Archive for Lost in translation

One dyadic station shopping head elects

Somebody sent me this sign from a supermarket in China:

Yí zhàn shì gòuwù de shǒuxuǎn

一站式购物的首选

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 abcduvin.com ("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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Change

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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
um
but you know I- I notice- I notice that
um
it is- you know
it is- it's not very well sourced this story but anyway
um
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
um
I think-
I think-
um
look the- the serious question
uh that perhaps under- underlying all this
uh and- and perhaps what- what
everyone wanted to know
is
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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Toilet revolution, an unfinished business: beware!

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We close today for some reason

Seen on an entry door in San Francisco:

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Cold shoe, hot boot

From Stephen Hart (the object pictured is a camera attachment for microphones, lights, and the like):

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Let's have Mr. and Mrs. Smith for lunch

From Charles Belov:

While restaurant hunting in the East Bay, I happened upon these dishes with the intriguing English names of "Mr and Mrs Smith" and "Boiled Omasum with Chili Pepper." Omasum turns out to be an obscure name of a variety of tripe, but I'm puzzled as to how the Smith family made it into Chinese cuisine.

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Playing a small abacus

A learned colleague observed:

A few days ago, a Chinese military spokesperson was criticizing U.S. Department of Defense budget priorities.  The spokesperson said, "We have noticed that the U.S. defense department always likes to play 'small abacus' when seeking military budgets, in an attempt to gain more benefits for itself by rendering the threat of other countries [sic]."

From China.org and Xinhua.

The colleague went on to ask:

That must have sounded better in Chinese.  What did he mean by that?  Does it refer to lowballing budgets?  Is it like "penny-wise-pound-foolish?"

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But, will think

Zeyao Wu found this picture on Weibo:

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