Archive for Lost in translation

Kilometers and miles

Sometimes the obeisance to style guides by newspaper editors and journalists looks not so much craven as robotic. The Telegraph provides an example. Like many newspapers, it has a policy of reporting distances in kilometers but appending parenthesized equivalents in miles (it's a conservative newspaper, and is not going to push its mileage-oriented readers toward metric units any time soon). Often that's useful: when it reports that The behemoth Airbus A380 … is capable of carrying 544 passengers up to 15,200km (8,200 miles), the parenthetical suffix serves to assist metrically challenged Americans and older Brits in forming an idea of what 15,200 of those little bitty European kilometer things might amount to. (At least, it would have done if it were correct, but as Bruce Lin has pointed out to me, it's wildly wrong: 15,200 km = 15200/8 * 5 = 9,500 mi. They're off by 1,300 miles. They must have meant nautical miles: 15,200 km = 8207.34 NM. That could be a life-threatening error for a jetliner running low on fuel. But never mind; who's counting.) Sometimes, though, doing such conversions is rather less useful.

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Free Tea

Advertisement for a beverage that is available in Japanese convenience stores:

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Mental health

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Gibberish Tibetan

Sign on an inn in Shangri-La, Yunnan, China:

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What did Duterte call Obama?

diplomatic rift between the United States and the Philippines was precipitated by comments that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made about President Obama at a Sept. 5 news conference.

Duterte's offensive comment was made in Tagalog (though most of his news conference was in English). In English-language press accounts, the Tagalog phrase putang ina has been translated as "son of a whore" or "son of a bitch." (NPR was less forthcoming today, variously referring to it as "an obscenity about Obama's mother" or "son of a fill-in-the-blank.") So what did Duterte really mean by putang inaChris Sundita, who has helped us with Tagalog translational issues in the past, comes to the rescue.

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Go China

Jason Cox sent in the following very brief video from the USA-China basketball game at the Rio Olympics, showing a man holding a sign that says "Go USA".

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Mo River Spengler

Rachel Kronick has a knack for finding strange foreign equivalents for Chinese toponyms on Baidu, China's foremost online encyclopedia.  See "The city of Mr. Andreessen, South Korea" (4/22/14).

Now she has struck paydirt again with "Mo Ri River Spengler" for Mòrìgélè hé 莫日格勒河 in the Baidu encyclopedia.

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Pig Sanskrit

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu]

Victor's recent analysis of a certain Antibacterial Lotion of Woman ("Know your bird", 7/29/16) made me wonder what other felicitous Chinglish its purveyors might have come up with. I'd like to report on one mysterious product I found. Although no Chinglish is involved, another language is, more perfect than the Greek, more copious than Pig Latin.

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Know your bird

We have been discussing the "TCM approach to women's wellness" (7/28/16).  Jichang Lulu writes:  "On the topic of women's wellness, I'm reminded of Messrs Know your Bird, purveyors of Antibacterial Lotion of Woman."  Here's a picture:


(via Flickr)

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TCM approach to women's wellness

[N.B.:  TCM stands for "Traditional Chinese medicine"]

Geok Hoon (Janet) Williams found these posters this morning at Clementi, Singapore:

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A common mistake

Michael Rank sent in this notice banning the picking of mushrooms at Chobham Common, Surrey, said to be the largest nature reserve in the southeast of England:

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Humor among the Finns

According to The Economist (July 9, 2016, "Just visiting" [p.30 in UK edition]), a joke was "making the rounds" in Finland back in 2008 when Russia invaded part of Georgia (and Finns aren't laughing at it quite so much since the Ukraine conflict flared up):

Vladimir Putin lands at Helsinki airport and proceeds to passport control. "Name?" asks the border guard. "Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," answers the Russian president. "Occupation?" asks the border guard. "No, just visiting," answers Mr Putin.

But wait a minute, I thought: that relies on a pun. In English the word for a militarily backed presence and control of governmental functions imposed by one state on the territory of another happens to be identical with one of the words for a person's regular paying job or profession. Are the two also, by pure accident, identical in Finnish (a non-Indo-European language)? That somehow feels implausible to me.

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Private probably

The following two images come from Graham and Kathleen's video diary of a trip to the Daitoku-ji temple complex in Kyoto.


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