16 Comments

  1. (I suppose this would be covered by one of those tropes…)
    There was a story , probably apocryphal, of Gerber baby food having trouble in a new market, where packaging always showed pictures of the contents.

  2. A small business in the food-providing trade local to me (and I am sure the same is true all over the place) has a van with the innocent-sounding-till-you-think-too-deeply legend “Family Butcher” painted on the side, which I always like to see.

    Here’s an example from a van in 1960s/70s BBC TV show Dad’s Army, where Jack Jones is the town butcher and also corporal in the local Home Guard unit. Dad’s Army is still repeated every Saturday evening on BBC2 round here & gets decent audiences despite being so ancient with an already pretty elderly cast even when it started in 1968 – some of the regular cast members had served in the First World War and would be over 120 years old if they were still around.

    https://i2-prod.dailyrecord.co.uk/incoming/article1334576.ece/ALTERNATES/s810/Jones%20butcher%20van

  3. Thanks, Kilby. I didn’t remember with any certainty. Sometimes these get a grip because you sort of like the idea of them being true, maybe if they “show” something like powerful institutions getting a comeuppance. I accepted “Chevy Nova = no va = doesn’t go = no Latin American sales” for a very long time.

  4. Unfortunately, the flip side of that is the stories sort of rely on “Ha Ha, them furriners sure is dum”.

  5. You’re right about that unfortunate aspect, Brian.

    Probably there are people who would also object to the pleasure some of us (like me) perhaps unfairly take in the “Man, those big corporations can be really dumb!”. And yet another contingent to note that amusement at corporations being dumb is just a distraction from noting how they can be evil!

  6. Nobody ever seems to think dog food is made from dogs, even though there is always a picture of a dog on the label.

  7. @ Mitch4 – I fell for the “Chevy ¡No va!” fable too, probably more because of the “stupid corporate executives” component than any aspersions against the intelligence of Spanish-speaking customers.
    P.S. I remember a similar language collision when I read “Lord of the Rings” in German. One of Tolkien’s historical side characters was named “Elendil”, which Aragorn uses as a battle cry on a number of occasions. It just so happens that the German word “elend” means “misery”, and I wondered why the German translators hadn’t tried to remove the unfortunate connection. Even though some German friends have reassured me that the name doesn’t leave that impression on them, I still find it a curious coincidence.

  8. I think a couple months ago I made a very long winded comment about whether names can/should be “translated” or maybe augmented in some way in a translated work — and as an example mentioned the character “Confort” in the two of the 10 book Beck series of policiers. His name is kept as-is in one of the two books, but in the other (from a different translator) it becomes “Allwright”.

  9. In the Asterix series, almost all the names are puns; in the translations, of which I read the German and the English, Asterix and Obelix are sacrosanct, but the rest of the characters are up for grabs, which makes it very confusing to refer to them, you have to remember what language you’re speaking, and what language the person you’re talking to most likely read them in, and sometimes I might not even know what the original name is in French. The dog is Idefix in French and German, but Dogmatix in English (which is clever, I agree, but I think would have been better served just keeping his name as in the original); the chief is Majestix is German, but something else in English (Vitalstatistix — that’s just bad), which always confuses me at first, because I think Majestix is good; the bard is Cacofonix in English, which I think is good, but something else I fail to recognize at first in German (Troubadix). The druid is Miraculix in German, but the rather crude Getafix in English. And as you can see, I don’t really know what they are in French… And I do think this is problematic (that the names are all over the place in different languages, not that I don’t know the French, though that too is actually problematic…)

  10. @ larK – In French, the bard is Assurancetourix, and the chief is Abraracourcix (which I was almost able to spell correctly without the help of a fascinating List of “meaningful” names). I’ve never bothered with the English names, because I can’t tolerate the translations (the German versions are much better).
    P.S. R.I.P. Albert Uderzo, who just died this year. At least he lived long enough to see the results of selling his production rights to the publisher. Uderzo’s writing was tolerable, although never as good as Goscinny’s, but at least he preserved the quality of the artwork as long as he was responsible for the ink work. The zombie albums that have appeared since then are just not worth reading.

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