Accuracy of sheep meat

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A large-enough-to-read image is here.


  1. Victor Mair said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 4:44 pm

    I was just about to post on this, but will add a comment here:

    Basically what’s going on in a lot of these are due to a confusion between ه /hā’/ and ة (and a horrible translation engine and local, nonstandard food words). The latter is the way to denote the feminine ending in Arabic and is pronounced either as an /ah/ or as a /t/ (its name is ‘tā’ marbūtah’). The problem with messing with the two—something very common in dialect—is that one could misread the former as the third person masculine object suffix when it’s meant to be just a feminine ending, e.g., middle column on the tweet eighth down:

    لحسه “la7asa-hu”—“he licked it

    vs. appropriately

    لحسة la7hsah — some kind of south Arabian tomato cheese omelette?

    Sorry for the less than ideal formatting; hopefully the point comes across.

    [from John Mullan]

    I will probably add more details later today or tomorrow.

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 4:54 pm

    I do not speak or read Arabic, but nor (it would seem) do I speak the same language as Vlada — what does « but also, tag yourself, I'm "Normal doubt" » mean ?

    [(myl) It's a reference to one of the dishes:


  3. Victor Mair said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 5:01 pm

    Interesting note on the name "Vlada":


    Vlada (Cyrillic: Влада) is a Slavic given name, derived from the word vlada meaning "rule". It is a masculine name in Serbian and feminine name in Russian.


  4. Daniel Barkalow said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 5:45 pm

    @Philip Taylor:
    Also "tag yourself, I'm …" means "pick one of these to represent you, I chose …", from people identifying themselves in photos, via choosing a representative of yourself from arrangements intended for this purpose, to images with a lot of interesting things to look at that people might somehow identify with.

  5. toaster said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 5:47 pm

    "Tag yourself I'm XXX" is a meme. It came from these things where people would post lists of images with descriptions and then say something like "tag yourself, I'm Fred the Octopus!" to indicate that they had similar characteristics to Fred the Octopus.

  6. cameron said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 6:01 pm

    I love the comma in "Beans, gentlemen"

  7. Julian said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 6:06 pm

    The thing I love about this sort of mistranslatelish is its Zen character. You really couldn't make it up if you were trying. You couldn't come near it unless you were smoking something; and if you we smoking something you would end up trying too hard to be clever.

  8. "She Is Suspicious of Cheese" – The Hub Press said,

    May 26, 2020 @ 7:53 pm

    […] to Prof. Mark Liberman (Language Log) for the pointer. Uou can see the Tweet here; I didn't embed it normally because the image […]

  9. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 12:45 am

    "Metal suspicion" (not to say "Worried") sums up my feeling about 90% of these dishes.

  10. Ben Zimmer said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 12:47 am

    I prefer Paul Is Dead.

  11. AlexB said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 1:44 am

    Foul Metal could be a local style of heavy metal.

  12. Dave said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 2:07 am

    There are other potential genres to be found as well (Fool Industrial, Baza Sada*,…) but many of these items would be better as band names than as genres.

    * these old evergreens have recently been remixed, producing "Electro Baza Sada"

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 3:30 am

    Thank you Mark / Daniel / Toaster — all is now clear.

  14. Michael Watts said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 4:18 am

    I cannot read Arabic writing. But I note two things:

    1. Unlike the English dish names, the Arabic dish names are all of exactly equal width.

    2. A lot of the Arabic dish names seem to include long featureless horizontal segments. Look at "Friday" (top right), "Halklq Hashi" (bottom right), "Hanini" (bottom left), or "To feel it" (middle column, 8th row).

    Is this the Arabic-writing equivalent of justification with whitespace? What's determining how many "gaps" there are, and their relative length? Where are they occurring? (Some names appear to have spaces, perhaps indicating that they contain multiple words. This would imply that the long horizontal gaps are word-internal?)

  15. Ian said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 8:49 am

    What kind of a translator did they use, I wonder. Almost every one of these is just laughably nonsensical. The shakshuka series (4 through 7 in middle row) is mind boggling, since the same word "shakshuka" gets translated to "doubt", "suspicion", and also "thank you". The "thank you" connection is particularly bizarre, since really only the first two sounds are in common there.

  16. Kim Burton said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 8:55 am

    As someone who can just struggle through the Arabic alphabet, but with practically no knowledge of the language(s), and thus with a lot of sympathy for the menu compiler, i think the most interesting thing is the inconsistency of the translations. Ful (as in foules medames) is pretty consistently just transliterated, with inventive spellings; chakchouka (eggs and tomatoes plus) is mostly translated as doubt or suspicion, except when it suddenly isn't; fasulya (?) is generally translated properly as beans; erika is first transliterated as Erika (regular) and then translated as Sofa (luxury).

    I also can't help wondering whether OCR has got itself involved in the mix.

  17. Robert Coren said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 9:24 am

    I have never understood why restaurants that provide translations on their menus for tourists don't take what I would imagine to be the fairly easy extra step of having the translations perused by someone who actually, you know, has some passing acquaintance with the target language.

  18. KevinM said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 10:19 am

    "Royal blindfolded" should be moved so that it follows "Blindfolded ordinary." Otherwise I see no problem. Yrs truly, Heep sheep.

  19. A. Skrobov said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 12:26 pm

    @Michael Watts: you're right. See

  20. Ernie in Berkeley said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 1:05 pm

    Someone in the Twitter thread posted the correct translations.

  21. Cuconnacht said,

    May 27, 2020 @ 6:21 pm

    Ian, "doubt", شك, shares just as much with shakshouka as does "thank you", شكرا.

  22. 艾力·黑膠(Eric) said,

    May 28, 2020 @ 2:38 am

    Beans, gentlemen.

    All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time.

  23. Philip Spaelti said,

    May 28, 2020 @ 4:27 am

    @ Robert Coren: That is the problem with translation. Your need for it is in a direct inverse relation to your access to "someone who actually, you know, has some passing acquaintance with the target language."

  24. Robert Coren said,

    May 28, 2020 @ 9:40 am

    @ Philip Spaelti: I don't see why that should be the case. We're talking specifically about menu translations into English for use by tourists. The restaurant management doesn't need it for themselves. How hard can it be nowadays to find someone who can at least tell by looking at them whether phrases in English describe foodstuffs or not?

  25. Gregory Kusnick said,

    May 28, 2020 @ 10:33 am

    Look at it this way: with correct (and boring) translations, it's at best a decent but obscure place to have lunch. But with hilarious mistranslations, it becomes one of the most memorable experiences of your trip and a key part of the stories you tell about it. It even gets a mention on Language Log.

  26. Robert Coren said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 9:28 am

    @Gregory Kusnick: For me, that works fine in France, where in fact I have seen some really hilarious menus, although it's usually possible for me to figure out what the English was supposed to be, even without reading the French. But I can't even begin to read Arabic, and these are not bad translations; they're complete nonsense that gives not the slightest clue to what the original was trying to say.

  27. Anthony said,

    May 29, 2020 @ 11:15 pm

    Somewhere in the Twitter replies someone commented that the Arabic text may have suffered from some autocorrect errors. Can anyone verify?

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