Posted by David McConeghy on

The Translator’s Revenge

The Translator’s Revenge

At this year’s national meeting for the academic study of religion, I found myself speaking to a colleague at day’s end and the bottom of a few pints. “I’m just not sure that I believe anymore in the framework that protected my earlier work,” I said. “What if my subjects deserved the full force of my criticisms and not scholarly reservations and hedging?” It was a moment of honesty to say it aloud, but I’ve had the thought before. One of the lessons to be learned is already a fully conceived meme — the poorly translated tattoo. Check out this list at Buzzfeed of ridiculous tattoos. Caveat emptor, right? But did these buyers really know what they should have been wary of? Can we even trust the humorous translations as identifying honest accidents? How do we parse a situation where the consumer and the retailer have one set of communications and create a product whose intentions and translations are then disconnected with others who see it?