When I have a book coming out in America, my editor skims through it to see if there’s any language that won’t translate, and adjusts words accordingly. But it doesn’t seem to work the other way. America’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ became ‘Where’s Wally?’, but to us a wally is English for a plonker, an idiot.
Years ago I worked on Robin Williams’ show ‘Mork & Mindy’, and his next door neighbours in the series were called Mr and Mrs Wanker. So we had dialogue lines like ‘Here come the wankers’, which made me laugh while everyone else asked what was so funny. Of course in English, the word ‘wanker’ is usually accompanied with a rather graphic hand gesture, particularly when yelled from the window of a white van to a cyclist.
And recently, ‘The Last Airbender’ suffered from lines something like ‘He’s one of the world’s greatest benders’, which had cinemas of children rolling about laughing in the serious moments, thereby helping to doom the film even further (not that it needed help).
Are there any words that do this the other way?