Ink fish and sad cold noodles

This article from Atlas Obscura describes some very funny translation fails on menus, including:


smallpox — a deadly disease that has been eradicated (last known case: 1977). In Japanese, it’s 天然痘。

Some you can probably guess:

  • “ink fish”
  • “chicken in her own juices”

Some of the other really funny ones:

  • “steak on the way home”
  • “mouth bags”
  • “sweaty tacos”
  • “nuts of St. Jack”
  • “sad cold noodles”

And some simple bad editing and misspelling:

  • “Human Taste” (instead of Hunan Taste — Hunan is a province in southern China. In Japanese it’s 湖南省)

Like I tell students all the time, if you want to really explain what お好み焼き is, you can’t just say, “Japanese pancake” and you certainly can’t just translate “Grilled whatever you like”.

Take this example (three translations of a French dish called ile flottante) and try it with some hard to translate foods from Japan or your major language country.