Lost in Translation: The Bum Dollar

1.IMG_0664Does the above sign in the Golden Zone crack you up as it does me? Every time I see it, I have no choice but to chuckle. Why in the world would anyone want to trade in their pesos for bum dollars?! I’m so glad for this fairly new business, as it brings joy to my day every time I drive by.

In my world, exchanging money for bum dollars would mean getting fake dollar bills. Granted, the phrase “bum dollar” isn’t one I’ve heard, but it does logically follow a pattern (see the definitions below, from McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs). The people at BumDólar even advertise “the cheapest dollars on the planet!” 😉 

Cheap Dollars

I haven’t used the BumDólar exchange service; they may be completely wonderful. I post the photos tongue-in-cheek. Sometimes things are just lost in translation. What sounds good in one language can be hysterical, or offensive, in another.

For years I’ve said that my ideal job is to be one of the people who laugh themselves silly while choosing brand names like BumDólar, Calpis soda, Barf detergent. or Shitto sauce.

Dictionary Definitions and Sample Sentences

bum: false; phony.
“That’s a bum dollar.”
“He gave me bum advice.”

bum rap: blame or punishment that is not fair.
“Teachers are getting a bum rap from people who say they don’t work hard enough.”
“She was sent up to the penitentiary on a bum rap.”

bum steer: misleading instructions or guidance; information that is not correct< or not helpful; a misleading suggestion.
“Her suggestion to eat at that little Italian restaurant was a bum steer.
“I got a bum steer from the salesman, and I paid far more than I needed to for a used car.”

bum’s rush: hurrying someone out of a place.
“The young customer in the jewelry store was getting the bum’s rush until he pulled out an enormous roll of bills.”
“Bill got the bum’s rush at the restaurant because he didn’t have a tie on.”

bum someone out: to disappoint someone.
“This menial job really bums me out.”
“The bad movie bummed out the entire audience.”

bum something off someone: to beg or borrow something from someone.
“Can I bum a cigarette off you?”
“You can’t bum anything off me that I don’t have.”

bum around (with someone): to spend or waste a lot of time with a particular person.
“He used to bum around with Ted a lot.”
“They bummed around together all summer.

bum out: to have a bad experience.
“Are you going to bum out again tonight?”
“Man, is he bummed out!”

bummed (out): discouraged; depressed.
“I feel so bummed; I think I need a nice hot bath.”
“When you’re feeling bummed out, think how much you’ve accomplished.”

bums on seats: if a public performance or a sports event puts bums on seats, many people pay to go and see it.
“This production needs a big name to put bums on seats.”

the bum’s rush: the action of getting rid of someone who is not wanted.
“The photographer was given the bum’s rush by two policemen guarding the office.”
“Why do I feel I’m getting the bum’s rush? Where are you off to?”

Tell me, what are some of your favorite “lost in translation” phrases here in Mazatlán?

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

3 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: The Bum Dollar

  1. I agree that many a joke has begun from that sign bum dollar and yes I took it the same way as fake or no good. It’s a chuckle but again lost in translation.

    Lana Reid

  2. I love Bum Dollar. We drive from Cerritos to the La Viña parking lot, hence need to turn to get over to Gaviotas. Before I found Bum Dollar, I kept ending up in a bank parking lot just before it.

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