Archive for Lost in translation

Unwearied effort however beefsteak

I spotted this colossal translation fail at the top of the Chinalawtranslate home page.

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Random suit

Nathan Hopson bought this "rain suit" the other day:

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Do not dumb here

This photo was originally posted on Reddit/Imgur in Oct. 2013, but it continues to circulate (Victor Steinbok recently came across it on Facebook):

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Ethanol tampons

Nicki Johnson sent in the following photograph taken in the local Carrefour in Haikou, Hainan, along with this comment: "I was rather horrified until I realized they were not what they claimed to be."

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Lap Sangsouchong

You probably know it as Lapsang Souchong.  It is one of the most vexed and poorly understood of all English names for teas from China, many of which are notoriously difficult to figure out because they arose over a period of several hundred years and derived from numerous different Sinitic topolects.

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Collect Fees Documents at Miss Hot Cafe

Toni Tan writes:

I don't eat out much, but when I do, this is one of my favorite places. The food is spicy; however, I don't think it is cuisine from Szechuan because the dishes aren't oily at all.

The menu items are rather quirkily named (e.g., fish with sour cabbage). In fact, my favorite dish there is called Big Dish — just "Big Dish" — which is an enormous bowl of spicy broth with seafood, tofu, vegetables, and glass noodles.

However, the restaurant's name is what catches everyone's attention and a dead giveaway for why I like it, given my penchant for spicy food.

Their bill holder has also met with much curiosity. I took a picture of their business card and the bill holder for you.

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Silver / aging / senior / whatever industry

Goods and services for senior citizens are a big business in China.  In general, the manufacture and marketing of such products go by the designation lǎolíng chǎnyè 老龄产业.  But, oh, how to render that in English?

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Official Chinglish, with a note on North Korean Juche

What would you think if you encountered terms like this?

Two-oriented Society

Three-zation / Threezation

You might wonder if the people who dreamed them up were high on something when they produced these opaque, unidiomatic renderings.  Yet such terms are official translations of Chinese expressions.  As such, they have entered the stream of global English.

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Tireless or unchanging?

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WT[bleep]?

Those LLog readers who aren't already Radiolab listeners should give their latest episode on translation a listen. There are 8 stories packed into this one episode, a few about language and a few not-so-much, but all of them well-worth the price of admission.

But I'm not just here to promote Radiolab. I'm also here to comment on something that happened in this episode that I am now very curious about (curious-enough-to-blog-and-solicit-comments curious, not curious-enough-to-do-some-real-research-of-my-own curious). There's a point in the show where one of the show's hosts (Jad Abumrad) warns listeners that there's going to be some raunchy language used and discussed for the next several minutes; even though the putatively offensive words were bleeped out in the version I listened to (via my iTunes podcast subscription), it was clear that I wouldn't have wanted my 5-year-old child to hear the piece so I appreciated the warning.

But at the very end of the episode, something very different happens. With no warning whatsoever, long strings of uncensored expletives assaulted my ears. I was wearing headphones and nobody else was around, but still I wondered: where was the warning? Why was there no bleeping? And then I realized that I wasn't listening to people speaking English anymore, but rather people swearing in other languages — and the first one was Spanish, which I am also a native speaker of.

But still: is Radiolab's audience (and their innocent children!) not at least potentially multilingual? Why the bleeping of English words and the elaborate warning preceding a story about their use, but no warning or bleeping whatsoever about the same sorts of words in other languages? It's not like I ever understood this sort of censorship and prudishness in the first place, but now I'm royally confused.

Comments?

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*BEEP* vegetables

Chinglish makes an appearance in the "Translators" segment of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (10/19):


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"German type sexual harassment"

From the German "Fun Pics und lustige Videos" website isnichwahr.de comes this hilarious photograph of a dish served at the Quansheng Hotel 泉昇大酒店 (I think that it is in Changsha, Hunan):


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Tasteless coffee

From "Signspotting around the world: Funny fails", a "Lonely Planet travel signs" feature of CNN Travel, I have selected an ensemble of four signs to illustrate different types of translation difficulties.

The first was spotted in a Beijing cafe:


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