facebook and Instagram it's often used sincerely to indicate thinking ("what would Jesus think about the way we talk about ourselves? 🤔"), which ends up reading very oddly to people who have absorbed the tone one of one or the other platform.
      • Platforms like Discord that allow for custom emojis sometimes get around this by using a crudely-drawn version of 🤔 usually referred to as "thonk" to denote the sarcastic usage, though.
    • Only Apple has the license to use Space Invaders as the icon for the Alien emoji, and other carriers use generic aliens. Apple users often use it to represent 'video games', which is incoherent to users on other platforms.
    • The "Blood Type Indicator B" emoji was designed to indicate the B blood type, for the purpose of Japanese fortune-telling services. In the West, where most people don't care about blood types, it tends to get used as a deliberately gaudy substitute for Bs and other letters in a popular form of shitposting (referencing the Bloods). It goes without saying that it would be extremely difficult to explain to a Japanese person why just posting the emoji "🅱" (and only that letter) is funny.
  • Brook Busey-Maurio pen name Diablo Cody was chosen after she finds out that Diablo means "Devil" in Spanish. Problem is it means male devil. Words in Spanish have gender and the "o" termination normally reflects masculinity (for example gato = male cat and gata = female cat). The correct usage for a woman's name would be Diabla Cody. This is why a lot of people in Spanish-speaking countries thought that Juno's creator was a man and is even refer as "El escritor de Juno, Diablo Cody" (the [male] writer of Juno, Diablo Cody) in some media.
  • A famous battle was fought near the River Plate / Río de la Plata in 1939 in which the German pocket battleship Graf Spee was defeated by three British cruisers and subsequently scuttled itself in Montevideo harbor. For the British, and most English-speaking military historians thereafter, this event became "The Battle of the River Plate." This is an abomination to Spanish speakers on two counts: first, "plata" means "silver", and second, the Spanish word for "plate" is "plato". Even worse, sometimes the name is misspelled "Platte", which is the name of a river in the United States! Some people now refer to the "La Plata River", which is accurate enough. However, as late as 2017, a map of the area published by Microsoft still reads "River Plate".
  • The proverb Luck favours the bold, which is in original Latin audaces Fortuna iuvat. Unfortunately this proverb is a Broken Aesop in the original language. The stem word is audax, which means "bold" in the sense of "insolent", "impudent", "uppity", "rude" and "outrageous", giving English language the word "audacious". The proverb is intended to mean "know when it is time to break the rules and not get caught", not that "be brave and you will succeed".
  • An anatomy paper in PLOS ONE written by Chinese-national authors referred to (mother)nature as a "creator" because how one of the scientists (who was neither a native English speaker, nor professional translator) translated the Chinese word, resulting in an outcry among British and American scientists, bringing increased scrutiny on the paper, which it didn't survive. China, of course, has a very different religious tradition than the UK or US, and the furthest thing in a Chinese scientist's mind conducting state-sponsered research in an officially atheist state, just before their leader reaffirmed China's committment to atheism, would be to be mistaken for an American/British-style creationist. It's now an example in ESL materials how even having a high level of formal knowledge in a specific domain does not prevent the need of native speaker consultation, as even one single poorly translated word can have serious professional ramifications, especially if that word has a lot of cultural baggage to the listerner.

    This Very Wiki 
  • The English home page of TV Tropes describes itself as being "a buttload more informal" than Wikipedia, a turn of phrase which is nearly impossible to translate into other languages (and indeed seems not to have been) because of all the implications about the speaker and slight differences between different words used in English for bottom.
  • The joke about Chekov's Gun being confused with Chekhov's Gun will tend to confuse any German troper, because Chekov is Chekov, but Chekhov is Tschechow. (Half a dozen other Pun problems were omitted for length reasons.)


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