Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All Your Base Are Belong to Us and other laughable translations

As a person who majored in a foreign language in college, I know what it's like to mean one thing and say something totally different.

For example, one time I was reporting to my Spanish class on a news article I had read about how the Pope was traveling somewhere and making visits to people and whatnot. In Spanish, "the Pope" is "el Papa," a masculine word, but I goofed up and was calling him "la papa," a feminine word.

Mixing up gender pronouns is a common error, and normally a harmless one, but it turns out that by saying "la papa" traveled there and "la papa" did that, I was telling an amusing story of the goodwill tour of His Holiness, the Potato.


Not only do certain meanings get lost in translation sometimes, but new and humorous meanings are often added, depending on how egregious the error is. As a follow-up to yesterday's post about anime, let's investigate some Japanese-to-English gaffes, shall we?

One of the finest examples, which you've probably either been overexposed or completely unexposed to (depending on who you hang out with), is the All Your Base phenomenon.

Long story short, the Japanese produced a video game called Zero Wing that was a relatively average space shoot-em-up, but when the introduction to the game was translated into English, this happened. (Watch and read carefully.)

Spend enough time on the geeky corners of the Internet and you're bound to hear people quoting Zero Wing before too long. And, if you keep your eyes open, you might also spot references outside the electronic realm, such as on t-shirts like the ones that say,

Roses are #FF0000,
Violets are #0000FF,
All my base are belong to you.


Those are hexadecimal color codes for red and blue, by the way, which makes the shirt even geekier.

But you don't have to be a geek to appreciate the inherent humor of erroneous translations. I leave you with, a site dedicated to the ongoing errors of those attempting to translate Japanese into English and... well... doing it wrong.

(Possible content advisory, but any foul language is probably accidental.)

The PopetatoThis post has been approved and blessed by the Popetato.

[Image cobbled together in Paint from images from and]

1 comment:

tarepanda said...

Try this -- it's a student's pencil case at one of the elementary schools I teach at. I've seen some outrageous shirts, too.

There was also a project when the students had to come up with adjectives to describe teachers for a guessing game; they were assisted by mothers with English dictionaries. There were regular sentences like "He has long hair" or "She has brown eyes", some strange ones like "He has nose like monkey", some mildly offensive ones like "He has slanty eyes" (Doesn't everyone in Japan?) and "She has no chest"... and then one whopper: "He has nigger face".

Yeah, you read that right. Good thing I was around to correct it...