Translation à la carte

IMG_0821Some of my most memorable meals have been in French restaurants. So have some of the funniest translations.

Lamb balls on a skewer? Poor little fellow. That’s got to be a ‘boulette.’ Boulette de viande (literally: a meat ball) as well as a boulette, which also means a blunder.

With the advent of tools like Google translate, even the smallest Mom-and-Pop establishment is able to offer an English menu for non-French speakers. But I’m not sure some of these translations would inspire many guests to order them.

‘Saucisson sec à l’ancienne.’ Old dry sausage. Yummy. Or even better: ‘Saucisson sec en croute.’ Old dry sausage in a crust.

‘Chevre chaud avec sa salade aux noix.’ Hot goat’s cheese with his nuts’ salad. I kid you not.

‘Carottes rapées au citron.’ Lemon raped carrots. Now hold on just a minute. Who’s accusing who?

And would you be up to trying some of these Lebanese specialities?

Singed chicken wings. Mashed of mean pea trimmed with hacked meat. Cheese fresh makes from curdled milk.

‘Mi-cuit’ is a trendy way of preparing sushi-grade tuna and salmon. But it’s a bugger to translate. ‘Half-cooked’ doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to eat. Partially cooked? Maybe. Seared would perhaps be more appealing. But singed? Non merci.

I was recently at one restaurant that implored me to ‘enjoy a night to remember in our privates dining room.’ Hmmm. Maybe that’s where they serve the lamb balls? Or perhaps his nuts’ salad?

Bottom line: if you’re dining out in a French restaurant and want to be sure of what you’re ordering, you may wish to get an app for that. Or invite a French speaker along to help with interpreting.

Seen any funny menu translations lately? Please share!




  1. davidprosser · June 12, 2014

    His nuts’ salad left me with tears in mon eyes.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · June 12, 2014

      Yes, and probably in the goat’s as well! Big bises xx

  2. mindfulexpat · June 12, 2014

    Hehe! Poor goat!

    • MELewis · June 13, 2014

      Yes, it does seem to add insult to injury!

  3. nessafrance · June 12, 2014

    Ha, ha! Good thing they didn’t translate it as shepherd’s balls. I have seen salad of lawyer (avocat) on a menu. And roast peasant – they left out the ‘p’. Good fun. I bet there are plenty more examples.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2014

      Salad of lawyer sounds expensive! 😉

  4. Multifarious meanderings · June 12, 2014

    My favourite was one that my brother-in-law saw in an Indian hotel: “chocolate profit rolls”. Peas on earth, girl.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2014

      Ha, ha…for the price they charge in some restaurants, they certainly are!

  5. AainaA-Ridtz A R · June 13, 2014

    Héhé marrant

  6. cheergerm · June 13, 2014

    Very funny, no translations come to mind but when our ten year old heard the dish ‘coq au vin’ last night, he thought we had said ‘coq in a van’, then laughed himself stupid.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2014

      Funny, reminds me of my brother, who saw ‘croque monsieur’ on the menu in Paris and said he’d have the ‘dead guy.’

  7. Suzanne et Pierre · June 13, 2014

    Very funny and these examples are so true. Once I went to a restaurant in Paris with 3 friends from Australia so I was speaking English with them. The waiter brought us an English only menu. It was so badly translated that we couldn’t figure out what they were serving so I eventually had to ask for the French version of the menu so I could help my friends. Obviously, I can’t remember any of the translation but they were pretty funny and absolutely impossible to understand. (Suzanne)

  8. Ha! Great post. I love restaurant translations. (Although they make me worry about how many awful “translations” I’ve done myself in French.)

    • MELewis · June 15, 2014

      Translation is humbling, isn’t it? And to think I used to do it pre-Google!

  9. Maison Bentley Style · June 17, 2014

    Big smile! I just remember asking for my shopping to be put in a box at an Italian supermarket..except I said in a squirrel.. xxx

  10. roseglace · June 18, 2014

    Not really a translation, but… A couple of weeks ago we were on the road and wound up having dinner in a city in Quebec. We visited a travel web site and settled on a very nice Vietnamese restaurant. There was no translation of the menu needed, though — the menu consisted entirely of photographs of the various dishes; you were supposed to point at the one you wanted. Despite the simplicity of the process, the obvious helplessness and incompetence of this particular maudit anglais shone like a beacon and my hostess explained to me in her broken English (probably at least her third language) how to use a menu. Eventually I got it.

    • MELewis · June 18, 2014

      Lovely story! Sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pingback: Boules de Noël – FranceSays

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