Christmas translations gone horribly wrong, or how not to do localisation.

On an online dictionary that i often go to, i think i've found the most messed up translation for 'Merry Christmas'. At the bottom of the page, there is a table with translations into pretty much every language they could find a translation for. In Yiddish they translated it as 'freyleche nitl'. It seems the editor of that list should have done a bit of research. 'Nitlnacht' is a classic piece of Yiddish humour. It means 'worthless night'. Some mystics hold that it is a spiritually worthless night as well, and that anything done spiritually would be worthless. Since jews do not tear paper or cloth on the sabbath, some Rabbis and mystics would take the time to tear enough toilet paper for the entire year. This is how severe people would hold to this philosophy.

Because Yiddish is so similar to German in grammar and vocabulary, it's quite easy to misunderstand Yiddish terms. The meaning of the word can vary widely based on some Jewish joke, sometimes with roots in mysticism or ancient Hebrew vocabulary. Often, words were chosen to be intended as an insult to the christian governments that gave Jews second class citizen status, as well. So sure, you can look up Christmas in your handy copy of Weinreich, (who doesn't have one?) but you won't really understand the translation at all. It's this kind of double entendre that makes the translation completely worthless.

The thought of non-Jews going around wishing each other a 'freyleche nitl' has me cracking up now. :D

0 flames: