Years ago, while translating a Japanese movie about an ancient document with clues to a secret treasure, I noticed something odd: when the document finally appeared on the screen, it was written in English… and it was actually an end user agreement for Mac software!
This text from Lupin the 3rd: The Columbus Files is actually an end user agreement for Mac software by Aladdin Systems!
This is pretty blurry but it definitely talks about legal agreements here, not secret treasure
After that, I encountered similar “filler English” during other translation projects. I never thought much about it until a few weeks ago when I saw this Sailor Moon image being passed around online:
(Thank you to whoever made this!)
On a lark, I asked Twitter users if they knew of other examples of this phenomenon. I expected only a handful of answers, but there were so many reactions that my phone battery died. A few days later, the Twitter thread was translated for a Japanese site, and the comments there featured even more examples – including the opposite in which English-language stuff uses random Japanese quotes as filler!
So, because there’s so much enthusiasm around the topic, I decided to compile all the answers I got and share them here. Many thanks to everyone who contributed!
Sailor Mercury's computer features RoboCop's prime directives (from Sailor Moon)
The bottom plaque is a flipped sign about picking up dog poop (from Resident Evil)
Uhh, that's just the English alphabet (from Legend of Galactic Heroes)
This is supposed to be the deed to Saudi Arabia's oil reserves (from Lupin the Third)
This letter to Laura is the lyrics from Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory" (from Silent Hill 2)
This guy's shirt text keeps changing!
These are actually setup instructions for a computer scanner plug-in (from Gundam Wing)
Just a big ol' list of MAME games (from Godzilla 2000)
Hey, that's Donald Duck's nephews and the alphabet (from Cowboy Bebop)
This alchemy book is a review of a Dungeons and Dragons book (from Fullmetal Alchemist)
The English in the background is from other manuals (from the Shinobi game manual)
The English in the background is from game other manuals (from the Shinobi game manual)
This is a list of Led Zeplin songs (from Shippu! Iron Leaguer)
Oh, what's this? A list of 80s movies! (from Dirty Pair)
We see news about an Iron Maiden concert, yet the game is set in 1930 (from the Sega game Earnest Evans)
Doraemon's got a list of rock and heavy metal bands
MADE IN HONG KONG, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, SQUER COMPANY LIMITED (from Final Fantasy VII)
On the side is a track list from Electronic's self-titled debut album (from Denji Sentai Megaranger)
This is basically a mock screenshot of an old Star Trek game (from Macross)
This tiny English text is from the Team Fortress Wikipedia page (from Let's Tap for the Wii)
The "info" on these dudes are snippets from a political blog (from Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo)
Here we have the lyrics to two David Sylvian songs (from Bubblegum Crisis)
I don't think that sort of text appears in real English textbooks (from Yu Yu Hakusho)
This is from a music video featuring J-pop idols doing computer hacking, but it's actually an article on transgender rights
She's writing an article on US / Russian relations ?? (from Venus Wars)
Here's an essay about robots (from Mazinkaiser SKL)
This is an excerpt from a book called "The Sea Around Us" (from Power of Stone)
The HTML code for Super Sentai's Wikipedia page on the side (from Tokumei Sentai Go Busters)
Below "CLUB" is the Wikipedia definition of "disco" (from Garo: Vanishing Line)
This is actually just the readme info from a computer program called "Terragen" (from Klonoa for the GBA)
This info sheet is an essay on the scientific revolution (from Fullmetal Alchemist)
An essay on George Orwell's 1984 (from Dirty Pair)
The original Dragon Ball series features filler text from the 1979 Alien movie. In an interesting twist, this filler actually reveals the fact that Goku is an alien long before it's revealed in Dragon Ball Z!
A writeup about the history of Gainax (from End of Evangelion)
This certificate has something about the colors of animals (from Fullmetal Alchemist)
It appears this man is the King of Beer (from Bubblegum Crisis)
Oh, it's just the synopsis from the novelization of The Muppet Movie (from Black Magic M-66)
I’m guessing there are many more examples out there, new and old. So if you know of anything not included here, let me know on Twitter or in the comments and I can add it to this page!
If you liked this, check out press start to translate
, my book about the time I Google-translated Final Fantasy IV
. It includes the worst/most hilarious translation mistakes, all while explaining why
Google's A.I. made such terrible choices. (free preview PDF