Language Lens

A blog about life, discovery and culture through the lens of language and linguistics.

But Friday the 13th doesn’t translate!

Cat is ‘gato’ and dog is ‘perro’; red is ‘rojo’ and green is ‘verde.’  Sometimes translations are easy.  Of course the difficulty increases as you translate full sentences, paragraphs or even entire texts.  (Sentences, paragraphs and texts – oh my!)

I write you on the night of Friday the 13th, which is superstitious for both the number and the day.  Various cultures have considered Friday both an unlucky and evil day, if you consider partying and celebrating the weekend evil that is.  And then the number 13, which has its own fear associated with it: triskaidekaphobia.  There’s too much to write about the origins of 13 and why it’s superstitious, but here’s a few.  Some beliefs come from the Christian view that Judas, who deceived Christ, was the 13th to arrive at the Last Supper, and in Tarot 13 is the death card, which depicts the Grim Reaper.

Completely opposing beliefs, yet similar superstitions to the number 13.  Hmmm…

Here are some other interesting facts about the number 13 from this website.

  • Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
  • Many airports skip the 13th gate.
  • More than 80% of high rise buildings/skyscrapers lack a 13th floor.
  • Traditionally in hangings, there are 13 knots in the noose and 13 steps leading up to the moment of death.
  • Many say the No. 13 was pointed to the ill-fated mission to the moon, Apollo 13.

So back to translating (as this is a language blog).  You must be careful with translating because superstitions like “Friday the 13th” don’t translate; in fact, they can be different all together in another language, sometimes not existing at all.

In Spanish, the equivalent is “Martes 13,” or “Tuesday the 13th.”

  • El martes [13] ni te cases, ni te embarques. (On Tuesday [the 13th], don’t get married/make big decisions or travel.)

Another common superstition, belief, lo que sea (whatever) is that cats have 9 lives.  Well guess what: they have 7 lives to Spanish speakers!  Translating works to a degree, but you can’t translate beliefs and superstitions.   They are as unique as you and I.

http://pinterest.com/pin/250653535482103760/

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