Despite its simple and straightforward Chinese vocabulary, this sign in Dalian (a large city in northeast China) is badly translated into English:
(As usual, you may click on the photograph to embiggen it.)
The problem seems to be that the syntax and semantics present challenges that far exceeded the grasp of the translator, resulting in complete gibberish in many cases. This is especially true for the parts of the sign where there are whole sentences and where classical / literary grammar intrudes upon the Mandarin.
tiānxià míng bǐng 天下名餅 ("world famous flat cake")
translation on sign: World famous cake
Dàlián tèsè huǒsháo 大連特色火勺 ("Dalian style baked flat cake")
translation on sign: Dalian feature fire spoon
xiāngtián kěkǒu 香甜可口 ("sweet and delicious")
translation on sign: Sweet and delicious
ruǎnyìng shìzhòng 軟硬適中 ("al dente")
translation on sign: Moderate hardness
lǎoshào jiē yi 老少皆宜 ("suitable for young and old alike")
translation on sign: Ages
huíwèi wúqióng 回味無窮 ("savor endlessly")
translation on sign: Food for thought
Bù chī bù zhīdào 不吃不知道 ("If you don't try one you'll never know")
translation on sign: Do not eat do not know
Chīle wàng bù diào 吃了忘不掉 ("If you try one you'll never forget it")
translation on sign: Eat forget
Chīle hái xiǎng chī 吃了還想吃 ("Once you eat one you'll want to eat more")
translation on sign: Still want to eat eat
Dì yīcì búmǎi yuàn nǐ 第一次不買怨你 ("If you don't buy one the first time, blame yourself")
translation on sign: Do not blame you first buy
Dì èr cì búmǎi yuàn wǒ 第二次不買怨我 ("If you don't buy one the second time, blame me")
translation on sign: Blame me not to buy second
Problematic English translations on signs in China are hardly news — but in this case there's a new twist. Every one of the translations on that sign is word-for-word what Google Translate now gives. Here are a few examples.
This should be something like "Dalian style baked flat cake":
This one should be something like "suitable for young and old alike":
And similarly, here are screenshots of Google Translate coping with phrases that should be rendered as "If you try one, you'll never forget it", "If you don't buy one the first time, blame yourself", and "If you don't buy one the second time, blame me". (The syntax and semantics of the last pair of cases is especially interesting, and deserves a post of its own.)
Apparently Chinese sign-translators are realizing that today's Google Translate is a big step up from the systems that some of them have used in the past — but blind faith in machine translation is still creating little gems of aleatoric poetry.
Aside from all of the other gaffes, large and small, the most serious lexical problem is what to do with huǒsháo 火勺. Literally, the two characters do mean "fire spoon," but that doesn't make any sense in the context where the term appears. Some native (but non-local) readers of the sign suspect that huǒsháo 火勺 must be a miswriting for huǒshāo 火燒, which does indeed signify a type of flat cake, though it is usually said to be fried in a pan, unlike huǒsháo 火勺, which is baked in an oven.
Others, however, contend that huǒsháo 火勺 is simply the way people from the northeast (where Dalian is located) refer to huǒshāo 火燒.
Be that as it may, both huǒshāo 火燒 and huǒsháo 火勺 are flat cakes with filling. Moreover, the two forms are obviously near homophones in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM).
In Dalian topolect, however, shāo 燒 and sháo 勺 have different tones than they do in MSM. There are three tones in the topolect, with tone2 having split and merged with either tone1 or tone4 (for example, yáng 羊 ["sheep; goat"] is tone1, and yáng 洋 ["ocean; foreign"] is tone4 in Dalian topolect). MSM shāo 燒 is tone1, and MSM sháo 勺 is tone4. For the word "huo3shao0″, the second syllable is tone0 in Dalian topolect. This is yet another example of phonology and semantics winning out over sinographic orthography.
[A tip of the hat to Xiang Li, and thanks to Rebecca Fu, Jiahong Yuan, and Ying Zhou]