August 24, 2016

Stupid Mistakes


The Case of the Inverted Syntax.

The other day I was watching a detective show on TV, and one of the main characters said that the suspect addressed someone as “mi cariño,” explaining it means “my love” in Spanish.


From Cuba With Love.

The characters were supposed to be Cuban. A cuban would say “Mi Amor” (my love), “Mi Vida” (my life) or, if the character were of an earlier generation, “Mi Sangre” (my blood). A Cuban may even address someone as “Cariño,” or “Cariño Mío.” What a Cuban would never do is use “Mi Cariño” to address someone. The words are in the wrong order.

Money for Nothing.

One would think that with all the money that’s poured into episodes of a TV show, and all the people involved in making them, someone, somewhere would have caught this error. But no. Apparently, someone thinks he (or she) knows more than he (or she) actually does. This sounds like the typical dictionary translation: someone looked up “my” and found “mi.” Then that someone looked up “love” and found “amor,” and “cariño,” and chose “cariño,” put them together using English syntax, and that was that.

That Nails-on-the-Blackboard Feeling.

As a result, for anyone who knows Spanish, the writers end up looking like idiots, and the character loses credibility. Suddenly, the suspension of disbelief necessary to follow the story comes to a screeching halt. Since the clue comes up again later, the audience is reminded that the producers didn’t think enough of their Spanish-speaking viewers to check that their use of Spanish was correct.

I see the same kind of error all the time. Fantastic sums of money invested in talent, photography, sound, sets, locations, distribution and more, in programming or advertising aimed, at least in part, at Spanish-speaking audiences, and yet the final product contains embarrassing mistakes because nobody bothered to check that the use of a foreign language is correct.

It’s not that hard, people.

About Roberto Lebron

I'm Roberto Lebron, a bilingual web copywriter, English/Spanish translator and artist. I have been in marketing for over twenty years and I have taught every level from K to college. I live in Florida. Alligators want to eat me.