Interesting Japanese translations

Every once in a while when I am translating I run into weird/interesting things so I thought I would share a few.

For example I recently had to translate some magazine articles for an alcoholic beverage company (which wasn’t even a Japanese company, the articles were in Japanese magazines and being translated from Japanese to English for the company’s home office is France… I dunno either) and learned the word for “Hoarfrost” in Japanese. I don’t think I had ever even used the word in English before. Also since various dictionaries and other sources translated the Japanese term “降霜” as either “hoarfrost” or “glaze ice” I had to find out what exactly they were and if there was any difference, because these are the sort of stupid things I get comments on from clients.

The potential conversation had already run through my mind; “shouldn’t this be “glaze ice” and not “hoarfrost” if not, please explain why”, “I don’t know, but since this is advertising I thought ‘hoarfrost’ sounded more appropriate than ‘glaze ice'” usually doesn’t cut it.

Japanese clients are notorious for nitpicking at the most unimportant areas of a translation while ignoring glaring errors or problems or even insisting that something be translated incorrectly/oddly because THEY, the non-English speaking Japanese salary man, think it sounds better (e.g. still one of my all time favorites, what should have been “connector on the back of the projector” was changed by a Japanese editor to “the connector on the projector’s back side“. I did explain the “subtle differences in nuance” but they refused to change it back. Oh well, the customer is always right… right?

If you’re interested:

降霜 (こうそう – kousou)

雪化粧 (ゆきげしょう – yuki geshou) funny translation, keshou is the Japanese word for make-up as well, so this is essentially “snow make up” or “made up, embellished with snow”
Glaze Ice (I would link you to a Wikipedia article but it seems to have disappeared. I’m sure some genius felt it didn’t deserve it’s own article and so now the term only has a small explanation on this page for Rime Ice, another win for meaningless rules over functionality!).

Should come in handy if I ever get around to writing that viking saga… in Japanese.

But by far, my absolute favorite weird translation-related thing of late is the following found in one of my dictionaries. This is word for word from the dictionary.

“(I want) Five pounds of corned beef, please.” “Do you want me to warm it up? / Shall I warm it up for you?” “No, that’s OK. / No, thank you.”


Bet you’re glad I posted that on the web for you all. I can only hope that my server can withstand the deluge of google searches for “how to order corned beef in Japanese”.

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