Sunday, December 03, 2006

English Advertising/Italian song/French translation

Some time ago, a new client asked me to translate the packaging copy for one of his famous chocolate cakes. The approach was to liken chocolate to love and the vehicle used were the famous lyrics from the song “Amore” , by Dean Martin (and Perry Como fame):

"When the moon hits your eye/Like a big-a pizza pie/That's amore", "When the stars seem to shine/Like you've had too much wine/That's amore", and "When the stars make you drool/Just like pasta fazool'/That's amore."

Another panel extolled the virtues of the chocolate, using Jewish humour.

The song was well-known in Canada and in Quebec in the 50’s but appeared to exist only with the English lyrics. Translating the lyrics into French might have been a solution but the translator did not feel sufficiently qualified to write poetry in French. Using English lyrics on the French panel also felt like a no-no.

What absolutely stymied me is how to render English-Jewish humour in French (for the Montreal market).

I called the client, explained my predicament and suggested that the copy be reworked. He was disappointed and thanked me for my opinion. Several days later, he called me, thanked me for my comments and told that he had spoken with a very good, bilingual friend in Ottawa who had totally agreed with my opinion.

The translation was not done but I still had a grateful client who thanked me for helping him avoid a cultural and linguistic faux pas.

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