Archive for Lost in translation

Please vomit here

Here we go again.  With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coming up, China aims to eliminate Chinglish, and all sorts of negative examples are adduced.  We've covered scores of them on Language Log, but here's one I hadn't seen before:

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China rules

For the last few weeks, the New York Times has been running a hyped-up, gushing series of lengthy articles under the rubric "China rules". On a special section in the paper edition for Sunday, November 25, they printed this gigantic headline in Chinese characters — and made a colossal mistake:

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Spring mud

Sign in a restroom at the Taipei Public Library:

biàn hòu suíshǒu chōng
chūnní liǎo wú hén

便後隨手沖
春泥了無痕

After relieving yourself, don't forget to flush,
So there will be nary a trace of "spring mud".

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Hanoi menu

Tweet by Dan Okrent:

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Speaking of Lou Dobbs…

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Feel free to play this piano

While passing through Hartsfield Atlanta airport a few weeks back, Neil Dolinger passed a piano located in a place where passersby could freely play it.  A sign nearby (see photograph below) encourages this in 12 different languages:

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Dangerous entrance

Photo taken by Ori Tavor in Beijing at the Bank of China next to Hepingmen subway station:

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Go Believe

Zeyao Wu sent in this sign on a restaurant:

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Hungarian trenching

From Adrian Bailey:

Although Google Translate isn't too bad now for the big 8 languages, the results for other languages can still be quite bizarre and/or disappointing. I used to do some Hungarian-English translation 15-20 years ago, and the machine translation available then hardly seems much worse…

Engedjetek meg nekem a tegezést. Angolként bajom van a magázással.

Google's translation: Let me do the trenching. I'm an English guy with shit.

Actual meaning: Let me tegez you (ie. use the informal forms for "you"). As an Englishman, I have trouble with the formal forms.

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Khmerlish

I found this by chance while surfing on Pinterest:

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Thailish

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Arablish

Adrian Bailey sent in this Yemeni restaurant menu from @wokeeth's Twitter account:

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"Boiled Blood Curd" and "Semi-rotted Vegetables Cake"

Menu items at the Asia Bistro, Marriott Hotel, Suzhou, China, courtesy of Thomas Malphus:

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