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Aug 23, 2013 10:56 AM

French-English Menu/Carte Translations

On a recent thread, I suggested we devote a thread to this since that thread really was wandering OT.
So, a new opportunity encouraged by the moderators. And since TMK we have at least three professional (that means paid) translators here in Paris who contribute to CH and many other observers, this should be a rich topic.
Egregious food/restaurant mistranslations French to English you've seen?

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  1. I'll open the bidding with these:
    poivrons = let's pepper
    pavé de saumon = salmon paving stone
    pièce du boucher = piece of butcher (hmmm)
    moule = mold

      1. I won't be taking part in this until every poster to this board spells French names of restaurants, chefs, foods, etc., correctly.

        18 Replies
        1. re: Ptipois

          Oh oh, whatdidIdo now?
          Bigarrade Biggarade; Accueil Acceuil, rillettes rilettes, kouign amann Queenaman.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Oh that just kills me. I want to tear my hair out every time I see it.

            1. re: Ptipois

              Are you sure you want to wait that long?

              I doubt that the phenomenon of we 'foreigners' spelling things correctly in any language is a distant dream,

              I admire your idealism!

              1. re: Yank

                If you have ADHD/dyslexia, and the computer does autocorrect, you live with it.

              2. re: Ptipois

                I am with Pti - my language skills are appalling so I don't laugh at those that try to translate. Given the number of menus, signs and amount of information translated into English in France it's good to see how few errors there are.

                1. re: PhilD

                  My issue is that the soul is squeezed out of the dish with translation. The poetry. The "what we've learned to know and love".

                  Facing an Anglo translation, I have to try to grasp the original name before sighing and agreeing, "Ah, yes, cassoulet. Why didn't they say so." ;)

                  1. re: mangeur

                    In that line of thought, I once booked a restaurant for my SIL (traveling to Paris with her husband & 2 teenagers). They walked up to the restaurant & perused the menu with its English translation. Saw "filet of deer", said "ewwwwww" and decided to go elsewhere. Had the restaurant written "venison" they probably would not have envisioned Bambi on a plate.

                    1. re: boredough

                      "Deer" is not exactly a bad translation in a culinary context. And it's the same animal — do they believe venison grows on trees?
                      So they left the restaurant you had booked for them only for a question of vocabulary? I can't help finding that somewhat rude of them.

                      Gee, this is a bit wrong isn't it? Restaurateurs in France going out of their way to provide some sort of translation for foreigners, with any poor means they have (few people in the restaurant business were stars of their English class when in high school, and few visitors of France are fluent enough in French to be sensitive to that "soul factor"), and being made fun here of or just walked out on just for a minor terminology issue.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        O, pti, please don't take it wrong.
                        I collect menu mistranslations all over the world. Especially in this day and age of Google Translate. It's just funny. For example in China, "F*ck Noodle" has been used so often on so many menus it has become a standard translation.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Parigi: how would most people here react if I listed all the mispellings and entertaining-though-unintentional français callisthenics I read here everyday?

                          I never did that, because I'm sure a lot of readers here would be shocked and call me bigoted and chauvinist. Sometimes when it is too likely to impair the search engine, I mention it.

                          This is a true concern, even if I appear as a party-pooper: restaurant owners do not have to provide translated menus. They do that for business and also to help customers, even if it doesn't, ultimately. I understand this is all very funny but to me, it wouldn't have that slight bitter aftertaste if I felt confident about reciprocity.

                        2. re: Ptipois

                          True, but these were teenagers who hadn't yet learned to be flexible (sadly). And not having been introduced to this kind of dish before, 'venison' might not have even been noticed or questioned. Or at least not until they were seated when the likelihood of walking out would have been very slim. (To be clear, they read this on the menu that was posted outside.) My point was that a poor translation might not encourage someone to order a particular dish, which is unfortunate for both the chef & the potential diner. He/she might not be tempted by "burnt cream", but might actually love crème brûlée (which needs no translation).

                          1. re: boredough

                            I understand, but in this case a bad translation is not the culprit. I have eaten what was labeled as "deer" and not "venison" in England.

                            It is true that an ugly translation might not encourage to try a dish, but I'd trust customers to at least realize that they should not necessarily take an attempt at a translation at face value...

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              " I have eaten what was labeled as "deer" and not "venison" in England."
                              That's the Chinese in you.

                              1. re: Parigi

                                It was not a Chinese restaurant.

                        3. re: boredough

                          "Bambi on a plate."
                          In the spirit of Jonathan Swift let's let it rip with Bambi, Peter (R), Ferdinand, Rocky, Porky, Ed (the talking horse), Turbo, Remy and Lassie or Uggi (OK the latter are from my Viet Nam not French experiences).

                    2. re: Ptipois

                      Not even if I ask everyone to use the arcane search function to search the term "Bouillabaise (boiled f*ck" on this board, instead of "bouillabaisse ? It goes on for pages.

                    3. Pimp: Maquereau
                      Roach beef: Not sure

                      A lovely waitress in one of the many wonderful French bistros with Japanese chefs keeps recommending the Menu Supplice. We finally understood Menu Surprise.

                      1. This was in Budapest, which is so obviously not in France, but I'm still wondering what the translation "flecken of gypsy heart" really meant in Hungarian. Just so you know, I did not order it.