The recent menu posts on LL reminded me of a photo I took circa 2003 in a busy tourist spot on the Cote d’Azur, France. I’m not sure I’ve seen a sign in Europe with such a diversity of translation errors.
The menu describes a set of prix fixe alternatives, including for the first course
Starting from the bottom, we have jambon cru "raw ham", with the adjective cru "raw" translated as if it were the past participle of the verb croire "to believe".
Then we have the salade de chêvre chaud "warm goat cheese salad", with the adjective chaud "warm" translated as if it were the noun chaud "heat". (And chêvre translated as "goat" rather than "goat cheese".) Also, the translation of fumé "smoked" is misspelled as "smocked", and lardons "bacon cubes" is mysteriously mapped to "plugs".
At the top we have the soupe de poisson avec sa rouille, croutons, et gruyère, with the noun rouille translated literally as "rust", rather than contextually as "rouille", i.e. what the OED calls "A Provençal sauce resembling mayonnaise flavoured with red chillies, garlic, and other ingredients, typically served with fish soups".
And last but by no means least, the croutons are translated, simply and appropriately, as "croutons"; but somehow the word is also felt to be a first-person-plural imperative (of a rare or made-up verb croûter "to encrust"?), so an extra "let us" is stuck in there.
Here are the choices for the main course:
At the bottom, the simple phrase pièce de boeuf "piece of beef" is translated as the equally simple, but contextually inappropriate, "part of ox"; and the noun poivre is apparently suspected of being the infinitive of the verb poivrer "to add pepper to", and thus is translated as "to pepper".
For the rest of it, I'll note only that the translator apparently gave up on gambas pôellées [sic] "fried prawns", and just presented the French words while reversing the order of modifier and head. Perhaps this was because the spelling error in what should have been gambas poêlées interfered with dictionary look-up. And août "August" was similarly passed through without change in the translation, although it was properly spelled.
PMW notes that "The simplicity of the mis-translation of ‘cru’ is so neat and so ridiculous that it has kept me laughing for almost a decade." He also expresses astonishment that
… this big sign had survived in such a prominent place populated by hordes of English-speaking tourists (and many English residents), so badly translated. I thought that maybe some collective desire not to spoil the joke for fellow English speakers had prevented anyone pointing it out. Or possibly that the restaurant owners knew full well that this would be a talking point and attract punters in. For the record, I had Salad of Goat Heat followed by the Part of Ox Sauce To Pepper, which was very good.
This reminds me of something that I've wondered about for a long time. When did French-language menus start using possessive pronouns, in constructions like et ses/son/sa "and its/their", to describe secondary or accompanying ingredients? When did English-language menus start copying this construction? And is it as awkward and odd in French as it is (restaurant tradition aside) in English?