Lost in translation

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 28 19:54:58 UTC 2008

Not to mention the widespread misuse of "translator" to mean "interpreter."


On Jan 28, 2008 10:40 AM, Chris Kern <chriskern99 at gmail.com> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Chris Kern <chriskern99 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Lost in translation
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> Lately I'm seeing on the Internet more and more a new sense of "lost in
> translation" -- the usage involves the person applying the verb "lost" to
> themselves, and it tends to mean that the person is having some kind of
> difficulty due to a lack of understanding of a foreign language.  The
> instance I saw today was someone bemoaning their inability to play a
> particular Japanese video game because she thought the menus and commands
> would be too hard to understand without Japanese knowledge -- the exact text
> she used was "If I buy this game I'm TOTALLY gonna get lost in
> translation."  I have also seen people use the phrase to describe themselves
> having difficulties translating text into English -- they're not having
> problems expressing nuances of the original text, they're having problems
> understanding the basic meaning.  Another use is to express difficulty
> speaking the language of a country while visiting or living there.
> Google only brings up 630 or so hits for "I'm lost in translation" so this
> is not a particularly common usage, but I wonder where it comes from.  I
> haven't seen the movie _Lost in Translation_ so I don't know if that has
> anything to do with it.  It seems to me to be related to a common usage of
> the term "translate" when the person is actually just talking about reading
> or understanding something in a foreign language.  So perhaps it's just a
> blending of the common "I'm lost" to express confusion or lack of
> understanding, and the use of "translation" to mean any kind of dealings
> with a foreign language.
> -Chris
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