America’s famous Parker Pen Company achieved great success by promising its customers that Parker pens “won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” The problems arose when they tried to enter the Spanish-speaking Mexican market and the catchphrase was inaccurately translated into “no goteará en tu bolsillo ni te embarazará.” The people of Mexico were consequently reassured that a Parker pen would never get them pregnant… We are fairly certain they were relieved!
According to Day Translations’ professional linguists, the mistranslation was caused by what are known as “false friends”: pairs of different words, with different meanings, from two different languages that look or sound similar, thereby leading people to assume that both share the same meaning. In this case, the similar-looking words “embarrass” and “embarazar” were mistakenly considered linguistic counterparts, when the latter actually means, “to get somebody pregnant.” As you can see, it is always best to steer clear of “false friends.”
At Day Translations, we offer high-quality translation services so that our clients never need to worry about mistakes such as this. Our expert English-Spanish translators use many years of experience in the language field to easily avoid mishaps like our “false friends” above.
If you have any mistranslation examples that you would like to share with us—especially if it is another example of “false friends”—then please let us know in the comment section below. We will add it to our growing collection of mistranslations!
Image credit: UniCode.