Tips on Translating that Hunger into the Right Food in America

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It seems McDonalds are in trouble… Again. This time for directing American tourists in England that a pastie is merely a meat pie. Now we all know that a pastie is much much more than just a meat pie so here’s a list of other foods whose names have been lost in translation over the pond:

British Name American Name
Courgette Zucchini
Chips French Fries
Crisps Chips
Pancake Crepe
Sweet Potato Yam
Scone Biscuit
Biscuit Cookie
Aubergine Eggplant
Beetroot Beets
Broad Bean Lima Bean
Jam Jelly
Jelly Jello
Fizzy Drink Soda Pop
Candy Floss Cotton Candy
Fairy Cakes Cup Cakes
Ice Lolly Popsicle

A British tourist would get confused if they asked for a plate of chips and instead got a plate of crisps, same food stuff different preparation.

The same goes with munch food – as lovely as scones are you don’t want them when you want to nibble on a biscuit.

And imagine the horror of getting jelly spread on your scone instead of Jam?

It emphasises the point that a global company should have a translation agency as their first point of call when creating a marketing translation strategy across borders. Because judging by the examples above you could be embarrassed and not be serving what your customer asked for, lose money and you wouldn’t call a Big Mac a beef burger now would you?

What food translation stories do you have? We’d love to hear them so share, we are greedy for your tales of travelling food troubles! Drop us a comment with your story and it’ll go up here.

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3 thoughts on “Tips on Translating that Hunger into the Right Food in America

    le cul en rows said:
    September 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    In the US, we eat zucchini (not “zukini”), a name brought over by Italian immigrants. The chips vs. chips thing has always been a mystery.

      Sam said:
      September 13, 2012 at 8:43 am

      My apologies for the spelling error, would the pronunciation be a hard K or a stretched ssh sound? At least with the chips thing they are still potatoes! It’s the Jam and Jelly one that gets me.

        le cul en rows said:
        September 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm

        Your original spelling is almost right phonetically. The Italians brought the word, but the way it’s said is all American: zoo-kee-nee. The differences between jam and jelly are troubling if you want one and not the other. You can always specify marmalade for the one and “jiggly stuff” for the other.

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