Puns in translation: Mexi-CAN or Mexi-CAN’T?

I happened to pass a sign advertising a Mexican restaurant in Taiwan, and it got me to thinking how I would translate this line from Once Upon a Time in Mexico into Chinese.

Sands: Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN’T?
Cucuy: I’m a Mexi-CAN.
Sands: Good. Then do as I say.

This is what I came up with:


It’s not a literal translation, but I think it captures the spirit of the original. 墨西哥人 means “Mexican,” but 哥 also means “big brother” and is used as a general term of address for men. For “Mexi-CAN’T,” I replaced 哥 with 妹, meaning “little sister.” (The line must be accompanied by appropriate body language, of course.) A little sexist, I know, but, hey, it’s Mexico.

Should Johnny Depp ever decide to do a movie called Once Upon a Time in Canada, I have a translation ready for that, too:


加拿大人 means Canadian, but 大 also means “big.” The opposite is 小, “small,” and a 小人 is a mean, ungenerous person.

Bilingual readers are encouraged to leave their own translations (into any language, not just Chinese) in the comments.


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Filed under Language, Translation

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