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Translation with an Agenda

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Translators are professional people who would never put their political ideology, religion or other such opinions above their job, and would never violate the text in order to advance their own views.

Well, most of them, anyway.

This trope is about the exceptions. Translators or editors that would, yes, and do, yes, ignore or twist the original meaning of a word or text in order to advance their point of view. Serious translators consider this an utterly unprofessional and even evil breach of ethics and of the reader's trust. Unprofessional ones, however, couldn't care less, and the result is a Translation with an Agenda.

These are translations that gleefully ignore or twist the original text in order to pursue a political agenda either of the translator or of the editor/employer of the translator. Whereas a Tactful Translation is meant to smoothen the edges of a situation, a Woolseyism is essentially a distilled translation or a translation with Dub Induced Plotline Changes tends to have cultural or logistical reasons, a Translation with an Agenda is done solely to advance a political, religious, or otherwise ideological goal — twisting or ignoring the original work by, say, falsely identifying villains in it with one's political opponents, or mistranslating a "good" adjective as something more specific related to one's agenda, or even by simply mistranslating most or all of the text to make it a tract on one's views. Note that this isn't a mere mistake or simple unconscious bias — there is actual, conscious intent to make the translation fit one's views, regardless of what is said in the original text.

Needless to say, fans, translators, and translator fans who realize what's going on get quite furious, with good reason.

Sister Trope to Trolling Translator, which is when a translator deliberately mistranslates because it's amusing. Compare Twisting the Words, when this happens in the original language.

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In-Universe Examples:

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Goths, the Gallic-Goth translator is threatened with death if he can't convince Getafix to make magic potion. When Getafix naturally refuses, the translator instead says the druid is agreeing - all so he can escape before the chief catches on.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Garfield strip, Garfield announces he's going to translate whatever Odie is going to say. "Bark bark bark", says Odie. "Cats are smarter than dogs," says Garfield. The look on Odie's face makes it clear he was not saying "cats are smarter than dogs."
  • Discussed in Mafalda, where the main character ponders doing this as an UN translator so she can help achieve world peace.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Reds: In order to better motivate a crowd of Muslims to support the Bolsheviks, Zinoviev uses this trope to replace Reed's call to class war with a call to jihad.
  • In The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom, MacBride makes the mistake of hiring Mityushin to translate for him when he speaks to Zina. When MacBride says something romantic to her, a drunken Mityushin chooses to translate it as an accusation of her being a Gold Digger.
  • Denial: One of the many things Deborah Lipstadt accuses David Irving of is that he does this with documents from Nazi Germany to push forward his claim that the Holocaust never happened. She gets in touch with another historian that also knows German to prove her point during the trial.
  • The Last of the Mohicans has a heroic example. Several of the protagonists are captured by the Hurons after the British convoy is ambushed following the Battle of Fort William Henry. Chief Sachem initially wants to burn Colonel Munroe's daughter Cora to satisfy the grudge that Hurons, especially Huron war leader Magua have against Munroe, while making a point of sparing Munroe's other daughter Alice. At this point Hawkeye offers to die in her place but, not being able to speak French, he tells Duncan to translate this offer for him. Duncan deliberately ignores Hawkeye's demand, instead offering to trade himself for Cora. Sachem agrees to this.
  • Under the Sun: Olaf is an illiterate farmer, who has fallen in love with his housekeeper Ellen, who turns out to be secretly married. Ellen, who does not know that Olaf is illiterate, leaves a good-bye note in which she confesses that she's married, proclaims her love for him, and says she'll sort things out. Olaf gives the note to his friend Erik to read. Erik, jealous of the Olaf-Ellen romance, maliciously makes up a completely different message, pretending that the note says Erik gave her money to pay off a debt and she left with it, and leaving out the declaration of love.

  • A famous, and somewhat universal, joke has a translator interpreting what a captured rich man is saying, and vice versa his captors. Repeated demands for the location of a treasure, threatening the hostage's life, only get the answer "I won't tell." from the hostage — until one of the bandits draws a weapon, at which point the hostage shouts where the treasure is hidden. The (clearly greedy) translator looks at the other bandits, and says "He says you don't have the balls to shoot him, boss."

  • Teriana from Dark Shores has been forced to help Marcus and his legions conquer Dark Shores but she constantly tries to undermine their efforts, sometimes with the help of creative translation (as for a time she is the only person who speaks local languages).
  • The Devil's Dictionary defines an interpreter as "one who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter's advantage for the other to have said".
  • Discworld: In The Fifth Elephant, Gaspode the Wonder Dog helps Carrot question a rescued wolf, but in the process casts Carrot as a wolf-hating psycho who has poisoned the chicken he's offering as a bribe.
    Carrot watched the wolf flee.
    "Odd," he said. "You've have thought it'd be hungry, wouldn't you?"
    Gaspode looked up from the roast chicken. "Wolves, eh?" he said, indistinctly.
  • In Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot story "The Stymphalian Birds", two conwomen stage the murder of an Invented Individual who they claim is the abusive husband of one of them in a Central European country and get the mark to give them money that they claim they will use to bribe the police to cover up the murder. Since the mark is a monolingual Englishman, he has to trust them to do all the talking to the police. They get caught when they later translate an innocent conversation with another guest as that guest revealing that she knows about the murder and demanding a payoff. At that point, the mark consults fellow guest Hercule Poirot about the apparent Blackmail, and the con unravels.
  • Planet of Adventure. The Wankhmen, humans who are a Servant Race of the alien Wankh, have been doing this for centuries to maintain their privileged position. The Wankh have little interest in local affairs as they're just on the planet to keep an eye on their enemies the Dirdir, and the Wankhmen make sure that no-one else has a chance to learn the complex musical language of their masters. Being the sole conduit for information, they're able to play up the threat from the Dirdir as being much worse than it is, so the Wankh will maintain their military bases on the planet.
  • In a rare heroic example, the translator from the Sherlock Holmes story "The Greek Interpreter" exploited the kidnappers' ignorance of Greek, questioning their prisoner about the circumstances of his captivity while they thought he was interrogating him about things they wanted to know.
  • Star Trek: The Captain's Oath: During negotiations with the Agni, the translator, a Regulan-born who lost a friend during the Agni's recent attack, is persuaded by the war-hungry head of the planet's defense force to fudge the translation to make the Agni look hostile. Kirk soon spots that something's up, and she confesses, allowing them to fix things before it gets too far.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The Essential Guide to Droids stated that Cybot Galactica's 3P0-series protocol droids actually had to have creativity dampeners installed to keep them from unnecessarily embroidering their translations.
    • In X-Wing: Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge Antilles and a few of his squadmates have been roped into a diplomatic mission to the neutral world of Adumar, whose Hat is an obsession with fighter pilots killing each other for honor points. The locals speak enough Basic for Wedge and the others to get by, but he still relies heavily on his diplomatic advisor to navigate any cultural issues. Said advisor gets increasingly irritated with Wedge for not engaging in lethal duels with the natives like the Imperial delegation is doing, until Wedge accuses him of overstepping his authority for the sake of the mission. Things come to a head when their host country's leader declares himself ruler of the whole planet and asks for the foreign pilots' assistance bringing the rest of the world to heel — Wedge of course refuses, and the diplomat hurries over to try to phrase things more politely. But instead the diplomat tells the local ruler a sob story about Wedge dearly wanting to aid him in his war of conquest, but being trapped by his other obligations, with an honorable death in battle his only escape. So the ruler declares Wedge and the other New Republic pilots fugitives, making them fair game for anyone out to earn some personal honor by murdering them, and forcing the heroes to fight their way to safety.
  • Subverted in Lawrence Block's Tanner's Twelve Swingers where despite his boss' request that he "translate" an eastern European political author's latest book in a way which would be more favorable to the western countries, especially the US, the title character fully intended to translate it "word for glorious word."
  • Warlock of Gramarye: In A Wizard in Chaos, a boss' steward is deliberately mistranslating prices quoted by merchants and taking the excess. This lands him in trouble when the protagonist, a telepath, shows up.
  • In The Saga of Tanya the Evil, the title character notices something strange in the translations of the Rus soldiers captured in the Imperial invasion of their territory, and has her second lieutenant, a Heroic Russian Émigré, to sit around one such interrogation and give her unbiased translation. Sure enough, the military translators are exaggerating the soldiers' hardline Communist leanings - whatever worry they have about the invasion has very little to do with political leanings. Irritated at how the translators are obsessively conflating the Rus people with Communism, she makes a private suggestion to her superiors to dispense with the Army's in-house translators and switch to Imperial scholars.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Planet of the Ood", the slavers' presentation reveals that they offer a selection of translation devices to make the eponymous race's speech conform to what their masters want to hear, thus creating the illusion of Happiness in Slavery.
  • Scrubs: One time JD had a patient who only spoke German and asked the patient's brother to help him break some bad news about his prognosis, the brother instead told him everything was going to be fine, and JD was wondering why the patient was taking it so well until he repeated the brother's exact words to Elliot (who speaks German).
    • In another instance Elliot trolls Dr. Cox when he (in his regular dismissive manner) asks her for a German translation of some medical info ("your lungs have fluid in them") to relay to a patient. She gives him a German phrase that means "Your wife has great tits." As an added bonus, this is said while Cox thinks he is miming a pair of lungs.
  • One episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day names the Translation with an Agenda process "Harry Bosco" after an In-Universe example. In this episode, figuring out what was actually said before the translation was Harry Boscoed is a major plot point.
  • An episode of Into the West sees a dispute over a cattle between some Mormon caravaners and a local Lakota village. When US troops arrive to settle the dispute, they find that the only person who can speak Lakota and English is a drunk scout who intentionally mistranslates what the Lakota chief is saying to portray them as more belligerent than they are. The Lakota know something is amiss but can't get their point across to the officer in charge. The whole situation ends with the massacre of the Lakota village.

  • MAD
    • The magazine ran a series of Newspaper Comic strips which had been (allegedly) adapted by the Soviet Union, re-translated into English, which had the various characters bemoaning their fates or otherwise delivering very unsubtle stabs at the American Way. For example, in a Peanuts Halloween strip which showed the kids going Trick or Treating, the speeches were changed to the kids having to go begging door to door to get something to eat and being so embarrassed by having to do so that they dress in costumes so nobody will see their shame.
    • There was a "Mad Look At" strip where a man was speaking at a political rally with someone translating into Sign Language. Everyone in the room gets offended. The last panel is the interpretor being paid by the man's opponent.

  • In Bang-Bang-a-Boom!, Loozly loiters around the alien Gholos; the entity's language is so complex, even the Doctor can't understand it, so Loozly translates for him, keeping his species' traditional hardline stance against Angvians. It turns out Gholos is actually part of a delegation trying to strike a peace treaty with the Angvians Loozly is ferociously against, so he's been translating his pleas for help as insults and bravado.

  • This is a recurring theme in the play Old Wicked Songs, as pianist Stephen Hoffman and his teacher Josef Mashkan translate foreign language songs into English. At first, Hoffman translates the songs more or less literally, while Mashkan insists that some deviation is needed to capture the true meaning of the songs; Hoffman is initially resistant, but comes around. In both cases, it's clear that in making these less-than-literal translations, Mashkan and Hoffman are bringing their own feelings to bear on the words.

    Video Games 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the HK-50 droids masquerade as protocol droids (who among other things work as translators) to spread anarchy and war by ruining diplomatic confrontations. Judging by some of the cut content (where you see the place they're manufactured and trained), they are not at all subtle about it, often opening conversations with vile insults and overt threats they attribute to their "masters".
  • in Sam & Max Save the World, Sam is tasked as the translator between Whizzer and the president, despite the fact that both speak English. The president nonetheless insists that he can't understand anything Whizzer says, so Sam has to deliberately mistranslate in order to accomplish his goals.
  • Mass Effect: Averted, but the aversion itself is an agenda. The normally-insular Batarian Hegemony makes a point of providing up-to-date glossaries and language rules to the rest of the galaxy, in order to facilitate the spread of their propaganda.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • Solas speaks Elvish better than anyone else in the series (yes, including other elves), and occasionally mutters full sentences, instead of just peppering a word here and there like all the other elves do. If you ask what he said, his translations are always at least a little bit wrong. For example, at the Well of Sorrows, he tells Abelas "Malas Amelin ne Halam, Abelas." Solas tells the Inquisitor he hoped that Abelas would find a new name, since Abelas means "sorrow." It actually translates as "Now the blood is finished," a reference to the "blood writing" ancient elves used to identify themselves as slaves to their gods (and modern elves use as tribal markings).
    • Downplayed with Iron Bull. When the Inquisitor finds out that his qunari name/rank is "Hisraad," Bull says that it translates as "weaver of illusions." Another qunari bluntly says that it just means "liar."
      Iron Bull: Well you don't have to say it like that.
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn: One of the flashbacks shows a sailor who only speakes Chinese being executed for murder, with the captain stating that he confessed to the crime. The very next flashback shows you that murder... and the killer is someone completely different. You later learn that there's one person on the ship who speaks both English and Chinese, and he was in collaboration with the actual murderer. The circumstances surrounding the Chinese sailor's death then become clear.
  • A random event in Stellaris can have an ambassador's Translator Microbes hacked by an outside faction in a bid to damage relations between two empires. In this case, it is not so much the translator who has an agenda but the people putting words in the translator's mouth.

  • In Alone, Together the main characters Danni and Jerom are soldiers from two different nations that were recently at war stranded on an island together, neither speaks the other's native tongue and Danni never heard that the war ended. Eventually some pirates come by and Jerom speaks to them in an island trade language, asking one who speaks Danni's language to tell her that the war is over. The pirate tells her that the war is still going on. However, she happens to speak the trade language.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, we have Zimmy, who translates for the Polish-speaking Gamma. Zimmy has a tendency to "translate" a lot of what other people say into insults, to prevent Gamma from making friends with anyone else, and thus keep her around.
  • Tuuri Hotakainen of Stand Still, Stay Silent is the only member of the expedition who can translate Finnish. Her cousin Lalli doesn't speak anything but Finnish... and Tuuri has a history of dismissing Lalli's perspective when she wants him to go along with something. This affects how she conveys orders from Sigrun and translates his scouting reports

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation file SCP-140 describes a Tome of Eldritch Lore chronicling an Always Chaotic Evil Empire, the Daevites, whose history is laden with insanely horrible Black Magic and slavery, which seems to be struggling to become real again after being Ret-Gone. SCP-6140 turns this on its head, revealing 140's author as Thomas Bruce, a single racist British man, who heard a few nasty incidents about the real SCP-6140 (a perfectly normal nation renowned mostly for its agricultural techniques but carrying an unfortunately unsavory history), and decided they were like that all the time. He then used a bit of magic to delete the whole country from history so his book would be the only available chronicle. The truth comes out when all copies of SCP-140 are destroyed... and the real Daevastan comes back. The Foundation reclassifies the file, admitting they were wrong, making the whole thing public to all Foundation staff, and asks everyone to use the proper names and make an effort to reconcile the realities to quash Bruce's racist diatribe for good.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, a yeti/abominable snowman they are with creates a lynch mob out of a remote village by altering what Billy asked him to say to sound like threats.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Done by Sabine Wren in "Droids in Distress". When asked to translate an Aqualish merchant's words into Basic for the benefit of Imperial minister Maketh Tua (after first arranging for her translation droid to be removed), Sabine mostly translates faithfully, but doctors the translation to give the wrong docking bay where the MacGuffin is stored, so they have time to steal it themselves.

Out-of-Universe Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • There's an infamous scanlation of Cardcaptor Sakura where Tomoyo's Love Confession to Sakura is unchanged, but presented with a Note from Ed. on the side that reads "Ewww..." It's uncertain if this was in reaction to the lesbianism, the fact that they're both underage, or to the fact that they're second cousins.
  • An editor for Commie, an anime fansub group, exaggerated this with the ED for the last episode of Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san. He altered the lyrics to express his hatred of the show and regret of picking it up in not very subtle terms:
    Woof, woof, woof, IT'S FINALLY OVER
    I don't have to work on this shit anymore
    Meow, meow, meow, I regret everything
    At least it wasn't as bad as Infinite Stratos 2
    I only did this shit cause it had Touyama Nao
    But not even she could save it
    Oh well, at least it's over
    See you for season 2!
    (which is hopefully never)
  • The 4Kids Entertainment dub of Pokémon: The First Movie went beyond 4Kids's usual practices of Bowdlerization and Cultural Translation and changed the moral from "all life is equal" to "fighting (at least to the death) is bad", which is quite a Broken Aesop in a franchise like Pokémon.
  • The Netflix 2019 redub of Neon Genesis Evangelion had a background newscast mention "leftist terrorists" (where in the original dub, they were just "terrorists") which, while allegedly a reference to the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack perpetrated by Doomsday Cult Aum Shinrikyo, still raised a lot of eyebrows. Additionally, there was a controversy over Kaworu saying "I love you" to Shinji being changed to "You are worthy of my grace", supposedly to tone down any Ho Yay. Apparently, it was closer to the original Japanese, but that didn't prevent Unfortunate Implications.
  • Jamie Marchi is known for engaging in this with Funimation simuldubs she helps write. Funimation's responses to her doing so are all over the place; sometimes they undo her political inserts, sometimes they keep and defend them. Examples:
    Tohru: What's with that outfit?
    Lucoa: Everyone was always saying something to me, so I tried toning down the exposure. How is it?
    Tohru: You should try changing your body next.
to this,
Tohru: What are you wearing that for?
Lucoa: Oh those pesky patriarchal societal demands were getting on my nerves, so I changed clothes.
Tohru: Give it a week, they'll be begging you to change back.

    Comic Books 
  • A Brazilian localization of a Batman comic had the variety that adds political bias. The translator translated "Nasty", a general insult, as a specific political slur regarding people of a certain Brazilian political party. Since the editor responsible is affiliated with a magazine well-known in Brazil for utterly hating said political party and since there's several simpler ways to translate the word into Portuguese it's clear that this trope was in play.
  • Another from Brazil: in an issue of Daredevil where Kingpin was elected mayor of New York on a populist platform with a lot of fake news the editor translated the phrase "Fisk rules" on the sign of one of his voters as "Fisk mito". "Mito" (meaning "myth") is a well-known nickname for Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right Brazilian president who is often accused of having been elected by riding a populist wave and spreading fake news.
  • The first German translator Rolf Kauka of the Asterix comics in the 1960s, under the name Siggi und Babarras, made a few rather controversial changes. The little village in Brittany was moved to the Rhine and renamed "Bonhalla" (a pun on the German capital Bonn and Walhalla), the Roman occupiers from Natolien spoke with an American accent, the Goths spoke in red letters to imply that they were Dirty Communists, and there were frequent references to German politics (both West and East). The translation generally had a rather right-wing slant. Goscinny and Uderzo were not amused and terminated their contract with Kauka and commissioned a new, more faithful and much beloved translation. Kauka would go on to publish his own comic series Fritze Blitz and Dunnerkiel, which was clearly inspired by Asterix.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield is probably one of the least politically charged comic strips in existence. Despite this, one Norwegian translation team that worked on it back in the 80's kept insisting that Straw Loser Jon subscribes to Klassekampen, a well-known left-wing newspaper.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Franco Regime had a board of censors to make sure Spaniards weren't exposed to foreign filth and dangerous political ideas. This extended to movie dubbing, and some efforts of the censors are still legendary in Spain, the most egregious one being turning the protagonists of the adulterous affair in Mogambo to an innocent-looking brother and sister, making their visually hinted relationship incestuous instead in a spectacular backfire. Another straightforwardly political one was omitting Rick's past as a fighter for the Spanish Republic in Casablanca.
  • Michael Wood's In Search of Alexander documentary, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, gets a subtle one in thanks to a pointed translation of his Greek guide Arrian. When Wood reaches what he believes to be the site of the famous Battle of Gaugamela in Iraq, he gets out his copy of Arrian and describes Alexander's preparations for war - most prominently offering up prayers to the gods Phobos and Deimos for their aid the next day. Traditionally Phobos and Deimos are translated as something like "fear" and panic" or "terror" and "disarray", but here, in the middle of Iraq, not long after the end of the second Gulf War, Wood chooses to translate them as "shock and awe"...
  • The Italian dub of Monty Python and the Holy Grail has replaced the humour with near-incomprehensible political jokes.
  • The Italian dub of Flash Gordon (1980) adds one line about workers' strikes for no reason in particular.
  • There is an old German dub from the 1950s of Casablanca, which bizarrely excises all references to Nazism and cuts those scenes that would have been obvious even without the dialogue. Thankfully a later dub was made that is more faithful to the original.

  • While the book has never been translated fully, at least some of the controversy regarding The Satanic Verses in the Arabic speaking world can be attributed to the fact that the title was sometimes deliberately translated using the word "ayat", which specifically means the verses of the Quran as opposed to its more general English title.
  • Paweł Łęczycki - a 17th century Polish Bernadine monk - was the translator of Giovanni Botero's travelogue Relazioni universali. Apart from fixing some of Botero's errors in the sections relating to Poland, Łęczycki also seemingly added some content reflecting his biases—e.g. in a listing of Greater Poland's major cities he added a bunch of cities which happened to house Bernardine convents, and in the section on Russia he put in a bunch of mean jabs at the country.
  • The Polish translation of Tony Judt's opus magnum Postwar was released in Poland with one section filled with the publisher's comments on particular excerpts. Although the text proper remained faithful to the original, quite a few notes and observations made in said comments may appear somewhat unnecessary if not downright political in nature. Aside from correcting genuine historical mistakes, most of them obviously relating to Polish history, the publisher does shove their two cents into, for instance, some of Judt's less than enthusiastic remarks on Pope John Paul II, calling those "controversial at best".
  • C. S. Lewis's Miracles was translated into Japanese by a Baptist translator who Bowdlerized a few passages to make it seem as though Lewis was The Teetotaler and a non-smoker. Lewis suspected that the changes were made on doctrinal grounds that he didn't agree with— in person, Lewis was an Anglican who was an avid beer drinker and pipe smoker.
  • Maria Davanah Headley's translation of Beowulf is a consciously feminist take on a classical poem, and she took some liberties in her translation to give the text a feminist slant. Most obviously, Grendel's mother, usually assumed to be a hideous monster like Grendel himself (based on the ambiguous term "aglæca", a word used to describe Grendel, his mother, and other monsters), is spoken of simply as a ferocious warrior woman (based on the fact that Beowulf, definitely human, is also described as "aglæca" at two points in the poem).
  • Like the Bible, the Quran is equally at the mercy of translators. The American Muslim explicitly warns mosques against accepting "free" copies of Quran translations:
    This translation may have been “free” monetarily, but there is certainly a high price to pay for such an extremist interpretation.
  • During the reign of Henry VIII in England, this was a tool that powerful people used frequently to get their point across in a way that was seen as graceful. When Henry was trying to divorce his first wife Catherine, and replace her with Anne Boleyn (who allied herself with the Protestants as part of her effort to become queen), both of them commissioned scholars to translate certain books from Latin, and Italian poetry that was in vogue at the time, such as Petrarch, and they chose books that presented ideas that made their cases look favorable. These weren't books unheard of in English — for example, one such book that Catherine sought to commission was one that she already owned copies of in English, Latin, and her native language of Spanish. But having her name on a new (and somewhat skewed) translation as patron would boost her cause.
  • Bernal Diaz's The True History of the Conquest of Mexico provides both a straight and a meta example of this trope. It is a first-hand account and memoir of Cortez's expedition to Mexico - written by a senior NCO who spent most of his time hanging out with the translators and infantry. It presents a much earthier version of the incidents than Cortez's official history. In addition to mentioning a few times where the translators (who were often pulled from rival tribes) pulled off this trope against Cortez or their rivals with varying degrees of success, the book itself fell victim as well. The original manuscript copy was filed in the government archives in Peru, and prepared for print after Diaz's death by a Mercredian friar. Who promptly took the opportunity to insert Mercredians into major historical events, alter the sizes and timings of battles to make them seem more important, and the like. The original text was only found and correctly translated in the 1990s.

    Literature — Translations of the Bible 
Some translations of The Bible are considered by some people to have an agenda. This not only makes this trope Older Than Print, it also earns the Bible a section of its own!
  • Some Jewish people accused Christians of doing this to the Old Testament, translating lines from the original Hebrew to make them sound like prophecies applicable to Jesus. Of particular note is the line "A young woman shall conceive and bear a son" (Isaiah 7:14) where "young woman" was translated as "virgin". Even before that it's thought that the young woman -> virgin translation happened before Christianity existed and occurred in the first major translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, called the "Septuagint," which was completed by 132 B.C.
    • Isaiah has many examples, as many translators over the centuries have found it irresistible to retroactively tinker with the prophecies to fit Christian dogma a little better. For example, the Hebrew uses the word messiah to refer to both the prophecised Messiah and King Cyrus of Persia, a ruler popular with the Jewish population for encouraging freedom of religion, but many translations choose to Translate the Loanwords, Too when referring unambiguously to Cyrus, calling him 'the one anointed by God', while using the loan word in all other cases.
  • In Numbers 24, the KJV also explicitly translated an animal's Hebrew name to "unicorn" in the context of a lion and a "unicorn" symbolizing a people cherished by God and destined for greatness. Unicorns were not known in ancient Israel, so artistic license applied here. Guess whose national insignia is a lion and a unicorn... and the KJV was an English translation.
  • Some versions of the bible, including the King James, name the pharaoh who antagonized Moses as "Ramses". This is to remove a contradiction where A.) the original Hebrew just refers to him as "Pharaoh", B.) Moses was purportedly raised as his stepson, C.) Moses wrote the first Torah, and D.) Moses, believing the pharaoh was a man and not a god, would likely not refer to him solely by his title to other people. The English translators definitely researched who the pharaoh at the time would have been and did a search-and-replace.
  • The Tyndale Bible is one of the first English translations of the Bible, and the first to be based directly on the Hebrew and Greek texts, though it drew heavily from the Vulgate. Famously, St. Thomas More was one of the many Catholics who charged this translation of promoting heresy, citing how the terms "church", "priest", "do penance" and "charity" became in the Tyndale translation "congregation", "senior" (changed to "elder" in the revised edition of 1534), "repent", and "love", respectively. Not helping is the fact that the Tyndale Bible's notes attacked the Church.
  • Speaking of English translations of the Bible, the Geneva Bible was infamously biased in favor of the type of Calvinism embraced by the vast majority of Puritans. This fact, plus the fact that the other, state-sanctioned translation was of less than satisfactory quality, helped pave the way for the King James Version in the first place. Though a bit of royal Executive Meddling regarding the rules for translators (reproduced here) insisted on keeping in the "old ecclesiastical words", presumably to not rock the boat of the status quo too much. So for example we have "charity" for "love", "church" instead of congregation/gathering/assembly, "bishop" (when the Greek word is literally translated "overseer"), "baptize" (the Greek word meaning to immerse, which might upset those in favor of sprinkling) etc.
  • A New Testament example is the common practice of translating the Greek word "doulos" as "servant" when it meant "slave". The New Testament has a lot of casual and uncritical references to slaves, but slavery is nowadays considered abhorrent. At the time it was simply matter-of-fact.
  • The Temperance Bible altered every instance of Jesus drinking wine to drinking grape juice. Every other mention of wine is retranslated "grape juice", unless someone is getting drunk off it or condemning it. note 
  • The ending salutation in Romans 16 references Junia, a female deacon or church leader. Nearly all English Bibles (exceptions to this include the New King James Version and more scholarly ones, like NRSV) render this name as "Junias" in an attempt to make it masculine and disguise the fact that some early church leaders were women.
  • The word "baal" literally means "lord", "master" or "Husband" in various Semitic and Arabic languages (including Early Hebrew). Often misinterpreted to be a god in the semetic pantheon, it's actually a euphemism for deification of the current king. At some point, a translator, possibly attempting to brush Baal worship completely out of Hebrew history, changed all instances of baal to bosheth ("shame") in order to write out the name of Baal, including in names where the word was literally intended as "Lord" in unambiguous reference to YHWH — so Saul's son Eshbaal ("great is the lord") became Ishbosheth ("great is the shame"), Jonathan's son Meribaal ("from the mouth of the lord") became Mephibosheth ("from the mouth of shame"), etc. This carries through to most Bibles and Scriptures with the exception of scholarly works.
  • 1 Samuel 20 writes that David and Jonathan kissed and wept when they had to say goodbye to one another. A kiss would not have been an unusual gesture between two friends in a tender moment in that place and time period, so most translations leave it in. However, many conservative modern translations specify that the two friends kissed each other's cheeks—a detail not mentioned in the original Hebrew—to avoid mental imagery the translators considered problematic. The Living Bible goes further, and dispenses with translation issues altogether by simply bowdlerising the passage to "and they sadly shook hands".
  • Ecclesiastes 11:2 is usually translated along the lines of "Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth" (ESV), one of many times the Bible urges those with wealth to spend it supporting the community. The NIV translates it as "Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land" and continues the verse by urging people to diversify a stock portfolio. It goes without saying that the particular economic system being justified there did not exist at the pre-feudal time Ecclesiastes was written, and would, in fact, have been considered sinful under Old Testament money handling laws. The NIV is an American translation from the Cold War era, so imagining King Solomon as a wise investor rather than as a wise man of generosity had a political motivation.
  • The Song of Songs has a controversy over a line from the Beloved that would be literally translated from Hebrew as "I am black and beautiful". Many translations change it to something along the lines of "although I am black, I am beautiful". The context of the scene is that the Beloved is tanned dark because her brothers have forced her to work in the sun all day, thus changing her to be against Hebrew beauty standards, making this change a little less offensive; but the Hebrew had her insisting her black skin was a part of her beauty, while many translations made in times of racism and colorism had her claim her beauty despite her dark skin.
  • The Conservative Bible Project was a largely unsuccessful attempt to retranslate parts of the Bible that would be considered "liberal" in the mind of its project leader, who also happens to be the creator of the notorious Conservapedia. Even some hard-core conservatives found this to be rather blasphemous. It didn't get very far, mostly due to people with the necessary expertise to translate the Bible refusing to go along with the project's agenda.
  • The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society for the Jehovah's Witnesses, has been described as a literal translation (which is good if you want something near the original text) whose some parts have been translated to support the theological opinions of the Watch Tower such as denying Jesus's divinity, the use of a stake instead of a cross and translating "Kyrios" as "Jehovah."

  • The edition of Carmen prepared in 1964 by Fritz Oeser is notorious for not only restoring musical material deleted during or before the original rehearsals but also for liberally rewriting the stage directions to emphasize the OTP of Carmen and Escamillo.

    Video Games 
  • Brigandine: Grand Edition for the original PlayStation received a somewhat infamous fan translation that was written and programmed by a conservative Christian, whose faith bled over into his work. All references to Christian theology or magic — even benign, non-religious terms like the "Vampire Lord" enemy — were removed or renamed (and Japanese fantasy isn't lacking in either). An item originally known as "Missing Link" was also renamed due to the evolution reference. Even the final boss Ouroboros became "Jormungandr", apparently due to the original name's connection to the cycle of death and reincarnation.
  • In the English and Chinese localizations of Ghostwire: Tokyo, one line of dialogue said by KK in the original Japanese dialog, where he vaguely replies with some form of "who knows, really" in response to Akito asking if the bow he was holding had been obtained by theft, was replaced with a political "all property is theft, kid." (EN) and "The world belongs to the people" (CN). Notably, Bethesda responded to the backlash in the Spider's Thread update a year later by having both lines rewritten and re-recorded so that it's closer to the original.
  • The English localization of Gotta Protectors: Cart of Darkness rewrites one dialogue exchange to include snark about the Cultural Translation and Always Male practices that were not hinted at in the source text.
    Original lines: -When will I meet this gentlement? - He's already nearby... Please join forces wih him... and save Magical Land...
    English lines: -Champion? How will I recognize her? -This is the 80's, hon. It's a him. And he's white. Except when he's Asian. It's complicated.
  • A Russian hacked Fan Translation of Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories cut missions for being too violent and translates dialogue as nonsensical Author Tract segments about the author's extreme-right, straight-edge, anti-video game political views. Dageron, the translator, is regarded in the Russian gaming community as a notorious kook who ruins games, which is annoying as Russian gaming stores regularly sell his versions.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The English localization for the "Special Delivery" quest portrays Finley and Sasan's relationship as reciprocally romantic, something lacking in the Japanese version; and inserts entire sentences of dialogue in an attempt to justify the romance as being OK on the grounds of Finley (a Zora child) being older than Sasan (an adult Hylian).
  • A script editor for the Dynamic-Designs Fan Translation group known as Wildbill is fairly notorious for this kind of thing, having a nasty habit of inserting obnoxious far-right political screeds into the scripts he did the editing work for. One-text-box lines of dialogue are often expanded into several boxes worth of ranting about how looters are good-for-nothing leeches on society, or how government-provided healthcare is a terrible idea, or whatever chip Wildbill had on his shoulder that week. Proof we're not making this up: the obscure SNES Eastern RPG Shell Monster Story (Daikaijū Monogatari) was altered to insert rants against single payer healthcare, turning the villains into "socialists" and the ACLU, and having the villain defeated by the power of the villagers' faith in Jesus Christ. Perhaps surprisingly, none of this originally featured in a Japanese-made game about hermit crabs from 1994.
  • The English translation of World Heroes 2 adds an extra sentence to the end of Neo Geegus's victory line, turning it into a political joke:
The strong rule. The winners are just. That is my belief. But then again, I think the Democrats can save America.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, there's very heavy subtext in the original dialogue, thanks to specific pronoun use, that the person most special to Sora that Naminé is replacing in his memories isn't in fact Kairi, but Riku. When Sora meets the other kids in his memory of the Destiny Islands, the pronoun they use for his 'special person' is aitsu (アイツ). The pronoun is casual and gender neutral but more masculine leaning (think of referring to someone as 'guy', regardless of gender), and it's generally considered rude/insulting to use the pronoun towards a girl. When Sora realizes Naminé has been tampering with his memories, she uses neutral pronouns to describe the person most special to him. However, in both Japanese and English, Sora assumes she means Kairi. But the full extent of Sora's misunderstanding is all but lost in the English translation, as it translates aitsu to feminine pronouns. In fact, the last time Sora sees the Riku Replica, he refers to him by aitsu in Japanese, but in English, just calls out his name instead. There is an attempt in the English translation of the Chain of Memories novel to rectify this at least, as the subtext from the game is mostly preserved, while also going further and implying that the memory of the meteor shower promise Naminé tampers with was actually between Sora and Riku. You can read about it in more detail here. In Kingdom Hearts II, Sora also uses aitsu to refer to Riku, when he sees him at the top of the mountain in The Land of Dragons. This time, it's translated more accurately to "That guy..."
    • Kingdom Hearts III:
      • In the original Japanese dialogue, when Riku and Mickey are in the Dark World for the first time, Mickey says Riku has found the strength to protect his 'precious person' (taisetsu na hito), very obviously implied to be Sora. This scene comes directly after one with Hercules saying Megara is his own precious person. After a flashback of receiving the Keyblade from Terra, Riku then says to himself, "(Is this) the strength to protect the person most precious to me...?" However, in the English dub, Mickey and Riku both say the 'things that matter' instead, while Hercules says 'the person I love most' about Megara, so the parallel and implication are completely lost (even if we as the audience can still deciper that Sora is the reason for Riku's growth and character development). To top it off, the KH3 Ultimania entry about Riku also uses precious 'person' instead of 'things'. It seems Riku's wish has deliberately evolved from when he was a child, but that important bit of character development got no homoed out of several different official KHIII English translations.
        Image Text: A young Riku stated his wish: “I want to become strong enough to protect the things that matter.” Roughly 10 years later, after many twists and turns, he has finally obtained the strength to protect the person who matters.
      • Taisetsu (precious/cherished) is once again used during a scene with Sora and Riku. In Japanese, Sora says, "You really cherish Elsa...", when speaking with Anna in Arendelle, while in English he says, "I'm sure she knows how much you love her." Sora then thinks to himself in Japanese, "It's the same as when Riku disappeared before. It's surely because he cherishes me that he wouldn't let us be together." In English, it's translated as "It's just like when Riku disappeared. He thought he had to push me away, to protect me." This means taisetsu has been translated twice to 'love' in English... except for when it comes to how Riku feels about Sora.
      • When visiting the video game store at Galaxy Toys, Sora sees Yozora (the character Rex thinks he's a toy of) for the first time and says, "Well, I never looked this good." And... Yozora looks exactly like Riku. Which Sora acknowledges himself in a social media post. As it turns out, in Japanese, Donald actually says "Very good-looking, huh." after Goofy says Yozora looks like Riku. Given the context, he's teasing Sora about saying someone who looks like Riku is good-looking. But, once again, it seems to have been mistranslated that the subject is Sora in English. Also, in the original Japanese text of the aforementioned social media post, Sora says he feels a connection to Yozora because he looks like Riku.
    • Kingdom Hearts III has many scenes between Sora and Kairi affected by this:
      • Near the end of the game Kairi manages to help keep Sora from fading away when his and their companions' lives are endangered. In Japanese, Sora recognizes how strong Kairi really is for doing this (as no one else had managed to maintain themselves, let alone themself and another person), and says, "Yappari tsuyoi na, Kairi wa!" (You're strong, Kairi, just as I thought!) In English, either as a mistake or as a misguided attempt to provide some more Ship Tease between the two, Sora tells Kairi that he feels strong when he's with her. Unfortunately, this only serves to downplay a rare moment of Kairi showing off her capabilities, and denies Sora a chance to acknowledge them. It's also possible this was done due to Kairi being a more divisive character in the West and the Western views of strength being more... "masculine". As a result, a rather vocal portion of the fanbase tends to view Kairi as a Damsel Scrappy. The translators may have assumed the original line was going to stoke up some ire from Western players and went with a line that still managed to fit the situation.
      • Another scene that is translated to be more romantic is them sharing paopu fruit. In Japanese, Kairi says, "This charm will make sure we won’t be separated (again)." And in English, she says, "I want to be a part of your life no matter what. That’s all." The latter has clear romantic connotations, while the former could very well be read as simply platonic, in the same vein of Kairi giving Sora her Wayfinder back in the original Kingdom Hearts.
      • Yet another scene is translated to be more romantic, this time at the end of the game when Sora gives his speech about getting Kairi back. In Japanese, he says, "This time for sure I expected we could go home together… but Kairi wasn’t in this place (realm)." Meanwhile, in English, he says, "I thought we’d finally be together. But she’s out there, alone." And clearly there's a very big difference between coming home together and being together.
      • The original Japanese dialogue of Sora's conversation with the Nameless Star more or less confirms that while Kairi is the reason Sora retains his body, Riku is the reason his heart survived. Meanwhile, in English, Riku's role in saving Sora is somewhat... downplayed.
    • In Kingdom Hearts χ, the Arc Words "We'll go together" were seemingly mistranslated as "We'll make those dreams come true, Belle", in a scene very clearly paralleling Belle and the Beast (now the Prince) with Sora and Riku.note 

    Web Original 
  • In his Let's Play of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption after having railed against Yoshio Sakamoto for Metroid: Other M in earlier videos of the LP, Slowbeef translated his producers log as thus:
    "Hello, this is Yoshio Sakomoto! It’s not easy writing stories for Metroid considering my functional illiteracy. Honestly, I don’t really like Samus, and I don’t want you to like her either. I hate her and feel threatened by her. I will ruin this franchise. I’m just coming out and telling you. Fuck Metroid and fuck you."
  • The Type-Moon wiki contains mistranslations and has Fanon implemented into numerous pages, with any attempt at correction swiftly reverted. EGGS, the sole admin, is derided by the TYPE-MOON fanbase as spreading disinformation, which is an issue as the wiki is generally the first to appear on search results due to SEO.

    Real Life 
  • When coming up with a word in Inuktitut (one of the principal Inuit languages of Canada) for "uranium", a translator who obviously had some personal views regarding nuclear energy rendered it as "rock that kills", vastly overstating the danger of basic uranium, and that term was used for some time before it was realized what had been done.
  • The infamous national anthem of Nazi Germany "Das Deutschlandlied" begins with the lines "Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles / über alles in der Welt". This is usually translated as something along the lines of "Germany, Germany above all others / above all others in the world!"; however, the original German is a bit more ambiguous. You can interpret it as either "Germany above all (to me)" i.e. Germany should come as the first priority to its people or "Germany above all else" (i.e. Germany is the best thing in the world and everything/one else should bow down to it). Hofman von Fallersleben, the author of the lyrics, almost certainly intended the former meaning, as he was an advocate for uniting all the petty feudal states into one Germany, but both the Nazis and Antinazi propaganda during the war naturally chose to interpret it in the latter sense.
  • The Dutch Christian-run broadcasting group Evangelische Omroep (EO) was the subject of controversy after it edited the David Attenborough series The Life of Mammals to remove content that was not in line with their creationist viewpoints. Attenborough was not happy about it.
  • In some languages, the word for waterboarding more literally translates to 'water torture'; for example, the Finnish vesikidutus. To speakers of those languages, the debate often heard in American media over whether waterboarding counts as torture comes off as hilarious as a result.

Alternative Title(s): Harry Bosco


Jihad! Jihad!

Zinoviev rewrites what Reed writes.

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