Please forgive to be incontinent

« previous post | next post »

I forget who sent this photograph to me, but it is a prime specimen of first-class Chinglish:

The Chinese reads:

nèibù zhuāngxiū zhōng 内部装修中 ("under renovation")

gěi nín dài lái  bùbiàn 给您带来不便 ("for the inconvenience it brings you [honorific]")

jìng qǐng liàngjiě 敬请谅解 ("please excuse")

There are two especially humorous aspects to the main translation error:

  1. the biàn 便 here is short for fāngbiàn 方便 ("convenient"), or, more precisely, the bùbiàn 不便 here is short for bù fāngbiàn 不方便 ("inconvenient"), which somehow came out as "incontinent"
  2. this is particularly unfortunate, inasmuch as there is an undertone of the biàn 便 standing for dàbiàn 大便 ("big convenience", i.e., "defecation") and xiǎobiàn 小便 ("small convenience", i.e., "urination"), a usage that we have discussed many times on Language Log and that goes back to Sanskrit.

1 Comment

  1. chris said,

    October 12, 2015 @ 8:06 pm

    If you don't know the Chinese there's a quite different interpretation available: "forgive" is a mistake for something like "forgo" or "forbear", the rest are just the sort of awkward unidiomatic synonyms you'd expect from a translation, and the sign is telling you not to "decorate" the floor.

    Although I suppose if you actually saw the evidence of the ongoing renovation, that might push interpretation toward something to do with that.

RSS feed for comments on this post