When translation goes wrong — again

<French t-shirt with incorrect English>The January sales have been on in France, and I can only presume that some of the English slogans on the t-shirts were identified as mistakes, and sent to the sales to be sold on the cheap.

Pictured are a few of the bizarre phrases in the last two shops I visited. I wish I had started snapping earlier, as there were plenty of others around.

First up, we’ve got “Love actually OH MY DARLING I WISH WERE HERE.” Err, what? Although it’s obvious to me, as a native English speaker, that there’s a “you” missing, I couldn’t help but imagine what alternatives could go in there: “I wish Pink Floyd were here”, “I wish fish were here”, or “I wish only French speakers were here”.

<French t-shirt that no native English speaker would wear>The next one isn’t missing any words, but it’s missing everything else. Who wears a t-shirt that says “OH My DEAR”? I can imagine one of Jane Austen’s well-to-do characters saying it in sympathy to one of the jilted women. I can’t imagine hearing any of my friends saying it, let alone wearing the t-shirt.

<French t-shirt that makes absolutely no sense at alln>The last one makes even less sense. “Great? what Great?”. What’s with the question marks and odd capitalisation? Nothing about this makes sense. Nothing. How did this get on a t-shirt? Who buys this crud?

French people, if you do insist on buying these t-shirts, please leave them at home on those trips to English-speaking countries to avoid people staring at your chest with a confused look on their face.

Alternatively, maybe I’ve just missed the joke. The same day I saw these t-shirts, I bought one that says “Oh crêpe”. It makes no sense in French of course, but it sounds a lot like “Oh crap” in English. I loved it and had to buy it. So maybe “OH My DEAR” is a play on “Oh mon Dieu” (oh my God). And maybe God knows what on earth “Great? what Great?” is meant to sound like. I’m pretty sure no speakers of English or French can come up with that answer.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “When translation goes wrong — again
  1. Jacqui says:

    I saw another one the other day, equally as meaningless, but I can’t remember what it said. It did make me laugh though, so maybe that is their purpose to amuse the anglophones?

  2. Michelle says:

    This is one of my favourite pastimes in clothes shops here! Lots of amusement and bemusement to be had! I should start taking pics of them too.
    I want the “oh crêpe” t-shirt!! But I don’t know if I’d bother wearing it here and having to explain why it’s funny all the time!!

  3. Wendy says:

    Jacqui, you might be right. Michelle, the t-shirt was from H&M if you happen to have one nearby.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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