Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our business is folding (?!?!)

As I was driving on the Highway 401 in Toronto this morning, a panel truck passed me which bore on its side the company name (or tag line?):

Our business is folding

with underneath, a picture of a multifolded piece of paper.

My translator’s mind started to speculate what one have to do to create a French equivalent. If the motto is always used with the illustration, the meaning is quite clear; one could say:

Le pliage, c’est notre affaire! (Folding is our business!)

If, on the other hand, it is a company name which is not always accompanied by the graphics, the English becomes more difficult to understand. Imagine the receptionist answering your call and saying: “Our business is folding”, Jennifer speaking.”

It is the other meaning of folding which bothers me – is this business closing its doors?

There is often a play on words in marketing and advertising, which may be be quite successful in one language and one culture but which cannot be duplicated in another.

Translation is all context and that means not only language but culture, social milieu and country. Things which would be successful here can be a disaster in Europe and vice versa. It is like the story of the Mist Stick hair curler, which, in German, became the manure stick (since one meaning of mist in German is manure!)

No comments: