Archive for Lost in translation

Don't eat and don't drink

Wang Tong sent in this photograph of a sign which a friend of hers took during a visit to Japan.  The Chinese translation is quite amusing.

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Explosion Cheese Durian Pie

From Fuchsia Dunlop's Facebook page (taken in Xi'an):

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Japlish and linguistic singularity hypotheses

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

I wanted to share two photos with examples of Japlish. One appears to be the result of a quirky machine translation.

That's the "Training room area guidelines" from the municipal sports center near my home (the only gym I can afford on my salary). The offending passage is at the bottom:

"Please use a barbell and a dumbell with a chisel in this free weight area."

This novel use of a carving and gouging implement struck me as perhaps not so much a curious aspect of inscrutable Oriental culture as instead the hallmark of machine translation gone facepalmingly awry.

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One way to get rid of Chinglish

From Chenfeng Wang:

These were signs in a student cafeteria in Tsinghua University, three years ago. They were taken down after the first day the cafeteria opened, because students were very, very angry about the improper English, and even thought that it was a shame for the top university to have these signs. (Obviously they were made by the staff who didn't know much English.)

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Discarded box

Photograph taken by Yuanfei Wang at the Hangzhou Xiaoshan airport:

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One dyadic station shopping head elects

Somebody sent me this sign from a supermarket in China:

Yí zhàn shì gòuwù de shǒuxuǎn


One dyadic station shopping head elects

This is one of the most bizarre specimens of Chinglish I've ever encountered.

If we omit "dyadic", the rest of it is easy to figure out (it should be "First choice for one-stop shopping" — no sweat).  Usually, even when a translation is incredibly peculiar, it doesn't take me long to figure out where the translator (whether human or machine) went wrong.  In this case, "dyadic" is so unusual, yet so specific, that I figured it must have had some basis, otherwise the translator would not have gone to the trouble of inserting it out of thin air (pingkong 凭空).

I was hooked.  I had to figure out where "dyadic" came from.

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Between pee and bad

Two delightful Chinglish specimens submitted by Karen Yang:

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Help through French puberty for sale

Shared by David Cowhig:

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German salty pig hand

Jeff DeMarco writes:

"Saw this on Facebook. Google Translate gives 'German salty pig hand' which I presume refers to trotters. Not sure how they got sexual misconduct!"

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Making the goats dance

According to ("tout sur le vin, ses techniques, son vocabulaire"), the phrase "À faire danser les chèvres" ("To make the goats dance") means "Vin trop acide, désagréable à boire" ("Wine that's too acid, disagreeable to drink").

The Dictionnaire de L'Académie Française cites the same expression: "Du vin à faire danser les chèvres, du vin très acide".

Although the metaphor is not entirely transparent, "make the goats dance" could be used in English, and indeed has been.

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"Bien je jamais"?

Boris Johnson started a recent interview segment this way:

Interviewer: Did you really call the French turds?
Boris Johnson:   Well I doubt-
I have no- I have no recollection of this- uh
of- of- of this- uh of this-
this comment
but you know I- I notice- I notice that
it is- you know
it is- it's not very well sourced this story but anyway
Interviewer: well it seems to have come from the foreign office
what do you read into that?
Boris Johnson: bien je jamais
as we say um
uh in french
I think-
I think-
look the- the serious question
uh that perhaps under- underlying all this
uh and- and perhaps what- what
everyone wanted to know
uh can I
get a fantastic deal from our country from our french
friends can we go forwards
in a collegiate
uh friendly way and yes of course
we can

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