Translation humor can take many forms. There are translation jokes, jokes about translators, bad translations, and really, really bad translations.
Translations that seem to miss the mark can be found anywhere these days from T-shirts, to signs, to menus in restaurants. Just the other day I was in the doctor's office and noticed a sign in English that had been translated into Spanish. Let's just say that if it hadn't been for the English sign right next to it, I wouldn't have known what the Spanish sign was talking about!
I have a friend who just returned from a trip to Asia and he said that English translations are horrible there and oftentimes he couldn't even make out what actual meaning was supposed to be.
But as I've experienced, you don't even have to go to Asia to find some crazy translation humor. These kinds of funny language situations can occur anywhere.
Some people have even used online language translators like the Google Translator to come up with some pretty funny translation-type games or, more precisely, time wasters. One of the funniest ones I've seen is called Japanese Translation Party. This is basically a website that takes an initial English phrase, and then translates it into Japanese, and then back in English and then back in Japanese and then just keeps going for a certain number of iterations. Usually, the input phrase is very different from the output phrase and as you can well imagine, this can lead to some pretty funny results.
And if you're interested in a lively discussion on song translation, be sure and check out the page on the La Bamba translation.
Anyway, if you've got a bad translation you've seen or translation joke or even a quote you want to share with the rest of us translators, please do so. We all like to laugh, too!
In the meantime, here's a pretty funny Fidel Castro prank call from a radio station in Miami.
Also, enjoy a list of Spanish Translation Myths that I came up with a while ago. There not humorous per se, but if you're in the translation business, you'll understand the list and see the frustration that comes from these myths. You've probably even experience many of them yourself.
And in the meantime, here are some fun language translation urban legends.Return from Translation Humor back to Spanish Translation Help for more on becoming a successful translator.