Pointless translation, perhaps

On most occasions during the war accurate translation between the Allies was useful, necessary, often vital. On other occasions, not. Here we present useful and maybe not so useful examples.

Acorns prog 1

The programme from February 1919 was printed for a cabaret-style performance for the Officers Club at the YMCA in Roubaix, and involved members of two concert-party troupes, one French, one from the BEF. Given that this was composited and printed in France, there are few typos and mistranslations – ‘shradowgraph’, and ‘concerted item’, in place of which would usually be ‘The Company’. ‘Special cars’ is applied to the tram system, rather than cabs.  ‘Scotch’ was a standard alternative for ‘Scottish’ at the time, and ‘lady Impersonator’ might be used in place of ‘female impersonator’ to convey a higher social status for the performance.

Acorns prog 2,3


On the other hand the translations on these postcards of a contorted pun and a tongue-twister require some mental contortion in themselves. Why on earth do this? It doesn’t work. Puns do not translate; tongue-twisters cease to twist tongues when translated. Or were these explaining the joke to people who already realised they were jokes? Both cards were printed in Britain, though the first was sent within France in July 1919. The translator of the second card seems to have given up trying to do anything with it.

Answers on a postcard please.

Granny Dears pc copy


Sister Susie


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: