When something is translated to another language, and then translated back to its native language (sometimes with further translations in between).
Even when this isn't a Blind Idiot Translation, it will still lose something when translated back. Or maybe gain.
This often happens with bootleg movies from other countries (although it's a mystery why they didn't just use the original language track). A big cause of Translation Train Wreck.
Free online computer translators do this a lot, especially Babelfish, which quickly went memetic for its ability to produce hilariously mangled results in this manner. Amplified by the fact that even a one-way machine translation will invariably produce stilted grammar and have difficulty with homonyms.
But this can also happen with running phrases through an automated translator and back again, which is a popular internet game, and a way to invoke Intentional Engrish for Funny. See Translate the Loanwords, Too for when this happens because a translated work includes foreign words.
Compare Either World Domination or Something About Bananas, which is translating something to your own language and coming up with two possible results: one which makes sense and one which doesn't.
- The above-pictured scene from a Chinese bootleg of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (rendered as Star War: The Third Gathers: The Backstroke of the West), which, when translated from English to Chinese and back to English again, rendered Darth Vader's Big No as "Do not want". In comparison to the same subtitles rendering "Jedi Council" as "Presbyterian Church" (via "congregation of elders"?), this is downright tame. Not to mention that "Padme" became "Plum" in the subtitles at one point, and "Anakin Skywalker" became "Allah Gold", which sounds like a Muslim credit card. It gets better. The chancellor is D and the Presbyterian Church want to know him at fuck.
- The reason for this is that the word for no (bu in Mandarin) in Chinese rarely used on its own—it's much closer to "not," a negator adverb, and if it were used on its own in this situation, it wouldn't make sense syntactically and would need to used with a verb. Thus, they translated it as "bu yao", which means, "Do not want."
- "Allah Gold" was probably an attempt to translate 阿拉金 (a la jin), a corruption of 安納金 (an na jin), which is the phonetic transcription of the name "Anakin". The "West" in "Backstroke of the West" was probably another attempt to translate a phonetic transcription, in this case "Sith" (西斯, xi si). The first character 西 does indeed translate to "west".
- A positive version of this: in Bleach, the term Shinigami was translated as "soul reaper" in America. Tite Kubo himself said this is actually a much more applicable term, and it is actually what is used now.
- A computer in a lab was running a beta of some translation software package and translated "Out of sight, out of mind", a famous expression meaning "If you hide something, sometimes people forget that it existed in the first place." into Chinese and back to English, and the printout read "Invisible idiot".
- In another variant, the phrase "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" got translated as "The alcohol is strong but the meat is rotten".
- The book English As She Is Spoke. The author took a Portuguese-French phrasebook and a French-English dictionary and produced his Portuguese-English phrasebook, which is incomprehensible to English speakers and is only read for comedy value.
- I have mind to vomit.
- "Do you miss anything?" (The result of translating "Don't get any on you" from English to Portuguese to French, then back to English.)
- "Is there anything in conventional English which could equal the vividness of 'To craunch a marmoset'?"
- I have mind to vomit.
- Before the advent of Internet piracy, Polish gamers had to visit bazaars and benefit from disc-copying piracy. Some of these pirates were private enterpreneurs, but quite a piece of market was alleged to be held by organised crime from beyond the Eastern border. This claim was reinforced by big amounts of translation which looked suspiciously like someone sat with English-Polish dictionary, without working knowledge of any of the languages.
- Parodied in an episode of News Radio; Jimmy James notes that while his new autobiography, Jimmy James - Capitalist Lion Tamer, is selling poorly domestically, the Japanese version is doing extremely well. He decides to have it translated back into English, but finds himself at a loss when he hosts a reading, sight unseen, of the new Jimmy James - Macho Business Donkey Wrestler.
"I had a small house of brokerage on Wall Street... many days no business come to my hut... my hut... but Jimmy has fear? A thousand times no. I never doubted myself for a minute for I knew that my monkey strong bowels were girded with strength like the loins of a dragon ribboned with fat and the opulence of buffalo... dung."
- Pretty much the whole point of the website Translation Party. It translates phrases from Japanese back to English until it reaches equilibrium, or translates the same from Japanese to English.
- For example, Austen's famous opening "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" reaches equilibrium when it becomes "This is, in this case, you may need to know the full truth of a universal fund for the wife of the owner of your".
- Oddly enough, My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels translates perfectly.
- A lot of Anime is available as Hong Kong bootlegs, and is notorious for this. The best example comes from a Hong Kong bootleg of Gankutsuou, or as it refers to itself, the "Cunt of Monte Cristo"!
- A number of words have travelled back and forth across the English Channel in this way. For example, "le boeuf" (French) became "beef" (English), after which "beefsteak" (English) became "le biftek" (French again). Similarly, the English phrase "Country dance" became "contredanse" in French, which was then retranslated into English as "Contra dance".
- Not to be confused with the "Contra Dance" that involves taking two steps forward, two steps back, a step left, a step right, another step left, another step right...
- A couple of Lord of the Rings foreign subtitled examples:
- Pale Fire plays with and lampshades this, with protagonist Charles Kinbote translating back into English from a copy of Timon of Athens that has ostensibly been translated into Zemblan. As a result of lost fidelity, Kinbote can't figure out where John Shade lifted the title "Pale Fire" from for his poem. But then, translation's not the only thing that's recursive in this book.
- Uncle John's Bathroom Reader has an article called "Leave Ready Zagromyhat To Us!" which is all about this trope.
- Gothic 2 was blind idiot translated from German to English, then the English version was translated to Dutch, resulting in things like "Destroy Undead" becoming "Become Undead".
- Some English translations of Japanese media (such as the Slayers: Super-Explosive Demon Story manga as published by Central Park Media) contain the phrase "Stone of Sages", as a result of "Philosopher's Stone" being translated to Japanese (as "Kenja no Ishi") and then back to English.
- This bootleg Vietnamese copy of Pokemon Crystal contains some ridiculous mess-ups like "volcano bakemeat" and "elf monster"
- "EGGIE DRUG BAG FUCK", apparently meaning "EGGIE put the Potion in the Bag."
- A fisherman's original line of "I fish until I drop, and I battle until I drop too!" becomes this.
- A Spicks and Specks game called "Turning Japanese" used this. The contestants had to guess the song lyrics after they'd been translated into Japanese and back. This translation of Ghostbusters is particularly memorable.
If there is strange something
- There is a card game called Rana, which means "Frog" in Spanish. An odd-seeming name, but it was originally the German Frage (question or request) and the meaning got lost when passing through English.
- Even the great Jules Verne is not immune to this trope: for example, most English translations of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea use the term "duck gun" instead of "Parrot Rifle", the former being any sort of fowling piece, the latter being a heavy naval cannon (named after its inventor, James Parrot) commonly found aboard U.S. Navy ships of the day.
- The English subtitles on the Asian (Region 3) release of Gate Keepers 21 by (the long defunkt) Century universe were clearly translated from the Chinese script without reference to the Japanese audio at all, since Engrish terms like "Geito Open!" were rendered as something like "Open the door to the alien world!". They also used the Chinese readings of names, e.g. Miu becoming "Miha".
- Played with in a section of Frigyes Karinthy's "This is how YOU write", where he translates a philosophical poem by one of his contemporaries into German, then back to Hungarian, then repeating the process several times. The first recursive translation turns the poem into a skit featuring the Jews Ufer and Hertz. The second one yields an ad for Hertz Salami.
- Doctor Who gives us a rare in-universe example: Melody Pond, translated into the language of the Gamma Forest and back, becomes River Song.
- Ironically, this was actually a complete coincidence - Melody was named after Amy's best friend, who later turns out to be Melody, while River only took that name after the Doctor called her that.
- Sonic Adventure 2 was written in America, but apparently got translated into Japanese and then back into English. The result? Narm. Lots of it. They didn't change the cutscenes to fit the different sentence structures (and length), causing lines to overlap. Not so bad when it's Sonic and Shadow yelling at each other, but sometimes the overlapping lines are spoken by the same character.
- There's also one scene where Eggman is watching the news, and reacts about a second too early.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had an in-universe one via the official guide. The name of the dragon "Mirmulnir" translates into English as "Allegiance Strong Hunt", but the guide liberally refers to him as "Loyal Mortal Hunter." If that were translated back into the dragon language, it would be "(something)-Joor-Ah." Not to mention that the dragon wouldn't be able to speak his own name, as dragons have no concept of mortality...
- Taken Up to Eleven in the Bad Translator, where you can put any text, then it translates it back and forth from random languages up to 35 times, resulting in interesting Non-Sequiturs.
- Put another way, "The text and the first game, Fellow, about language • bamboo 14 over 35. Guía llanura enjoy"
- This used to be the case for Metropolis, as the American English cut was the most complete one remaining. Fortunately, this was rectified with the rediscovery of the full text of the original German title cards in censorship records. They have since even been retranslated into English to create a more complete version of the film.
- The Japanese DVD releases for the first three Pokémon movies contain the English dub, including a subtitle track that translates the English version into Japanese.
- Mentioned on QI, Fred Mac Aulay talks about how at a German Burns-Nicht supper, the Ode Tae a Haggis had been translated from Scots into German, then from German into English, where "Great Cheiften au the Puddin' Race" had become "Mighty Führer of the Sausage People".