Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On language...


Need a copywriter?
Shanghai, China, May 2007


When I was in China, I found myself actively looking for English signs. My going-in assumption was that they'd often read funny because of the massive structural differences between eastern and western languages.

As you can see from this image, I wasn't disappointed. I found this sign in a very chic-looking multi-floor department store. The store was plastered from top to bottom with signs like this, and I couldn't leave the building without taking at least one picture to remember the scene.

I post this not out of mockery or disrespect. Their English is light years better than my Mandarin, after all. But it was too cute to pass up.

Your turn: Got any funny anecdotes from the world of translation?

14 comments:

Stacy said...

greeting cards and school folders are some of my favorite things to read. You get a gyst of the concepts they are trying to portray, but it is just wrong. They are fun to read.

I made a big mistake once. I was sick (throwing up!) and some friends came to visit. I tried to say "I can't see you, I'm sick. I'm throwing up." Instead, I said "I can't see you. I'm potato." Throw up is "tuo" and potato is "tudo". My friend looked at me and said, "WHAT???" ha! too funny.

b13 said...

While getting tattooed my artist told me a funny story. Not sure how true it is but interesting nonetheless.

A man wanted to get Kanji on his arm for the popular term of the time "No Fear" by a Japanees tattoo artist.

After having been inked he noticed that he would get weird stares at the sushi bar he frequented.

He asked the chef what was wrong and learned that his Kanji translated into "Coffin Maker."

He questioned the artist and received this answer: "One who makes coffins does not fear death. If you do not fear death you have no fear."

chase said...

It is somewhat similar here when I was checking on some english signs or billboards. But Norwegians are quite good in English.

Anyway, belated Happy Canada Day!

kenju said...

Soon after I got my first computer, I discovered Engrish.com, where murder of the english language takes place at an alarming rate. It is very fun to read!

D.O.M. Dan said...

As a child, my dad and I would watch re-runs of the old movie shorts "The Three Stooges". In one episode set in Mexico the stooges were bull fighters. The ring announcer introduced them as "Los Tres Loco Americanos", and then said (in English) "we hope you like them too many." For some reason we found that so funny.

Beverly said...

Oh, I love that. As you said, their English is far ahead of your Mandarin. I think that so often. I visited Estonia a few years ago. All of the younger people speak English...amazing. I didn't even learn "hello."

Once while staying in a Haitian home, the lady of the house asked me if I needed a towel "serviette."
"No, thank you," I said. I brought my own "assiette." (plate)

Many other errors come to mind as well.

Mike said...

Love it. I work with some Chinese counterparts. They are the most polite people I have ever worked with. I am very careful to make sure we understand each other. They seem to appreciate that.

Catheroo said...

When I worked as an editor for a Japanese company, I took a trip to Japan. I loved all the poorly translated things I found.

One of my favorites was in a gadget store that was selling a "Lotating CD Luck." It was a CD rack that spun.

I still have a small notebook that says "The notebook having horizontal ruled line and being able to fold up is the best for arranging sentences."

Oh, and a coworker at the Japanese company, when asked what kind of car she drove, answered "Right now, I am having a Honda." I found that so endearing.

MileHighDivaCyn said...

My personal favorite?
At the NEW CITY BUFFET restaurant in Westminster, CO. Above the wontons and crab legs....

"Grab Meat Wontons"
"Grab Meat"

Anna said...

Hey Carmi! I am finally back. Great posts! I have been catching up. You know that I love the cart image....that is totally one I would do! :)

Hope you are well and have a great week!

shoeaddict said...

Carmi- Hi. don't know if you remember me but, you visited my blog via Michele's. You read and commented on a story/essay I wrote called "freckle face".

I know I've already thanked you but, I have to say again how much it's meant to me. Mike also left a great comment and those comments (as well as some lately from a new essay) have been nagging at me.

I've always wanted to be a writer and have been writing for forever. But, you know, my parents and my grandparents think my writing is great but, who can believe them??

I got an email from Michele saying that you and Mike are to be trusted and that you both don't give out high praise.

Thanks. Really.

Kristen

Chad Oneil said...

Thanks for your recent comment, Carmi. I appreciate it.

Joy T. said...

I think I'm hooked on reading your comments as much as I am your blog. Great commenters! This sign made me 'respectfully' smile. Thanks for linking to me as well. That's very kind.

Just a trumpet player said...

While in Spain, looking for the information center in a small village, we found a sign with a huge arrow that said "Pubic Office"...

Michele sent me ; Have a great weekend !

Happy Anniversary !!!