What I Hated the Least Today 247/365: Embarrassing Translator’s Problems

What I Hated the Least Today 247/365: Embarrassing Translator’s Problems

As a translator, I learn a huge amount of marginally interesting and completely irrelevant information. Thanks to my translating practice, I have in theory acquired skills including but not limited do:

  • How to help a dog deliver puppies. Which is ironic, as I’m a cat person.
  • How to take care of female hygiene during a hike. Which is ridiculous because I neither hike nor do I need to be told in which direction to wipe my ass or how to use wet wipes. Why the fuck does someone write such things and even have them translated into another language?
  • How to use a compass. See above. I was pretty lost when translating this one and so will be any readers of my translation, I suspect.
  • How to pick a Damascus knife. I don’t think I’m the target group for a Damascus knife. I own one universal knife which is probably made of toxic metal.
  • [I can’t think of point number five though there certainly is one, so I’m leaving this bullet empty and will face my OCD about it.]

As a translator, I also ask a large number of weird questions bordering on the perverse. First, I ask myself; then, I ask Google; and finally, I pick the phone and start calling people in my address book to ask them. My recent queries included the following:

  • What is the sheath of a dog’s penis called in my language? I didn’t crack this one because not even the cynologist I have on speed dial knew. I ended up terming it what loosely backtranslates to English as “furry container”. Cute, right?
  • Are trade unions what I think they are? Is it even legal nowadays for workers to unite? Are there trade unions for freelancers? If so, how do I join one in case I wanted to demand equal pay (equal to or greater than my elementary upkeep)? My questions remained unanswered, but I ended up desiring a job in the company whose bulletin I was translating. They looked like they had strong unions.
  • What is the part of the car called which gets warm, is located somewhere under the car and attracts  cats and martens who perch there and chew on the wires and cables?  My Phone-a-Friend friend knew exactly what I meant but also knew nothing about cars, so I called it “engine” and was done with it. I’m aware that a car’s engine is probably not located under the car but it was the only car part I could name. Also, the idea was that you should keep your pet away from it to prevent burns.

I guess I suck as a translator.

14 thoughts on “What I Hated the Least Today 247/365: Embarrassing Translator’s Problems

  1. I would think such questions would be an occupational hazard for a translator. But you are right the world is full of useless information that at some point someone is going to demand an explanation of. I was playing Trivial Pursuit once and was fascinated to discover the flap of skin hanging from a chicken’s beak actually has a name. I don’t remember what it is but I was just taken in by the fact that someone had gone to the trouble of naming it….I’m sure a well-respecting dog would not be impressed with his member being referred to as a ‘furry container’. Then again that could be a male response to that issue.
    Have a good weekend.


    1. The trouble with translating is that you need to understand what you’re translating so you could translate it properly. Hence my many questions!

      The chicken trivia is rather fascinating. I was translating a veterinary article, therefore I needed words to describe animal body parts I had no idea had a name, maybe that’s the case of the chicken flap too. I sincerely apologise to any dog who takes offence at my translation 😀

      Have a good week(end)!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. …and I thought some of my translation clients were weird… Do you work with any online translation service providers? I don’t, but I probably should. It is perhaps the closest to a trade union you get in this line of work.


    1. I actually work pretty much on my own, but I’m only getting the hang of it, so maybe that’s something to consider in future. I recently started to use a CAT software – didn’t really need it before – so I take it one step at a time 🙂


    1. Ah, so maybe my translation wasn’t that bad after all! Anyway, it was an article about how to keep your pets safe, so I figured it doesn’t matter so much which specific car part pets should be kept away from – just keep them away from cars. Problem solved.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I was working as an editor (I’m retired now), I ended up with equally useless information, including a lot on hunting and fishing (I’m a vegetarian). I once copy edited a book for elementary school teachers. I’ve forgotten everything I learned except that, given the skills involved, they’re massively underpaid. Kind of like translators. And editors.


    1. Thank you for your brilliant comment. I suspect translators/editors are even worse off than teachers, in that the former are usually not even acknowledged – how often do you see a book which names its proofreader? – and by its very definition, the work of the translator/editor is supposed not to be noticed. It’s a bad translation when you keep on noticing that it’s a translation. On the other hand, it’s a work that broadens your horizons in very unexpected directions. I also did some translations on hunting gear, and I was rather appalled.


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