I’m sure that when you tell someone that you’re going to miss them (echar de menos in Spanish) or you wish to visit the English Channel (Canal de La Mancha in Spanish) or you talk about tax havens (paraísos fiscales in Spanish), you wouldn’t have ever imagined that the Spanish expressions actually originated from translation mistakes. Someone thought that certain words could be used in Spanish and just went ahead and did so. Although there are some translation mistakes that seem as if they were made on purpose, they really weren’t. But they’re definitely here to stay! We’ll tell you some of them.

Where did the Spanish expression “paraísos fiscales (tax havens)” come from?

“Paraíso fiscal” comes from the translation of the English expression “tax haven”, which means “tax shelter”. Never one to miss a trick, the French who began to use this expression apparently didn’t speak English very well and mixed up “haven” with “heaven”, which definitely sounds more appealing, obviously. And here in Spain, we followed suit and decided to use the expression “paraísos fiscales”.

From Portugal to “echar de menos (miss)”

Although it may seem contradictory, “echar de menos” in Spanish doesn’t mean that you want to get someone away from you. It actually means the opposite: that you can’t stand having someone away from you for a long time. In this case, this translation mistake comes from our Portuguese neighbors. In Portugal, they use the expression “achar de menos”, so since it sounded quite similar to “echar”, the expression remained. Perhaps it’s not the greatest idea ever, but if they’re happy with it…

From freezing to sweltering in Cape Horn

If you’ve ever been to Cape Horn in Chile, you’ll know that it’s anything but hot there. So, how did it end up being called “Cabo de Hornos” in Spanish? Well, because of a translation mistake. It’s due to laziness in translating more than anything else. “Horn” is English, but it doesn’t actually refer to the hard, pointed things that grow from an animal’s head, but rather to a little town nearby. Now, some wise guy wanted to translate it into Spanish and due to some ambiguity and word similarity, decided that “Cabo de Hornos” would be a good translation. 

From bridges to… Bruges (Brujas in Spanish, which literally means “witches”)

Have you ever been to the Belgian city of Bruges? It has an abundance of bridges, charming houses…but no witches, of course. This is definitely another fine example of a translation mistake. The name “Brugge” has nothing to do with witches; it actually means “bridges”. This translation mistake could be due to the similarity between “brugge” and “brujas” in spelling. But well, that’s how it remained. And a translation mistake is still a mistake.


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