Oh, you saucy devil. Translators’ false friends


In my recent (9 May) post on “EU funding to delightful effect”, I used a word that – viewed from an Italian-to-English perspective – can trip up  unwary translators. The word is “evocative”. Pretty harmless, you might think.

One of the Italian words for “evocative” is “suggestivo”. A word that Italian-to-English translators working on auto-pilot (or who are not mother-tongue English) often translate as “suggestive”. In English, however, “suggestive” has acquired connotations of “saucy” or “rude”. Saucy post-cards (to stay on the seaside theme) play on suggestive humour.

So ladies, if that handsome Italian invites you for a “suggestive evening  stroll” to see Rome/Florence/Venice by night, don’t slap him across the chops. Far from subjecting you to a tour of his favourite lap-dancing clubs, he just wants to show you his city at its romantic best.

He may of course have some pretty suggestive plans in mind for the rest of the evening. But that’s another matter.

2 Responses to “Oh, you saucy devil. Translators’ false friends”

  1. 1 Claudia

    Oh, really?
    I’m trying to remember if I used the word in the past in the italian sense.. what a shame!
    By the way, very useful suggestion, Marian, I love your blog!

    • 2 wordstogoodeffect

      Thanks for kind comment, Claudia.
      I’ll be doing occasional “false friends” features. If you can think of any others, let me know (including from the Italian perspective).

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