Often times, computer programs in English tend to give feedback on what they are and aren't doing in an impersonal form:

  • Cannot locate the internet server or proxy server
  • Unable to unlink old file (permission denied)
  • Crunching the latest data, just for you. Hang tight…
  • Reticulating splines...

...or in a personal form in the person of the program itself:

  • Firefox could not download the search plugin from...
  • Office could not create the work file
  • Windows is unable to install to the selected location

The latter set of wording works kind of okay in Italian, but the former doesn't and tends to be translated using periphrases such as:

  • [è] Impossibile trovare il server...
  • Elaborazione dei dati in corso...

...but the literal translation alternative is even worse:

  • Non posso trovare il server...
  • [sto] Elaborando i dati...

What's the preferred, least awkward way to phrase (or rather: translate) these messages?

  • Wait. You are assuming the "preferred" way is also the "least awkward"? Because in my experience the most common way is "write the message in crap, broken English" which is possibly the most awkward way.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 16, 2013 at 18:04

1 Answer 1


I generally lean towards the impersonal form in Italian. I think English can afford to use the personal form since it has the neutral gender (it), which is lacking in Italian. Using the personal form in Italian generally requires a gender to be defined. This is often arbitrary and in most cases just it doesn't feel right. Is Firefox a guy? Is Opera a lady? I don't know and I don't even want to care. Let's stay impersonal, whenever possible

Now, either using the impersonal or impersonal form, trying to literally translate English idioms is probably not doing any good. Idioms are meant to be translated with idioms, as long as the core meaning is preserved.

Let's take for instance the message

Crunching the latest data, just for you. Hang tight…

Any close-to-literal translation I can think of would be spectacularly awkward and it would indeed be an example of Doppiaggese.

If I were responsible for translating such a message, I would rather focus on

  • meaning: data is being computed. It will take a few moments.
  • tone: colloquial, almost playful

and try to convey both of them using Italian idioms, whenever possible, or just the meaning if the form cannot be preserved faithfully.

Something like

Stiamo elaborando i dati più recenti. Un attimo solo...

About the example:

  • I decided to use stiamo and be somewhat personal, since the original message was very colloquial.
  • I skipped the just for you as I couldn't think of a non-awkward translation. That's ok since the original meaning has been preserved, although some of the tone is being lost.
  • Hang tight could be maybe translated with Tieniti forte, but its purpose in the original message is to transmit the information: "This is going to take a while. Please wait.", so I decide to go with a kind of plain (but still colloquial) Un attimo solo. Again I chose meaning over form.
  • the answer is good, but discovering about doppiaggese is worth a +1 by itself
    – Agos
    Nov 19, 2013 at 20:37
  • I'll be fair and confess that somebody else posted it in a comment on this site. I just don't recall who it was... Nov 19, 2013 at 20:47

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