May I Offer You Some Plopp*?


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It seems so strange to be reviewing a book that’s not a cookbook here, but bear with me–there’s some juicy food content to be had.

In my reading list for an alarmingly long time has been Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World. Having finally started and finished it, all I can say is I’ve learned way more than I ever expected about translation and interpretation.

Well, maybe I can say a few more things.

You’ve probably heard the old joke about how the Nova never sold well in Mexico as, in Spanish, “no va” means no-go? Turns out that’s total fiction (the inflection between the two is different and the car actually sold well, there. But it is true that you could make an international meal of Bimbo, Bra, and Pee Cola.

As our collective inner 12-year-olds giggle, allow me to explain that Bimbo is a type of Mexican sandwich bread, Bra is a Swedish yogurt, and Pee Cola is a soft drink in Ghana (which I’ve yet to find out what it’s supposed to taste like–how can you not wonder?!).

Not that other countries are the only ones as the butt of the joke in the U.S.–many of our own cultural favorites face quite the quandary when trying to market their products in other, non-English speaking countries.

In addition to the amusing culinary foibles, movie titles, product marketing, and television interpretaion take their place among the weightier matters of national affairs, religion, and 911 translations. While it reads, at times, as here’s-why-we’re-important propaganda, perhaps the fervor is necessary. After all, unless you know a translator or interpreter personally, how often do you think about their work and how it affects your daily life?

Parts are serious, parts are scary (the 911 call where a woman, fearing for her life, with a weapon-wielding someone coming her way springs immediately to mind), and parts will make you laugh out loud. But all will open your eyes to an under-appreciated field. I think this book would also be interesting to those who appreciate the history of words (etymology) and a career guide for those who find learning languages a fun pastime.

*Plopp is, according to the authors, a Czech chocolate candy (though Wikipedia identifies it as Swedish).


I received a copy of Found in Translation for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.