As my deplorable photographic skills illustrate below, Coca-Cola keeps the merry tradition going of advertising its product with a well-wishing Santa. Although nowadays, it’s arguably better to speak of a merry Santa plainly announcing that those days are here again – you know: those marking the end of the year, without getting into an uncomfortable commitment to either a happy holiday, a merry Christmas, a joyful Festivus or whatnot. To wit:
So in English we are approaching tout court Holiday 2009. Oh well.
Now, let’s see the Spanish version, conveniently printed on the other side of the very same bottle:
Here an unapologetic Santa wishes in Spanish Merry Christmas: Feliz Navidad. No ifs or buts.
Isn’t it interesting that an apparently pressing reason to culturally neutralize a reference to Christmas in the English version doesn’t – pardon the pun – translate all that well into Spanish?
What, don’t Spanish speakers appreciate Seinfeld’s legendary demand for recognition of Festivus? Is an attempt at making a for purposes of commercial expediency politically correct statement in just one language – but not in another – really an expression of embraced PC sensitivity, or does it remind rather of cultural apartheid thinking? As in: the same fundamental objections of those who prefer not to be reminded of Christian symbols are, seemingly, valid enough in English, but not so much in Spanish… To be clear, it’s not the inclination by itself to tone down religious identifying symbolism, for whichever reason, that which piques my interest here; it’s the cross-linguistic inconsistency which I find, well… Curious. Because it does present a bit of a quandary for the translator.
Of course, from a marketing point of view one could explain it as an exponent of market segmentation. But that’s not to say that a given principle shouldn’t apply to the overall market. And it’s not so that there’s no parallel construct available in Spanish, either; a culturally neutralized wish of “Happy Holidays” in English can be perfectly well translated as felices fiestas in Spanish.
It’s an interesting instance of something that is a hard to classify phenomenon, as much as it is somewhat revealing: translation, adaptation and projection are, apparently, three distinct but sometimes also treacherously overlapping notions.
Either way: Joyeux Noël, Gelukkige Kerst, Buon Natale, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Feliz Natal, Feliz Navidad, and, above all: