Archive for Lost in translation

Bad Chinese

Sign south of the demolished Pfeiffer Bridge on Highway 1 in Monterey County (photograph taken on August 12, 2017 by Richard Masoner while on a Big Sur bike trip, via Flickr):

Bad machine translation

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

Are good!

This is a picture of the wording on an Italian-made baby jacket, a gift to the granddaughter of a friend of a friend after the child was baptised recently in Florence, Italy. Your guess at the intended meaning is as good as mine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Annals of redundancy and masochism

Two gems from Chris Brannick via Facebook (the first is from the site of the Immortality Pills in Guangzhou and the second is from the Langham Place Hotel, also in Guangzhou):


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

Annals of poor translation

Below are two pages from the instruction book for a small point and shoot digital camera (the original in Chinese and the corresponding page translated into English). As you can see, the language display has a couple of strange choices.


Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Tao and Taoism

Yesterday's NYT has an article by Javier C. Hernández titled "China’s Religious Revival Fuels Environmental Activism" (7/12/17).  It's a long article, filled with a lot of New Age, ecological phraseology that is uncharacteristic of the usual political, military, and economic discourse of the antireligious PRC.  I was drifting along, not paying too much attention to the details of what it said, but this short paragraph — quoting a Taoist monk named Xuan Jing — caught me up short:

As he sipped tea, he jotted down Taoist teachings: “Humans follow the earth, the earth follows heaven, heaven follows Taoism, Taoism follows nature.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

Preserved wife plum

No, these are not plums consisting of preserved wives, nor are they plums made by preserved wives, nor are they anything else you are likely to think of based on the English name.

Why am I even talking about this?  How did this bizarre subject come up?

In a comment to "Vegetable students" (7/11/17), David Morris asked about the name of a Chinese snack called "Preserved Wife Plum" that a colleague offered to him.  He said that "three Chinese speaking ESL or translating teachers couldn't explain" the name.  I made some preliminary attempts to describe what this snack was like, but David and John Swindle repeated the request for an explanation of the name.

I was snared.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

Vegetable students

Comments (7)

Avoid affenfion

Sign on a tree in Qingdao, Shandong, sent in by Dean Barrett:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Chinglish with tones

4th tone – 3rd tone, it would appear:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

The most important word in Finnish

Of course there are many words in any language that are similarly protean. In English, try "Okay". Or just "mm"…

Comments (14)

Four candles for Ronnie Corbett

Ronnie Corbett died on March 31, 2016, a year after his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig's disease. A long-planned memorial service for him was held a couple of days ago in Westminster Abbey. That's an honor reserved for only the most important figures in British life. At the front of the church during the service was the famous armchair in which he always sat to do his featured monologue (generally a ridiculous shaggy-dog-story joke with many digressions) during the TV show he did with Ronnie Barker, called The Two Ronnies. And just as at his funeral more than a year ago, four candles were displayed along with the chair. It was an allusion to the truly legendary sketch in which Corbett and Barker riffed on almost-indistinguishable phonetic strings in working-class vernacular Southern British English — pairs like four candlesfork handles. In the unlikely event you've never watched it (it's been mentioned on Language Log a few times, of course, especially by commenters), watch it now, and remember one of the finest of British comedians — perhaps the most loved of them all.

Comments off

Dophin sightseeing

Headline in the China Daily today (5/28/17):

"Dophin sightseeing in China's Taiwan".

As my colleague, Arthur Waldron, trenchantly remarked:  "They fear a dauphin. This may be an omen."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

On whether prairie dogs can talk

Ferris Jabr recently published in the New York Times Magazine an interesting article about the field research of Con Slobodchikoff, professor emeritus of biology at Northern Arizona University, on prairie dog alarm calls. The article title is "Can Prairie Dogs Talk?"

It is an interesting question. People who have read my earlier posts on animal communication have been pressing me to say something about my reaction to it. In this post I will do that. I will not be able to cover all the implications and ramifications of the question, of course; for one interesting discussion that has already appeared in the blogosphere, see this piece by Edmund Blair Bolles. But I will try to be careful and scholarly, and in an unusual departure (disappointingly, perhaps, to those who relished my bitterly sarcastic remarks on cow naming behavior), I will attempt to be courteous. Nonetheless, I will provide a clear and explicit answer to Jabr's question.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off