Mistranslation - Marmalade

When Jam Means Anything Else Other Than a Marmalade

The sign above is Hungarian, or at least Eastern European in origin. The first line means “marmalade jam,” and the second is the German translation. The third is a big mistranslation, which hinged on an alternative meaning of “jam” other than a sweet processed fruit product.

This is easy to blame on the American media and television shows, where jam has been used in a lot of ways to denote that something has gone wrong, in short, a “fuckup” as translated in the sign above.

There are those who would say that a “marmalade jam” is a redundancy. Those who have that opinion would not know the difference between a jam and a marmalade, or that not all jams are marmalades, but all marmalades are jams. That discussion is splitting hairs, and it is perfectly acceptable to say the phrase.

Where the sign failed is in using the colloquial definition for the literal definition. This can also be blamed on Internet translations. A proper foreign language dual dictionary, perhaps a German/English or a Hungarian/English dictionary would have sorted this out. In truth, how can anyone make a mistake with a two-word translation?

It was only a matter of time to get this translation all wrong. As the saying goes, “a little knowledge can be dangerous.” In this case, it just so happens that the most common translation of jam is a “fuckup.” This is obviously from a cafeteria or a deli type of establishment, where the food is displayed, and the proper tag shows its name. This situation usually does not lead to any problems. That is, until someone who doesn’t know what a jam is.

Studying translation in school, or studying languages in school leads to an appreciation of the new language. It also teaches the evolution of the language, figures of speech, colloquialisms, as well as the culture of the country or region. This type of education is not easily gathered from learning from media.

Image credit – via TranslationHandOut

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