Christmas has come and gone. This year, we’re taking a look back and reviewing the funniest Christmas-themed translation fails for your amusement. Sit back, pour yourself a cup of tea, and check out these hilarious Christmas translation errors.
Throll the Ancient Yuletide Carol
It’s the most wonderfully throlling time of the year.
What happened to Mrs. Claus?
I was under the impression Santa Claus already HAD a wife?
All’s fair between consenting adults . . .
But for most people, celebrating Christmas with “the family, the lover and the friend” sounds like it could get awkward rather quickly.
Have an Erotic Christmas!
“Eros” and “Christmas” . . . Two words that don’t go together unless you’re marketing adult products. And is it just me, or does that reindeer have murder in its eyes?
The Santa Chicken?
We’ve all heard of Santa Claus, but what about the Santa Chicken? Does he leave buckets of fried chicken in your stocking?
As hilarious as this billboard is, it’s actually a testament to the international marketing genius of Kentucky Fried Chicken. They got off to a rough start in China, where their famous slogan “Finger-licking good” was mistranslated as “Eat Your Fingers Off.” However, they’re now the most popular fast food chain in China.
Meanwhile, KFC fried chicken has become a traditional Christmas dinner in Japan. Around 3.6 million Japanese families celebrate the holiday with buckets of extra crispy chicken marinated in the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices. The tradition was started by KFC Japan’s first CEO in 1974, who marketed a family-sized fried chicken meal as “Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii: Kentucky for Christmas.” Nobody in Kentucky actually eats fried chicken for Christmas, mind you, but it caught on in Japan. And judging by the billboard, it’s spread to South Korea as well.
Close, but no cigar. . .
Here comes Santa Close, Here comes Santa Close . . . Wait, that’s not quite right, is it?
Dying is hard, translation is harder.
Is Die Hard your favourite Christmas franchise? Check out these hilarious Die Hard translations:
- Die Hard: With a Vengeance was translated as Die Hard: Mega Hard in Denmark.
- In one of the foreign versions of Die Hard 2, the line “You’ll get the pink slip for Christmas
” is translated as “you’ll get red underpants in Santa Claus’ stocking.” The translator thought “pink slip” referred to women’s undergarments. Actually, it’s an Americanism for losing one’s job.
Some things are better left unsaid.
In 1991, the Swedish company Locum sent out a Christmas card to their customers. In the card, they debuted a new logo: the company name, in lower case letters, with a heart replacing the “o.”
For English speaking customers, the result was rather unfortunate:
I’m sure you see the problem here.
Ham for Hanukkah?
Holiday translation fails aren’t limited to Christmas. Retail stores courting Jewish customers in the United States sometimes make facepalm-worthy blunders.
For example, in 2007, a grocery store in Greenwich Village, New York, became internet-famous when it advertised its ham as “Delicious for Chanukah.”
We shouldn’t need to spell this out, but pork in all of its many forms is a no-no for observant Jews.
Hanukkah, Hannibal Lecter-style
In 2015, fashion retailer Lord and Taylor published a Hanukkah greeting in the New York Times. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation, and the result was quite ghoulish. As the Times of Israel reports:
The message, in Hebrew, was supposed to read “Happy Hanukkah holiday,” but by consistently printing the letter ת or tav instead of the letter ח or het, the text instead translated roughly as “the tag of her earlobe that died.”
Not sure how this made it past the proofreader, or if a last-minute change in font was the culprit. Either way, it’s not the impression you want to leave in a major newspaper, is it?
Was the Virgin Birth the original Christmas translation fail?
Some translators argue that the idea of the Virgin Birth is actually a translation fail. For example, according to Katharina Reiss, a German linguist and translation scholar:
The Virgin Birth and Virgin Mary are, pardon the pun, pregnant with social symbolic significance in most, if not all, parts of the world . . . And yet their birth is due to a relatively simple mistake in translation. The Old Testament talks about almah ‘young woman,’ not bethulah ‘virgin.’ However, the scholars in the 3rd century BC translated the Hebrew almah as parthenos in Greek. Thus the ‘young woman’ in Hebrew metamorphosed into a ‘virgin’ in Greek—and she has remained a virgin ever since in translations across the world. The notion of ‘virgin birth’ was born, thanks to a mistranslation.
Don’t want to get coal in your stocking (or alienate your customers during a busy shopping season?) Make sure your translations are correct and culturally appropriate by partnering with a reputable translation agency like K International.
We offer translation, transcreation and consulting services so you can be sure your holiday marketing hits all the right notes everywhere you do business, in more than 250 languages. For more information, take a look at our language services and feel free to contact us.
For everyone who celebrated, we hope you had a Merry Christmas! And if you see any other Christmas translation fails, feel free to share them in the comments.