Australian real estate wannabe polyglot

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From Paul Sleigh:

Paul remarks:

I believe the Arabic is particularly amusing, whereas the idea that there is one solitary language called "Indigenous Australian" is more sad than amusing.

No doubt your readers could have fun dissecting this.

I'll leave it to LLog readers to comment on the other languages, but I'll just point out that what the Chinese says is actually this:

Wǒmen zhīdào tā mài shénme 我们知道他卖什么 ("We know what he sells".)



  1. Ben Zimmer said,

    December 30, 2017 @ 1:56 pm

    The bungled Arabic is entirely predictable. They ran "we know what sells" through Google Translate and got نحن نعرف ما تبيع , and then it got printed out left-to-right, letter-by-letter. See similar cases in my post from last year, "Language is messy, part 2: Arabic script in 'Arrival'."

  2. Tom Dawkes said,

    December 30, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

    The Greek also means "We know what he sells". And the Arabic seems to be the same, apart from being written — with unconnected letters — from left to right, instead of right to left.

  3. bulbul said,

    December 30, 2017 @ 1:58 pm

    Same for Italian (“We know what he/she/it sells) and presumably Arabic, except the second verb is either 3rd person singular feminine or 2nd person singular masculine.
    The Arabic is typical for DTP software with no RTL support. Oh the examples on posters and banners I’ve seen…

  4. m said,

    December 30, 2017 @ 2:35 pm

    I tried to find the original FB post — I guess they've taken it down after being humiliated, as the entire FB page is now listed as no longer available. I guess it's lucky they weren't a tattoo parlor.

  5. AlexB said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 3:42 am

    On the other hand, Dreaming Sister Didgeridoo could be a prog rock band.

    What does get me when I see these strings of unconnected Arabic letters, that nobody seems to realize that they look odd. Have these people ever actually seen an Arabic text?

  6. Andrew D. said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 4:57 am

    TBH the really funny thing about this is the pompous tut-tutting by academic linguists because some background VFX artist or real estate agent took a not unreasonable shortcut. Glad to see you're striking a blow against those who have not taken the time to acquaint themselves with Arabic, because if there's someone that deserves to be taken down a peg, it's definitely these people.

    Re: AlexB, the universe of unstated assumptions and prejudices in "Have these people ever actually seen an Arabic text?" is basically this worldview in a nutshell.

  7. Andrew D. said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 5:23 am

    Even re: Arrival, the unpardonable crimes against Arabic by digital studio grunts merited several posts and numerous comments, whereas the completely bonkers central conceit of the movie based on an ultra-powered version of Sapir-Whorf is simply taken on board. Whorf may have been a mescaline addict, a charlatan and more than a little racist, but he was a graduate of MIT and definitely knew which way Arabic is written.

  8. AntC said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 8:00 am

    … VFX artist or real estate agent took a not unreasonable shortcut.

    … told an entirely unreasonable lie — perhaps even more preposterous than estate agents regularly commit — and revealed it was a lie even in the committing of it: whoever put the poster together does not know those languages.

    Andrew D. you seem to be going out of your way to defend the indefensible, with added gratuitous insults.

    BTW, looking at the agent's 'About' page, I'd say he struggles to write colloquial English. So perhaps the slogan means: as poor a command In Any Language.

  9. David Morris said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 9:47 am

    Memory stirred of an Australian musical group named Tiddas. Google and Wikipedia confim: I can't remember where and when and how I heard of them, and can't consciously remember hearing them (on the radio – certainly not live).

  10. Coby Lubliner said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 9:50 am

    You'd think that someone named Christos Raptis would at least get the Greek right, but it's the same is the others — "We know what [he/she] sells". It's this peculiarity of English that many originally transitive verbs can also be used reflexively, "sell" being one of them.

  11. Aristotle Pagaltzis said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 11:27 am

    some background VFX artist or real estate agent took a not unreasonable shortcut

    That’s only true from a parochial perspective that some languages are secondary and can acceptably be treated that way – particularly in light of the fact that the whole point of the advertisement is to brag about the agent’s command of these secondary languages.

    The rest of this rant is a fine example of whataboutism…

  12. Andrew D. said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 4:19 pm

    Yes indeed you would think someone named Christos Raptis should know Greek because of course language is passed down genetically through the generations.

  13. Andrew D. said,

    December 31, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

    "with added gratuitous insults." – I'm sorry but who did I insult? Whorf?

    Honestly, it's awful to watch these preening displays of self-satisfied language experts, the sort of international equivalent to fusty grammar peevers scolding people over splitting infinitives and other such shibboleths of class masquerading as concern over language.

  14. Aristotle Pagaltzis said,

    January 1, 2018 @ 1:34 pm

    “Who am I even possibly insulting, you pompous, snivelling nitwits?”

  15. John Swindle said,

    January 1, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

    Seashells. She sells seashells by the seashore.

  16. Samuel said,

    January 2, 2018 @ 12:50 am

    Same as with the others, the Hindi text simply translates as "We know what he sells", also there's an issue with the font so letters are not joined properly.

  17. ShadZ said,

    January 2, 2018 @ 11:15 am

    Personally (as a non-linguist), i feel this Raptis Realestate company deserves all the insults they are getting here. They are claiming in this advertisement that they can function in all these languages, when they obviously can't. False advertising should always be called out.

  18. richardelguru said,

    January 2, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

    Andrew D
    Have you heard of 'concern trolling', just curious…

  19. Samuel Buggeln said,

    January 3, 2018 @ 12:58 am

    Andrew D: "Honestly, it's awful to watch these preening displays…" "…so awful that I would have stopped watching them ages ago, except for these… forces causing me… to keep… looking…"

    Not sure why Andrew D is so interested in defending this dude. I was just thinking about how the ad hilariously reveals who he is on a deep level. A person who thinks "I know! We'll do an ad that shows both that we're super cosmopolitan, and go above and beyond the call to communicate." And then implements an approach that vividly displays both parochiality and laziness.

    The problem, poor guy, is that he's translating unconventional English. "We know what sells." The verb "to sell" to most auto-translating programs is something a person does with a product, rather than a thing that a product does.

  20. R. Fenwick said,

    January 3, 2018 @ 2:18 am

    @Andrew D.:
    TBH the really funny thing about this is the pompous tut-tutting by academic linguists because some background VFX artist or real estate agent took a not unreasonable shortcut.

    By what definition are you using the phrase "not unreasonable"? The ad claims right at the very top that the agent sells property in any language. Subsequent provision of text claimed to be written in various languages implies strongly to the non-reader of those languages that the claim made above is true. The text in those written languages, however, is either grammatically incorrect or utterly nonsensical, therefore belying both the claim and the implicature. That makes it fundamentally dishonest and yes, worthy of at least an academic tut-tut if not a formal legal charge of false advertising under Section 18 of Australia's Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

    tl;dr: do you even Gricean maxim bro?

  21. DD'eDeN said,

    January 4, 2018 @ 5:01 pm

    Seriously, what is wrong with the poster? They don't claim expertise in ANY language, and they prove it.

    How does one say in ANY traditional Australian Aboriginal language: "We sell (real estate) property in any language"

    I'd guess land was NEVER sold before Europeans arrived to [um] "buy" it from them.

    So 'dreaming sister didgeridoo' makes as much sense as anything else.

  22. R. Fenwick said,

    January 8, 2018 @ 1:37 am

    Seriously, what is wrong with the poster? They don't claim expertise in ANY language

    "We sell property in any language" is not an *explicit* claim of expertise, but it does claim it implicitly.

    I'd guess land was NEVER sold before Europeans arrived to [um] "buy" it from them.

    And does that mean that no Australian language has changed or evolved or adapted since European invasion? FWIW, in Yanyuwa one might express the idea as something like janu-lhaanji nganu jilimantharra awara "we (exclusive) know selling land", and in Jingulu perhaps as laringkingirriju ngawurnina ngalajkunu "we (exclusive) understand home exchange".

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