When language does not translate across cultures


This hilarious fail from an Osaka department store in Japan was reported in various media yesterday. When I saw it and before I read the article, I assumed that it had been because someone thought that ‘fucking’ was a synonym for ‘awesome’.

However, there is another explanation which I found rather interesting. Read about it here.

So the moral of the story is that idioms, slang, cultural puns and profanities often do not translate well. When I do speeches I always make sure I weed out anything that could be offensive.

I have also noticed that young Swedes tend to use the word ‘fuck’ more casually than English speakers do. Swedish profanities tend to be religious and are about as strong as ‘damn’ is in English. So Swedes tend to borrow our English ones relating to sex and use them in the same casual way. I have even had students who used it as a filler word instead of ‘like’ or ‘um’.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

Leave a Reply