What Words Get Used How?

"Purity" Creme by Luna McCarthy

Translation is a funny thing. I am always a little surprised by the translation mistakes I see, mostly from Spanish to English, only because I know English much better than Spanish, although I am sure it happens the other way around too.

It’s always a fun experiment with my students to exchange expressions in Spanish and in English, some of them translate quite literally and some don’t. For example, “Better late than never” does translate roughly into “Mejor tarde que nunca”…and is used as an expression in Spanish.

This isn’t always the case. One example would be the Spanish expression “Nada que ver”. In English, this expression is not translated into “Nothing to see” and used in daily conversation. I once had a challenging time trying to explain this to a student and resorted to telling her that REALLY, only the Police use this expression, when there is a car accident and literally there is NOTHING to see (usually followed by the words, “move along”).

This also goes for HOW we use the words in each language. Or, when we use adjectives/nouns or which adjectives/nouns to use. In the above picture, the noun “Purity” has been translated and used as an adjective, which would actually mean something like “used to restore or treat” your purity. As in “Dandruff (noun used as an adjective) Shampoo”, which is used to treat the condition of dandruff.

I’m pretty sure that in this translation, the adjective “pure” is what the manufacturers were thinking, and that this is NOT a creme to treat, restore or medicate a person’s purity (or lack thereof)! I often worry that when I speak Spanish, I am making similar, yet well-intended mistakes…and hopefully someone will tell me if I do!

© 2012, Luna McCarthy. All rights reserved.

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  • Cristina

    We saw a very masculine looking 17 year old wearing a jacket that said “cheerleader” and the name of some girl on it.  And then you have the 55 year old man with the “one in the oven” t-shirt.  Well, it looks we´ll be needing plenty of purity creme over here! 😉

    • Anonymous

       Hahahaha….the t-shirts are my personal favorites…I used to have a girlfriend who took pictures of people all over the world wearing t-shirts they clearly didn’t understand. Everything from Hungarian grandmas wearing rock star t-shirts, to children wearing t-shirts that said #1 Grampa!