A Redditor posted an interesting question yesterday : “People who read the Non-English versions of the [Harry Potter]books, were there any translation controversies?”
He was inspired by some hilarious Japanese Harry Potter translations.
In an example of why Reddit is sometimes great, contributors jumped in with examples from all over the world.
Here are some of the best.
Some Harry Potter translations are so surprisingly appropriate we should start using them in the English version
In Norway, Fudge’ name in the first book (Kornelius Bortfor-Klar) means “explain away”.
In Turkey, dementors were translated as “ruh emici” which literally means “soul sucker”.
In Romania, Quidditch is called Vâjhaţ which means “Whoosh-Catch”.
In Finnish, the (invented) word for Dementor was adopted into everyday language and is now used to mean buzzkill or a drag.
in Brazil Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw became Grifinória, Lufa-lufa, Sonserina and Corvinal. Brilliant!
Voldemort is named Φολιδόμορτος which means “Scaly Death” in Greek.
in Romania, they focused on Voldermort’s lack of nose. He’s called Lord Cap-De-Mort which translates to something like ‘Lord Skull’ or ‘Lord Jolly Roger.’
In Japan, Snape’s last words “look at me” was translated with a different pronoun from the one he uses with Harry, making it obvious he’s speaking to Lily. Kind of perfect.
Some book translations resulted in surprised faces when the movies came out
Apparently, the word for wand in the Japanese version has a similar meaning to walking stick.
This lead to some readers picturing magic staffs.
They must have felt shortchanged at the movie’s tiny wands!
Some interpretations are simply hilarious
See how one Russian translator mangled the characters’ names :
Snape is translated as Snegg, Zlodeus Zlei, literally Villainous Villain.
Loona Lovegood is transformed into Loona Psihuna or Psycho-una.
Trelawney is interpreted as Samogoni. The redittor suggest it’s an allusion to home-made vodka!
Quirrel, believe it or not, is called Squirrel.
Hagrid is simply Ogrid.
My personal favourite, Bagshot is translated to Jukpuk or Beetle-fart.
When J.K. Rowling came up with the anagram ‘I am Lord Voldemort’, translators all over the world sobbed.
In French, Tom Riddle’s name rearranges to say ‘Je suis Voldemort’ / ‘I am Voldemort’, making his full name Tom Elvis Jedusor.
Yep, French Voldemort’s middle name is Elvis.
Dumbledore in the Italian books is “Albus Silente”.
Perhaps an attempt to translate the “dumb” from his name to “silent” (or mute)?
Dumbledore may be brooding at times, but he’s hardly silent!
But you have to love Madame Pomfrey or Madama Poppy Chip.
In one German translation, the game “exploding snap” appeared as “Snape explodiert”, which means “exploding Snape”.
Sounds like an awesome game!
Barrels of Meat?
In an early German version of the 4th Book, they translated “800 barrels of mulled mead” that Dumbledore had ordered for the yule ball as if it said “meat” instead of “mead”.
Which begs the question, why meat would be delivered in barrels – and why Harry would be excited about that.
In the Swedish translation of N.E.W.T.s (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Levels), the magical exams became the F.U.T.T., literally Terribly Exhausting Wizard’s Test.
‘Futt’ cracks up the swedes – it means ‘measly‘ in Swedish.
The Japanese book translations deserve an entire section to themselves
- they kept on mixing up whether Lily or Petunia was the older/younger sister
- the potions puzzle is wrongly translated so you can’t get the solution
- “Charms” was translated to “Fairy Magic”
- “Snape looked as though someone had just fed him a large beaker of Skele-Gro” was translated to feeing Skele-Gro to the beaker
- instead of “Free Elf” it was translated to “Free Slave Elf”
- the part where Aberforth says “he wants you too badly” was translated to “Voldemort wants you too badly”
- “flesh memories” was translated to “the meat memory”
- There are a bunch of personal pronouns in Japanese and the ones they chose made Voldemort and Snape sound like a caricature.
Check out the Wiki for lots more Japanese Harry Potter translations.
Know any other translations of Harry Potter? Share with us below.
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.