“Where Is the Fast Backwards Button?” and Other Brilliantly Logical Translations

Can these be real words?

department of wit train
Steve Wacksman for Reader’s Digest

On the social networking site reddit.com, one user wrote that his Russian wife had had trouble thinking of the phrase “tape measure.” So instead, she asked him, “Do you have a roll of inches?” Her brilliant translation got the redditors going, and they flooded the network with hilarious interpretations they’d heard. Here are some of the best.

My husband is Russian. He once told me, “That train has sailed.” He also frequently gets the “jeeby-creepies.” —hobbitfeet

A recent conversation with my French husband:

Husband: I almost dropped a plate, but I caught it with my arm-knee!

Me: Your what?

Husband: My arm-knee.

Me: You mean your elbow?

Husband: Yeah. —TarantusaurusRex

These are the 6 romantic words with no English translations.

I’m Arab American. In Arabic, “download” and “put down” share the same word. A while back, my cousin came to stay with me. Every time he wanted me to drop him off somewhere, he would say, “Download me here.” I never corrected him. It was awesome. —jacksrdtt

It reminds me of when an ESL friend of mine referred to an air horn as “spray scream.” —Clown_Prince_of_Web

I work with a few Russians, and I always laugh when they say stuff like:

“Vere ess Voice Helmet?”

“You mean a headset?”

“YES! YES! VOICE HELMET!” —RefinedDesign

My Icelandic friend called dimples “smile holes.” —fivefourtwo

I had a German friend who tried to tell me that I left my gloves in the car: “VikingDan, you left your hand shoes in the car.” I have never referred to them as gloves since.    —VikingDan

My favorite comment: “My Dutch neighbor called the merry-go-round a horse tornado.”     —v1000

•HORSEICANE     —the2belo

•A SYFY ORIGINAL MOVIE!!!!!! —lazermoon

•THE END IS NEIGH     —the2belo

My foreign friend calls a washing machine a “washine.” I want that to be a real word.    — happiest_tree_friend

My German friend gets mad when he hears the phrase “back and forth.” He says, “Why would you go back first! It’s forth and back!”    —Klathmon

I had a German high school teacher who was trying to rewind a tape in class and blurted out, “WHERE IS THE FAST BACKWARDS BUTTON?!” —mycartel

My Italian tour guide forgot the word for “veal” while translating a menu. Instead, she offered us “son of beef.” —roald_head_dahl

Sometimes, people who don’t speak English fluently have a poetic way of describing things. When I was in Vietnam, this guy asked if he could practice his English. After a while, I told him I had cancer when I was younger. He said, “When I hear the words you speak, I feel sadness in my heart.”    —GranpasMedicine

•That makes me wish people spoke like this more. Instead of saying “I’m sorry” when something bad happens, it would be “I feel sorrow for you.” On a lighter note, at work, when I call Spanish-speaking people to pick up a computer I’m repairing, I string together what little Spanish I know, but I probably sound like that guy in Vietnam. If they have a bad hard drive, for example, what I say translates to “Your computer’s thoughts are finished. Computer isn’t remembering now.” —SoFellLordPerth

I do not understand why things like this fascinate me when all I can speak is English, but they do. —onrocketfalls

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.