Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Lost In Translation: Mis-Translated Book Titles

August is Women In Translation month, and here at Keeping Up With The Penguins we kicked off in fine style with a review of Convenience Store Woman. Still, I wanted to do something special to showcase the vital creative work that translators do to bring books to us Anglophone readers. For too long, translators have been overlooked, underpaid, and underappreciated, and that’s only just starting to change (remember, always #namethetranslator in your reviews and recommendations!). In case you’re in any doubt, here’s the proof: using Google’s translate function, I’ve translated some book titles into another language and then back into English. The results are… hilarious, disturbing, and baffling in equal measure. Enjoy!

Lost In Translation - Mis-Translated Book Titles - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The Stars Are To Blame

A slightly stroppier take on John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. Read my full review here.

No.

The literal and complete opposite of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. Read my full review here.

To Make Fun Of

Harper Lee was kind of hinting that you shouldn’t make fun of anyone in To Kill A MockingbirdRead my full review here.

The Tale Of Her Servant

Kind of gives the Wife a much bigger role than Margaret Atwood’s original The Handmaid’s Tale, no? Read my full review here.

One Hour Work Orange

In fairness, the title of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange makes very little sense in English, unless you’ve read the book… but this still somehow one-ups the confusion. Read my full review here.


The Wind Was Blowing

I really have no idea how the wacky translator algorithm gets here from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Read my full review here.

Who Catches In Rye?

Holden Caulfield does! Or, at least, he wants to in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye. Read my full review here.

Fruits Of Anger

Alright, this one is a pretty obvious mis-translation from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes Of Wrath, but it still makes me giggle (I picture an apple with an angry emoji face on it… hehe!). Read my full review here.

What A Dog Is Surprised By At Night

I mean, it’s kind of beside the point of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, but this is still a killer title, right? Don’t you want to know?

Rats and Mans

I know, I know, it’s a double up, but John Steinbeck’s book titles just lend themselves so well to mis-translation! This one was Of Mice And Men, obviously.


The Guide Of The Mural For The Galaxy

It’s poetic, but lacks the logical coherence of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Read my full review here.

The Princess Is Drowning

Yikes! Nowhere near as fun a pun as Carrie Fisher’s original The Princess Diarist.

In The Cold

A far less-menacing take on the true-crime classic, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Read my full review here.

Subtle Art Don’t Fuck

I mean, it’s snappy! Actually, I think I almost like it better than Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck

The Mystery Of Man

I doubt Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret would have been in my top one thousand guesses for the mis-translation of this one… but here we are! Read my full review here.


7 Comments

  1. Carrie Fisher did want her obituary to read that she was “…drowning in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.” I read “The Princess Diarist” earlier this year, and while it wasn’t the memoir to end all memoirs, it still provided a fun, at times humorous insight into her mind and some of the most interesting times of her life. I loved her attitude toward life and her openness about her struggles with mental health, and so it was incredibly heartbreaking when she died.

    I’ve never really bought into the whole “every girl deserves to be a princess” trope, but if there was one princess I ever wanted to be, it would have been Princess Leia. She could be the damsel in distress when she needed to, but she also stood up for what she believed in and was just as (if not more) tenacious as a general leading their soldiers to the front lines…scratch that…she *was* a general! I like to think that the way Carrie approached the role of Leia was in some ways an extension of herself.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      August 7, 2020 at 12:54 PM

      Oh Crystal! Yes! You’ve summed up my feelings about Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia perfectly. Have you read Wishful Drinking? I’ve got that one on the shelf too, to-be-read…

  2. I was listening to a talk recently in which the presenter said he’d translated “to be or not to be” into Japanese and then back to English. Apparently it then comes out as “It is or it isn’t, isn’t it?” which on the face of it makes a lot more sense.

  3. These are so good Sheree. What fun we can have with google. I don’t read a lot of translated titles but I do try to mention the translator.

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