Kevin Breed

Uncanny translating

Translating dating puns

At first instance it all seems to easy, substituting an english word for a dutch word. A great vocabulary and knowledge of grammar are of great help when translating texts, but even then it is hard to escape the uncanniness of translating.


Birthday Doll - picture by Super*Junk found on Flickr

"[T]ranslation must awaken from its own language the original's echo. This is not to say that translation echoes the original." (Jacobs 1975: 763)

When I was asked to look at the translations of the dating site I thought it was a boring task wich would not be too difficult. I looked over it once and thought there was actually not too much to improve upon. I noticed some conflicting uses of 'je' (informal addressing) and 'u' (formal addressing) in dutch (which isn't even a real translation issue), but I couldn't really find incorrect translations. When I was asked to look at it again, I asked Tanja for some more intellectual power and a fresh mindset. While discussing the various translations they almost all seemed to be correct, except for the part that in some cases the dutch phrases were missing the expressiveness of the english ones.

And even then we didn't get it quite right. Though, in my opinion, we provided some good suggestions --for example we changed "Ik steek mijn neus in plekken waar hij niet thuis hoort" to "Ik steek mijn neus in andermans zaken" as the dutch counterpart of "I stick my nose in places where it does not belong." Or regarding the question "What do you look like?" we changed the translation of the answer "Like shit", from "Niet" to "Ik zie er niet uit" to "Beroerd."-- but perhaps we were too fixated on providing translations. At Willems first look at the overview below, he not only noticed a spelling issue (pseudonym instead of the dutch pseudoniem), but also started to change the contents of the labels. "Your pseudonym" is now changed to "enter a dating name", which is a bit clearer, I can not disagree. From here on I could reformulate the title of this article, because it is no longer about translating dating puns, but about making them clear, friendly and playful.

Uncanny dating puns

Instead of uncanny translations --translations that echo the original instead of awaking the originals echo from its own language-- we are now dealing with uncanny dating puns. Let me explain this with an example. At a certain time it was decided to communicate which fields of the dating profiles were used as match criteria and to make clear which fields are required (for an explanation of match and filter criteria see the article "Finding your perfect match"). This resulted in putting a star behind all the required fields and an infinity sign behind all the match fields. Now there were two signs, but they were both missing an explination. To fix this I started working out the following phrase:

"Fields with a star (*) are required and are used to match your dating profile to other profiles. Fields with a ∞ sign are used to list your best matches as high as possible."

For me this was it. But not quite yet for Tanja, she simply did not understand it. There was clearly something wrong with this phrase. After sending some emails back and forth were I was basicly explaining the functionality and she was trying to understand it and making alternative suggestions at the same time, we finely came up with the following sentence:

"Fields with a star (*) are required and determine the range of profiles that may be matched with yours. Fields with a ∞ sign are then used to find the profiles witch match yours best."

This was it for both of us. The phrase was explaining the function of the different fields in a way which was understandable for both of us. But then Willem read the phrase. And he simply said this: no. No? Tanja and I thoroughly discussed it! We did spend about fifteen emails on this phrase! Actually, we were very pleased with it! But no, the phrase was too complicated. Still. I didn't know what to say. Ok. Then what? I sat back and watched Willem type the following words:

"You should fill in at least all fields with * (otherwise the dating does not work at all). Next: fields with ∞ are used for better matching you with your dates. Don't forget to choose your dating images!"

That's all you need to know. That's all what the user needs to know. And it is said in a way that is respectful to her or him. Just as the translations of the puns seemed to be correct, but were actually lacking some undefinable expression, so did this phrase seem to be correct, but was actually lacking clearness, friendlieness and playfullness. It is clear because it indeed tells all you need to know. It is friendly in its humbleness. You are not doing anything wrong when you are not providing the required fields, but the (stupid) dating service simply doesn't know what to do. And it is playful in its explination, "fields with * / fields with ∞" is an unconventional combination between text and visual symbols. The whole combination also makes it a playful combination of all its constitutive elements.

When I watched the words appear on the screen I felt like a student. Watching the master at work.

Translation overview

Below all the dating puns and texts are listed. The red background indicates all the dating puns and texts that are, or were a bit awkardly translated. Suggestions are added in the 'Alternative' columns. It is also good to know that most translations can be adjusted with Mediamatic's Translation Module, but not the answers that are used as match criteria. Because they are keywords they must be changed in the admin. You can find them under the menu item 'shared metadata'.

Label English Dutch Alternative English Alternative Dutch
New / edit profile
TITLE (context DATING) enter a dating name kies een date naam    
EDIT_HELP_TITLE_DATING_EXPL the name of your dating profile can be your name but does not have to be* (required) je hoeft niet anoniem te daten maar het kan wel* (verplicht)    
ADD_NEW_ALERT_DATING please enter a name first vul a.j.b. eerst een naam in    
SUBTITLE_DATING motto motto    
EDIT_HELP_SUBTITLE_DATING_EXPL a catchy phrase to attract the daters of your desire een verleidelijke formule om de aandacht te trekken van de daters naar wie je verlangt    
INTRO short introduction korte introductie    
EDIT_HELP_INTRO_DATING_EXPL talk about yourself a bit here hier mag je even over jezelf praten    
[In preparation] You should fill in at least all fields with * (otherwise the dating does not work at all). Next: fields with ∞ are used for better matching you with your dates. Don't forget to choose your dating images! Vul tenminste de velden met een *retje in — anders werkt het niet. En dan: de velden met een ∞ helpen om je te koppelen aan de beste dates. Vergeet niet je dating plaatjes te kiezen!    
DATING5 Your gender:* Jouw geslacht:*    
DATING5 (long text) male|female man|vrouw    
DATING10 What gender are you looking for?* Welk geslacht zoek je?*    
DATING10_01 Female Vrouw    
DATING10_02 Male Man    
DATING15 Your date of birth?* Jouw geboortedatum?*    
MODULE_AJAX_EDIT_DATING_DATE Your date of birth Jouw geboortedatum    
DATING20 What age range would you prefer?* Wat voor leeftijden zoek je?*    
DATING30 What do you want? Wat zoek je?    
DATING30_01 Partner / Marriage / Friendship Partner / Huwelijk / Vriendschap    
DATING30_02 Whatever I can get Alles wat ik krijgen kan    
DATING30_03 Random play / Just teasing / 1night stand Scharrel / Ik speel maar wat / 1night stand Random play / A flirt / 1night stand Leuke afleiding / Scharrel / 1night stand; Gewoon wat aanklooien; Speelvriendje; Leuke afleiding
DATING_KEYWORD (title; symbolic name of keyword in admin) Your dating images ∞ Je dating plaatjes ∞    
DATING_KEYWORD (short title; symbolic name of keyword in admin) Choose dating images Kies dating plaatjes    
KEYWORDS_HEADER_DATING Dating images Dating plaatjes    
EDIT_KEYWORDS_DATING_EXPL The dating images are used for better matching you with your dates. Just choose the images you like! De dating plaatjes helpen om je te koppelen aan je beste dates. Kies gewoon de plaatjes die je leuk vindt!    
EDIT_KEYWORDS_DATING_COUNT_1_KEYWORD You have selected %1% image out of the maximum of %2%. Je hebt %1% afbeelding geselecteerd uit een maximum van %2%.    
EDIT_KEYWORDS_DATING_MAXIMAL_ALERT1 You have already chosen the maximum number of Je hebt het maximale aantal van    
EDIT_KEYWORDS_DATING_MAXIMAL_ALERT2 images. Please deselect an image if you want to include this one. afbeeldingen al gekozen. Deselecteer een afbeelding als je deze toe wilt voegen.    
DATING40 Do you want children? Kinderwens:    
DATING40_01 No thanks Nee dank je    
DATING40_02 Yes please Ja graag    
DATING40_03 Not right now Nu even niet    
DATING70 Current number of children: Huidig aantal kinderen:    
DATING70_01 0 0    
DATING70_02 1 1    
DATING70_03 2 2    
DATING70_04 Many Veel    
DATING220 Country of origin: Land van herkomst:    
[All countries are listed in anyMeta as location of type country] - -    
DATING230 My native country ∞ Geboorteland ∞    
DATING230_01 / dating keyword I miss it every day Mis ik iedere dag    
DATING230_02 / dating keyword I couldn't care less Zal me een zorg zijn    
DATING230_03 / dating keyword I have a love/hate relationship with it Heb ik een haat-liefdeverhouding mee    
DATING230_04 / dating keyword I like my country Ik houd van mijn land    
DATING80 Relational status: Relationele staat:    
DATING80_01 Single Single    
DATING80_02 In a relationship In een relatie    
DATING80_03 It's complicated Nogal ingewikkeld    
DATING80_04 Still in mourning Nog in de rouw    
DATING80_05 None of your business Gaat je niets aan    
DATING300 Religion ∞ Godsdienst ∞    
DATING300_01 / keyword Is opium for the people Is opium voor het volk    
DATING300_02 / keyword Monotheistic Monotheïstisch    
DATING300_03 / keyword Agnost Agnost    
DATING300_04 / keyword I like their rituals Ik houd van hun rituelen    
DATING300_05 / dating keyword I like their buildings Ik houd van hun gebouwen    
DATING300_06 / dating keyword I like their art Ik houd van hun kunst    
DATING340 God herself: God zelf:    
DATING340_01 Is great Is groot    
DATING340_02 There are many Er zijn er velen    
DATING340_03 Is dead Is dood    
DATING340_04 Imaginary friend for grown ups Denkbeeldige vriend voor volwassenen    
DATING310 Politics ∞ Politiek ∞    
DATING310_01 / dating keyword I don't care Geef ik niets om    
DATING310_02 / dating keyword I don't vote Ik stem niet  
DATING310_03 / dating keyword I don't know Ik weet niet    
DATING310_04 / dating keyword I won't say Zeg ik niet    
DATING 110 Professional: Professioneel:    
DATING110_01 I'm self employed Ik ben zelfstandig    
DATING110_02 I'm employed Ik heb een baan    
DATING110_03 I'm an employer Ik ben werkgever    
DATING110_04 I'm happily unemployed Ik ben werkloos en gelukkig    
DATING110_05 I'm looking for a job Ik zoek werk    
DATING110_06 I'm a student Ik studeer    
DATING320 Sector: Sector:    
DATING90 Money: Geld:    
DATING90_01 I can support myself Ik kan mezelf onderhouden    
DATING90_02 The state can support me De overheid mag me onderhouden    
DATING90_03 I still have parents Ik heb mijn ouders    
DATING90_04 I have a day job Ik leef van een bijbaantje    
DATING90_05 I could even support you Ik zou zelfs jou kunnen onderhouden    
DATING100 Housing: Huisvesting:    
DATING100_01 I’m homeless Ik ben dakloos    
DATING100_02 I live in a squat Ik woon in een kraakpand    
DATING100_03 I live as anti-squat Ik woon antikraak    
DATING100_04 Shared apartment Gedeeld appartement / Op kamers    
DATING100_05 Living with partner Ik woon samen    
DATING100_06 Renting Ik huur    
DATING100_07 I own my own place Ik bezit mijn eigen woning    
DATING100_08 I own many houses Ik bezit meerdere huizen    
DATING360 Pets ∞ Huisdieren ∞    
DATING360_01 / dating keyword 0 legs 0 poten    
DATING360_02 / dating keyword 2 legs 2 poten    
DATING360_03 / dating keyword 4 legs 4 poten    
DATING360_03 / dating keyword 6 legs 6 poten    
DATING360_04 / dating keyword 8 legs 8 poten    
DATING360_04 / dating keyword I love pets Ik houd van huisdieren    
DATING140 Clothing style: Kledingstijl:    
DATING140_01 Elegant Elegant    
DATING140_02 Trashy Leger des Heils    
DATING140_03 Glamorous Glamoureus    
DATING140_04 I don't care about clothing Ik geef niets om kleding    
DATING150 Hair: Haar:    
DATING150_01 Blond Blond    
DATING150_02 Dark Donker    
DATING150_03 Red Rood    
DATING150_04 Grey Grijs    
DATING150_05 No Nee    
DATING150_06 I shave a lot Ik scheer me graag    
DATING170 What part of yourself are you proud of? Welk deel van jezelf ben je trots op?    
DATING170_01 My smell Mijn geur    
DATING170_02 My voice Mijn stem    
DATING170_03 My looks Mijn uiterlijk    
DATING170_04 My inner beauty Mijn innerlijke schoonheid    
DATING170_05 My style Mijn stijl    
DATING170_06 My friends Mijn vrienden    
DATING170_07 My car Mijn auto    
DATING170_08 My online persona Mijn online persona    
DATING120 What do you not like about yourself? Wat vind je niet leuk aan jezelf?    
DATING120_01 The shape of my nose De vorm van mijn neus    
DATING120_02 The size of my nose De grootte van mijn neus    
DATING120_03 I pick my nose Ik peuter in mijn neus    
DATING120_04 I stick my nose in places where it does not belong Ik steek mijn neus in andermans zaken    
DATING120_05 I'm smelly Ik stink    
DATING130 Let's discuss weight now: Laten we het nu over je gewicht:    
DATING130_01 Please no! Alsjeblieft niet!    
DATING130_02 I'm fine, thank you Dat is niet nodig, maar bedankt    
DATING130_03 BMI < 18 BMI < 18    
DATING130_04 BMI 18 - 25 BMI 18 - 25    
DATING130_05 BMI > 25 BMI > 25    
DATING130_06 What is BMI? Wat is BMI?    
DATING160 What do you look like? Hoe zie je eruit?    
DATING160_01 Like a prince(ss) Als een prins(es)    
DATING160_02 Like a frog Als een kikker    
DATING160_03 Like shit Beroerd    
DATING160_04 Well preserved Goed geconserveerd    
DATING160_05 Next question Volgende vraag    
DATING180 Snoring: Snurken:    
DATING180_1 No Nee    
DATING180_02 Yes Ja    
DATING180_03 I don't know Geen idee    
DATING330 Hobbies ∞ Hobby's ∞    
DATING330_01 / dating keyword What kind of a question is THIS? Wat voor vraag is DIT?    
DATING330_02 / dating keyword Physical stuff Fysieke dingen    
DATING330_03 / dating keyword Brainy stuff Geestelijke dingen    
DATING330_04 / dating keyword Girly stuff Meisjes dingen    
DATING330_05 / dating keyword Stuffy stuff Dingachtige dingen    
DATING330_06 / dating keyword No Nee    
DATING330_07 / dating keyword Other Anders    
DATING350 Bad habits ∞ Slechte gewoonten ∞    
DATING350_01 / dating keyword I sleep long Ik slaap lang    
DATING350_02 / dating keyword I watch tv Ik kijk tv    
DATING350_03 / dating keyword I'm lazy Ik ben lui    
DATING350_04 / dating keyword I abuse drugs Ik misbruik drugs    
DATING350_05 / dating keyword I wear fur Ik draag bont    
DATING350_06 / dating keyword I'm jealous Ik ben jaloers    
DATING190 What do you do? Waar ben je mee bezig?    
DATING190_EXPL here you can tell some things about your everyday live hier kan je vertellen wat je zoal doet in het dagelijkse leven    
DATING200 What about your drug use (include chocolate and alcohol): Over je drugsgebruik (inclusief chocola en alcohol):    
DATING200_EXPL be honest to yourself, the first step is admitment ;-) ben eerlijk voor jezelf, de eerste stap begint bij erkenning ;-)    
DATING210 Cultural background: Culturele achtergrond:    
DATING210_EXPL bijvoorbeeld iets over je taal, tradities, of religie for example something about your language, traditions, or religion    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE Message Bericht    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_DELETE_CONFIRM Are you sure that you want to delete this message?\n\nIt will be gone for both the sender and receiver. Weet je zeker dat je dit bericht wilt verwijderen?\n\nHet zal zowel bij de verzender als de ontvanger verwijderd worden.    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_INBOX_H1 Your date mail Je datemail    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_NOMAIL You don't have any date mail yet. Je hebt nog geen datemail.    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_REPLY Reply to this message Beantwoord dit bericht    
Remark: this label is used for every message which is sent by the user itself. So if you have sent a datemail, but you decide you want to undo it, the user has the opportunity to 'revoke' the message. Delete hit for both himself and the receiver. However received messages will also be deleted for both the sender and receiver. If this label is called 'revoke' than it implies a difference that does not exists. Therefore it is also called 'delete'.
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_SEND_BUTTON Send date mail Verstuur datemail    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_SEND_ERROR_NOPROFILES You don't have any dating profile(s), you need a dating profile to send date mail. Je hebt nog geen dating profiel(en), je hebt een date profiel nodig om datemail te kunnen versturen. Sorry, to send date mail you at least need to have one dating profile! Sorry, om datemail te versturen heb je minimaal één date profiel nodig!
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_SEND_H1 Datemail Date mail    
MOD_DATING_MESSAGE_SEND_MAIL Send datemail Verstuur date mail    
MODE_DATING_MESSAGE_DELETE_HELP Delete this message, it will be gone for both the sender and receiver Bericht verwijderen voor zowel de zender als ontvanger    

Version History

Once texts are changed they are listed in the table below. The version is an indication of when they became replaced.

Label English Dutch Changed in version
TITLE (context DATING) Your pseudonym Jouw pseudonym 0.2
EDIT_HELP_TITLE_DATING_EXPL An (anonymous) name for your dating profile* (required) Een (anonieme) naam voor je datingprofiel* (verpicht) 0.2
ADD_NEW_ALERT_DATING Please fill in your pseudonym first Vul alsjeblieft eerst je pseudoniem in 0.2
EDIT_HELP_SUBTITLE_DATING_EXPL A catchy motto to attract the fellow daters of your desire Een spetterend motto om de aandacht te trekken van de mededaters naar wie je verlangt 0.2
EDIT_HELP_INTRO_DATING_EXPL A short introduction to open this dating profile Een korte introductie om dit datingprofiel te openen 0.2
[In preparation] Fields with a star (*) are required and determine the range of profiles that may be matched with yours. Fields with a ∞ sign are then used to find the profiles witch match yours best. Velden met een ster (*) zijn verplicht en bepalen welke profielen in aanmerking komen als match. Velden met een ∞ teken worden vervolgens gebruikt om de profielen te zoeken die het beste bij je matchen. 0.2
EDIT_KEYWORDS_DATING_EXPL Below you can choose some images to your liking. Your choices will affect your match results. Hieronder kan je een aantal afbeeldingen kiezen die je aanspreken. Jouw keuzes beïnvloeden je match resultaten. 0.2
DATING230_02 / dating keyword   Houdt me totaal niet bezig 0.2
DATING80_03   Gecompliceerd 0.2
DATING340_01   Is groot 0.1
DATING340_01   Is groots 0.3
DATING310_01 / dating keyword   Interesseert me niet 0.2
DATING310_04 / dating keyword   Ik zeg niets 0.2
DATING110_04   Ik ben een gelukkige werkloze 0.1
DATING100_04   Gegeeld appartement / Op kamers 0.1
DATING140_03   Glamoereus 0.1
DATING120_02   De maat van mijn neus 0.1
DATING120_04   Ik steek mijn neus in plekken waar hij niet thuis hoort 0.1
DATING130   Nu over je gewicht: 0.3
DATING130_02   Ik ben ok dank je 0.2
DATING130_02   Dat zit wel goed, dank je 0.3
DATING160_03   Ik zie er niet uit 0.2
DATING160_03   Niet 0.1
DATING330_02 / dating keyword   Fysieke materie 0.2
Remark: on the difference between 'stuff/dingen' and 'matter/materie'. It is very simple: stuff/dingen is able to refer to activities, but matter/materie only refers to objects. Uhmm, it sure has to do with some linguistic thingy thing that I don't know. Physical stuff can be performed, but physical matter only exists. Sex can be physical stuff, while physical matter would be a body.
DATING330_03 / dating keyword   Geestelijke materie 0.2
DATING330_04 / dating keyword   Meisjes materie 0.2
Remark: 'meisjes dingen' differs from 'meisjes materie' in the sense that 'meisjes materie' as a hobby can be a reference to the liking of girls. So in this sense it is appropriate for a guy to have 'meisjes materie' as hobby, while it is a bit strange for a guy to do girly stuff, or 'meisjes dingen'. Of course, it is not impossible for a guy to do girly stuff, but this hints at a very different meaning than is indicated by the phrase 'meisjes materie'.
DATING330_05 / dating keyword   Stoffelijke materie 0.2
DATING350_05 / dating keyword   Ik draag bond 0.3
DATING190_EXPL A little story, or some key statements about your daily activities Een kort verhaaltje, of een paar kernwoorden over je dagelijkse activiteiten 0.2
DATING200_EXPL Please mention your use of any kind of drugs Vermeld alsjeblieft je gebruik van drugs, welke soort dan ook 0.2
DATING210_EXPL Anything you want to mention about your language, traditions, religion, or other cultural activities Alles wat je kwijt wil over jouw taal, tradities, religie, of andere culturele activiteiten 0.2