Please prevail in kind

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Anne Henochowicz found this on the menu at Panda Gourmet, an incredible dìdào 地道 ("typical; authentic") Shaanxi restaurant in a Days Inn on the outskirts of DC:

The translations of the entries on the menu (S15-S18) are not terrible (you can roughly figure out from the English what you'd be getting).  What's striking about the quality of the translation overall is the disparity between the first and second clauses of the note at the bottom:

túpiàn jǐn gōng cānkǎo 图片仅供参考
("pictures are for reference only")

càipǐn yǐ shíwù wéi zhǔn 菜品以实物为准
("individual dishes depend upon the actual materials [used]")

I would say that the wording of the first clause is not that easy, but the translator has done a respectable job with it.  The second clause is actually not that much more difficult, but for some reason the translation for this part is just godawful.

The two clauses together are often encountered on illustrated menus, and, whereas it seems that the translation for the first clause has long since become standardized, the translation of the second clause has just as long remained a mess.  See, for example, this translation website.

Let's break the second clause down into its component parts:

càipǐn 菜品
("[individual] dishes; [different] entries")

yǐ XX wéi zhǔn 以XX为准
("with XX as the standard; take XX as the criterion")

shíwù 实物
("actual / material object; entity; matter; practicality; in kind")

To get a sense of what online resources the translator may have been relying upon, here are three main ones:

Google Translate:  "dishes to prevail in kind"

Baidu Fanyi:  "food in kind prevail"

Bing Translator:  "food material object as the standard"

With that kind of backup, no wonder they botched the job so badly.


  1. Carl said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    In Japanese, “this picture is an artist’s conception” is rendered as “this picture is an image,” (画像はイメージ gazô wa imeiji, 11m G-hits) where “image” is the English word transliterated. I laugh every time I see it.

  2. Reinhold {Rey} Aman said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 11:17 am

    "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."o

  3. Francis Boyle said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 11:50 am

    I'm not so sure about "reference" (it's not a blueprint) but at least it's better than the tautological "illustrative purposes only".

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 6:36 pm

    Chinglish translations for various dishes.

  5. Steve Politzer-Ahles said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 7:39 pm

    I applaud them for getting 臊子 right, at least. At a restaurant in Beijing I once saw 红油肉臊面 translated as "Noodles with spicy meat smell of urine". [On the bright side, that's how I learned that the character 臊 is ambiguous between sào ("minced meat") and sāo ("pee smell").]

  6. Michael Watts said,

    October 2, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

    "Picture is for illustrative purposes" might arguably be a tautology; "picture is for illustrative purposes only" certainly isn't one. Pictures commonly serve informational and/or educational purposes.

  7. Usually Dainichi said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 1:04 am

    @Carl: I laugh every time I see it.

    Because "image" and "picture" are near-synonyms, I assume. Less so in Japanese, where ime:ji carries a strong suggestion of "not being the real thing", possibly enforced by its derived verb ime:ji-suru which means "imagine" or "create a mental image" or some such. Ime:ji is usually not used for actual physical pictures. I guess you could say it is here, but I'd venture it's actually short for ime:ji-gazo: (a picture to stir up your imagination), with the gazo: removed to avoid repetition.

    @Michael Watts, stating the obvious here, but "illustrative purposes only" is an obvious lie. The purpose is to get the viewer to want to spend their $$.

  8. Francis Boyle said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 5:01 am

    @Usually Dainichi

    You are, of course, completely correct. I suspect I just enjoy pushing the principle of charity to ridiculous extremes.

  9. DWalker07 said,

    October 3, 2016 @ 1:42 pm

    "Please prevail in kind" reminded me of "Please kindly do the needful and revert". Different languages, but these phrases have the same "feel".

  10. liuyao said,

    October 4, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

    Re: "Noodles with spicy meat smell of urine"

    That's too hilarious.

    By the way, the Chinese for this dish has a typo: it should be 岐山, not 歧山.

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