Archive for Lost in translation

Lost and found

In the 10/4/15 issue of the Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn has a sympathetic look at Chinglish:  "Cultural sensitivity lost — and found — in translation".  He offers the following sign at a museum near Datong as a prime specimen:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)

Drunk [on] US dollars

On June 9, 2012, Clement Larrive wrote:

I stumbled upon this sign while on a trip from Wuhan, Hubei to Shanghai.
Do you have any idea about what it really means ?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

"Academician who survived Stalin's purges… fish"

Dmitriy Genzel sent in this photograph of an item on a Chinese menu:

(From here.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)


Jim Breen snapped this photograph in the departure lounge at Guangzhou airport:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Japanese nuances (nyuansu ニュ アンス) of "nuisance"

From Bruce Balden:

The link below (dated 1/29/15) concerns apparently incomprehensible behavior on the part of the father of a young Japanese man taken hostage and killed by ISIS recently.

The link contains the key phrase "for lack of a better translation", but I wonder how hard they tried to translate it. I'd be interested to know what exactly Haruna Yukawa's father said and if it's really so incomprehensible when taken in context.

The phrase in question was uttered by Yukawa’s father when he formally apologized to the people of Japan for his son “causing a nuisance”.

"Chinese netizens left reeling after father of slain Japanese hostage apologizes to the public" (1/29/15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

Chinglish bumper crop

Depending on your attitude to Chinglish, it is getting better / worse all the time.  The latest batch I received comes from a Weixin (WeChat) site named "Sì dà fāmíng 四大發明" (translation:  "Four Great Inventions", though they simultaneously treat that as a transcription:  "Star Farming").

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

Walmart China talk

Don't think that a Walmart in China is like a Walmart in America.  Far from it.  Chinese Walmarts carry many products tailored for the local market that you would never find in an American Walmart.

Here are "20 Things You'll Only See in Chinese Walmarts".

I won't go through all 20 of these curious items in detail, but will focus mainly on a few that are linguistically or otherwise of particular interest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Chinese Japanese

From a Japanese colleague:

"Now the Japanese too can appreciate the linguistic ingenuity of the Chinese!"

As he suggested, on the model of "Chinglish", we'll tentatively refer to this hybrid language as "Chapanese" until someone comes up with a better name for it.

This odd article collects twenty photographs illustrating different products and dishes designated and described with Chapanese wording:

Chūgoku no dasakakkoii hen'na Nihongo 中国のダサカッコイイ変な日本語
"Chinese Dasa cool weird Japanese"

To tell the truth, I don't really know exactly what the katakana word "dasakakkoii ダサカッコイイ" means, other than that it seems to signify some sort of funky fashion or style (for males?).  It appears to be a variant of just the kakkoii part alone which means "attractive; good-looking; stylish; cool; smooth; neat; with-it; groovy".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

No shitting here

Sign outside an apartment in Taipei:

Posted on imgur by Jverne

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Mind the gap

Our previous post in the Chinglish Annals was "Mind your head" (8/28/15).  As promised, in this post we turn to the other extremity of the body.

The following sign is displayed on vessels of the Shanghai Ferry service:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Mind your head

For some reason, the expression xiǎoxīn 小心 (lit., "little heart" –> "[be] careful") often throws Chinese translators into a tailspin.

"Crimes against English " (4/25/15)
"Free souvenirs " (8/15/15)
"Sandwiched in an escalator " (2/9/15)
"Signs from Kashgar to Delhi " (10/11/13)

and the classic, standard Chinglish

"Slip carefully " (5/6/14)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

Of mynas and miners, bells and whistles

Over at Spicks & Specks, Greg Pringle has a virtuoso post on "The Bell Miner:  How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology" (8/9/15).  It's about an Australian honeyeating bird — Manorina melanophrys — that used to be called the Bellbird, but was renamed Bell Miner through association with the South Asian bird called in Hindi the mainā मैना (" starling").

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

Free souvenirs

From Randy Alexander in Xiamen / Amoy, Fujian / Hok-kiàn, China:

Saw this on my trail run today and got a laugh. It's easy to see how this came about — verbs get translated with "to" mindlessly stuck in front of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)