Lost in translation

I dedicate a lot – many people say the best bits (hmph) – of my blog to the embarrassing messes I make of trying to use the beautiful Spanish language. This week, I thought I’d show you how Spain returns the favour! Here are some pictures of things that have made me laugh, or at least smile, thanks to their use of language:

imageNot quite Banksy…

This graffiti near where I work

Punk is not …dead?

Apparently I need to work on spelling and pronunciation with my students -and good citizenship!

photo (1)

This sign outside a cafe-bar advertising “Noches de coctel”

I’ve managed to keep it fairly light until now, but my blog is about to get educational! (Sorry)

Cóctel” is actually the legitimate translation for “Cocktail”, and is pronounced almost identically. However, the spelling has been changed so that it can be read phonetically in Spanish. It’s a fairly new loan-word,which is a word that was “invented” in English and is used in other languages too. Other examples are “Breikdans (breakdance)”, “Béicon (bacon)” and “Fútbol (you can work this one out yourselves)!”  It’s not that strange to see written, but it’s really funny when having a conversation with someone or listening to the radio in Spanish and up pops a heavily accented English word, so reading them makes me think of this and smile too!

(This also works vice versa, for example our use of the Spanish word “Siesta.” Also, it’s thought that “Alligator”comes from the Spanish “El lagarto.”)


This cheese

Thank you to my friend Anna for finding this one. “The laughing cow” is translated into Spanish as “La vaca que ríe (the cow that laughs).” I don’t really think it has the same ring to it.

imageummmm, what?

This t-shirt

I think something got lost in translation here!

It seems to be a fashion here to wear t-shirts with English slogans on them. However, I don’t think the shops do very much research or proofing because I see some fairly strange combinations of words! (No photos, sorry, I don’t want to be a weirdo taking pictures of strangers!) I’m sometimes asked by children to translate the words on their t-shirts and have to make something up because I don’t have the heart to tell them that it doesn’t make sense or is grammatically wrong! I had a moral dilemma once as to whether I should tell a sweet little 11-year-old that her “Pop my cherry” t-shirt was entirely inappropriate! I decided against it because I couldn’t face explaining what it meant to her. I’m pretty sure her parents had no idea what it meant (I hope), and I doubt many other people around here do either.

photo (2)Sistem – SYstem!


The writing on the window of this hairdresser

If you are a Spanish hairdresser living in Spain and you don’t speak English well … why write on your show window in bad English!?


This is off-topic, but there is a bread company called Bimbo here in Spain. It doesn’t have the same meaning in Spanish (in fact, it doesn’t have a meaning at all) but every time I see a van or a sign with Bimbo on it, it makes me smile!

Have a good week, pasalo bien!


4 thoughts on “Lost in translation

  1. laughing cow cheese was orginally french Mads..was called la vache qui rit but they changed it to english about 10 years ago for some reason.. ps miss you xxxx

  2. Pop my cherry?! I wouldn’t have said anything either! I find this a lot with my students too- they think it’s cool/interesting because it’s foreign when actually it makes no sense whatsoever. Also Breikdans is now my favourite spelling of a word! Xxx

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