Archive for Lost in translation

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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Siege lions and procedural apes

Nancy Friedman came across the website of RippleInfo, a technology company in Suzhou.  Nancy doesn't read Chinese, so she submitted it to Google Translate, whereupon she discovered a section titled “Suzhou Siege Lions Have Caused”.  That led her to a statement from the CEO that included this sentence:

If the siege lion apes and procedures are not happy, how to write perfect code?

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A meal of little shovels

At an excellent restaurant in Leipzig last night the server quickly identified me as an Auslander whose German might not be up to grasping every nuance of the menu, so I was given an English menu as well. (It was a bit humiliating, like having a bib tied round my neck. I have tried to explain elsewhere why my knowledge of German is so shamefully thin and undeveloped despite my having once spent 18 months living in the country.) On the English menu was a dish at which I raised a native-speaking eyebrow: Frankish little shovels, it said. And since there is no limit to my dedication as a linguistic scientist, I ordered the dish just to see what these little shovels were like.

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