Archive for Lost in translation

Obama and the end of the queue

Over the past few days the British media (newspapers and BBC news programs) have been talking about a crucially linguistic argument that President Obama is being manipulated, and literally told what to say, by the UK prime minister's office. (Links seem superfluous: the Google News UK edition will give you thousands of references.) The evidence comes from a single choice of lexical item.

During the two working days Obama spent in Britain, the main news-generating event was a news conference in which he directly addressed the issue of whether the UK should remain in the European Union or leave it. A key argument for those who believe in leaving the EU (the proponents of Brexit) has been that new trade agreements could readily be set up once the country was free from the shackles of EU membership. Specifically, a trade agreement could be readily set up with the USA. Not so fast, said Obama: the USA will continue its negotiating efforts aimed at setting up a trade agreement with the whole EU, and if the UK left that grouping (the largest single market in the world) it would "be in the back of the queue" if it applied to get a special UK/US trade agreement established.

The Brexit crew jumped on the use of the word queue. Americans talk about waiting in line, not waiting in a queue or queueing up. "The back of the queue" is characteristic British English, and no American would say any such thing, they insisted. Obama's remarks must have been prepared for him by British pro-EU politicians. Are the Brexiteers right?

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Head shop

Here is a nice piece of Japanglish from Joseph Williams:

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"Please enter your cock after urinating"

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Sad jelly noodles

Name of a restaurant in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan:

shāngxīn suānlà fěn 傷心酸辣粉

In English, the restaurant calls itself "Sad Super Hot Noodles".

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Mysterious sign in Japanese and Russian

Victor Steinbok sent in the following photograph:


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Hyper-Confucian government

This picture shows the main entrance to a public agency office in Qufu, home town of China's greatest philosopher of government, Confucius.

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Banned through mistranslation

Notice on the New York MTR:

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Translation of a translation

At first I was going to call this "Lost and found in translation", but since it was lost but never found, I thought I'd change that to "Found and lost in translation".  That sounded weird, so I just went for the title at the top:  "Translation of a translation".  Now I'm thinking that maybe I should have called it "From bad to worse".

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Ghosts and spirits

From the Bali Airport Duty Free Section (photo taken 2/21/16):


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It is not a subculture

From Peter Durfee via Twitter:

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FOOD & BGVERAGGS, with a focus on naan / nang

The following three items might well have been included in the previous post on Chinglish, but that one got to be rather long and unwieldy, so I'm treating these separately.  In any event, I think that they merit the special treatment they are receiving here.

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Chinglish medley

An assortment of Chinglish signs and menu items from my files (I forget who sent them to me).  There are eight all together.  Before diving into an examination of them one after the other, I should note that the last two partially result from the perennial problem of not knowing how to deal with warnings involving the heart (xīn 心).  Since I've already devoted an entire post to this topic, it might be worthwhile to take a peek at that before proceeding further:

"Mind your head" (8/28/15)

xiǎoxīn 小心 (lit., "little heart" –> "[be] careful; look out")

dāngxīn 当心 (lit., "heed / regard heart" –> "be careful; watch out")

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Escalator smarts

From my files (sorry that the photograph is not in perfect focus):

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