Private probably

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The following two images come from Graham and Kathleen's video diary of a trip to the Daitoku-ji temple complex in Kyoto.

The two images occur at 8:21 and 8:29 in the video.

Kutsu no machigai ni go-chuui kudasai!!
"Be careful not to take the wrong shoes"

Kasa wa kasatate ni irete kudasai.
*Innai shiyoo kinshi
"Please put [your] umbrella in the umbrella stand
Use of umbrellas is prohibited in the temple grounds."

Kankeisha igai
Tachiiri kinshi
"Unauthorized persons
Keep out"

It's pretty obvious what went wrong with "mistake of shoes," but what category of error is "private probably" — a mistranslation, a misspelling, or something else?

[h.t. Mara Katz; thanks to Nathan Hopson and Hiroko Sherry]


  1. Rachel said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 12:12 am

    A mishearing of "private property" is my guess.

  2. John Swindle said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 1:29 am

    What Rachel said. A speaker of Japanese English made the wrong choice between two similar-sounding words.

  3. AlexB said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 3:00 am

    Could be a Cupertino, if they were unsure of the spelling and wrote prob..

  4. Vicki said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 6:33 am

    Sound-alike or autocorrect error for "property." I've seen native speakers do that sort of thing, and am not sure my own fingers haven't done this one.

  5. Guy said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

    One time I typed "use" when I meant "youth", which surprised me since although they are similar in pronunciation (simply swapping the last phoneme for a fairly similar one), they are obviously not particularly similar in spelling. And semantically there was no motivation at all (though they are both nouns – I'm pretty sure I "meant" to accidentally write the noun, not the verb, for phonetic reasons – so syntactic constraints may still have been a factor in the error).

  6. rpsms said,

    July 1, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

    It could be an "editor's note."

    "No Trespassing" is far closer in intent to "no unauthorized access" than "private property." And so is "Private."

    So "probably no trespassing" as a margin note next to "private" could be a suggested edit. And then the designer laid it out.

  7. Chuck said,

    July 5, 2016 @ 6:02 am

    The very last line (in Chinese) of the top photograph reads "院內使用禁止" (yuànnèi shǐyòng jìnzhǐ), or "use forbidden inside the grounds". The command neglects to say exactly what item is forbidden. Readers of Chinese would probably, as I did, notice the "傘" (sǎn) within the Japanese text above the Chinese and infer that umbrellas (and presumably parasols as well) are proscribed within the grounds.

    I thought that perhaps the symbol preceding the Chinese text, a symmetrical X with four dots (unicode 203B but I don't know how to make it display in a comment), might perhaps symbolize an umbrella, but wikipedia' page on "Japanese_typographic_symbols" suggests that it is a Japanese reference mark similar to an asterisk, as indicated by Prof Mair in his translation in the original post. I do not remember having seen this mark used in Chinese texts so it's use here might be puzzling to readers of Chinese, but I am not a native reader so perhaps it is in use?

    Finally, and to digress, google translates "院內使用禁止" as "hospital use is prohibited." This is fairly easy to explain, but I'll leave an explanation to someone else.

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