Oh, you saucy devil. Translators’ false friends

In my recent (9 May) post on “EU funding to delightful effect”, I used a word that – viewed from an Italian-to-English perspective – can trip up  unwary translators. The word is “evocative”. Pretty harmless, you might think.

One of the Italian words for “evocative” is “suggestivo”. A word that Italian-to-English translators working on auto-pilot (or who are not mother-tongue English) often translate as “suggestive”. In English, however, “suggestive” has acquired connotations of “saucy” or “rude”. Saucy post-cards (to stay on the seaside theme) play on suggestive humour.

So ladies, if that handsome Italian invites you for a “suggestive evening  stroll” to see Rome/Florence/Venice by night, don’t slap him across the chops. Far from subjecting you to a tour of his favourite lap-dancing clubs, he just wants to show you his city at its romantic best.

He may of course have some pretty suggestive plans in mind for the rest of the evening. But that’s another matter.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

Join the conversation


  1. Oh, really?
    I’m trying to remember if I used the word in the past in the italian sense.. what a shame!
    By the way, very useful suggestion, Marian, I love your blog!

    1. Thanks for kind comment, Claudia.
      I’ll be doing occasional “false friends” features. If you can think of any others, let me know (including from the Italian perspective).

Leave a comment

Have your say!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.