Unfortunate translations are usually the domain of short-sighted marketing campaigns. Who can forget when Chevy tried to market the Nova to Latin America, only to realize no va means “doesn’t go” in Spanish. Or when Pepsi tried to translate its slogan, “Pepsi brings you back to life,” only to discover it was inadvertently promising folks in China that drinking Pepsi would bring their dead ancestors back from the great beyond.
Names getting lost in translation is part of the humor and adventure of travel, and it’s not just Americans who giggle at names like Lake Titicaca. The language translation app Babbel looked at American city and town names, finding that some, in other languages, are highly inappropriate. Go seek them out, take a picture in front of the sign, and in addition to a deluge of Instagram “LOLs,” you’ll get 30 percent off Babbel for six months.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Sounds like “Cape Penis” in Norwegian. Anyone who spent a weekend with the Kennedys here back in the ‘60s would probably say that translation’s pretty accurate. But what exactly do Norwegians think we’re putting in our fish sticks?
Translates to “brothel” in Polish. Lonely Polish men probably expecting a lot more excitement out of Marin County than coffee shops and sophisticated art galleries.
Fort Rucker, Alabama
Sounds like “Fort Jerk Off” in Dutch. A base called “Fort Jerk Off” might be the most accurate naming of a military installation in history.
Crotte Creek, Wisconsin
Translates to “Crap Creek” in French. This sounds like a really terrible, edited-for-TV version of that show with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. Or the only city in America with water worse than Flint.
Translates to “shit” in Portuguese. Just a heads-up to the Kaka Convention and Visitors Bureau: Naming yourself “shit town” makes it a seriously uphill climb to land on our list of the 25 coolest towns in America.
Translates to “fat” in Spanish. It might be time to hold off on those Alabama double cheese bacon grits.
Eier Lake, Minnesota
Translates to “Testicle Lake” in German. Clearly named by some German dudes who took a dip here in the winter and found it exceptionally cold.
Translates to slang for “penis” in Portuguese. Think about this next time you laugh in a British grocery store after seeing can after can of spotted dick.
Sounds like “asshole” in French. The French must have really gotten a kick out of Roseanne.
Translates to “boob” in French. Heh heh. Heh. Heh.
Translates to “Shit, Ohio” in Swedish. According to literally every person in Michigan, this is redundant.
Sounds like “Bitch, Alaska” in Portuguese. If you lived in a city with two months of darkness, regular temperatures in the single digits, and an average annual income of $50,000 below the state average with a cost of living index of 103, you’d be a Kaltag too.
Sounds like “whore” in Indonesian. No, Indonesian diplomats did not mistakenly fly here for presidential meetings in the wild ‘90s.
Oat Valley, California
Sounds like “piss off” in Russian. Would probably not be wise to stand at the bottom of this Yuba County ravine if you hear a bunch of Russian guys at the top.
Sounds like “stingy” in Japanese. Beleaguered diner owners wondered for years why Japanese tourists would try and negotiate the price of a grilled cheese sandwich. Every. Damn. Time.
Sounds like “I masturbate-burg” in German. When the pigeons are having a bad day, German visitors just assume Mississippians reeeeeeally love their Civil War heroes.