By Beth Green
No matter where I travel, I love taking pictures of signs, labels or T-shirts with silly translations and malapropisms.
And while I’ve seen some of these in English-speaking countries (The USA’s “slow children” road signs are a prime example of poorly used English, in my opinion), of course when things are translated from another language into English, the potential for snicker-worthy results is raised.
In China, most people you meet who are in their mid-30s or younger will have had some exposure to English in their schooling. Whether that experience went beyond learning the ABCs or not, everyone’s got some level of familiarity with it. Couple this with the craze for Western luxury items like iPhones, Louis Vuitton and, yes, McDonald’s, and you’ve got an instant way to make your product seem more appealing, exotic and valuable: splash the packaging with English words.
A new shopping mall (housing not only a McDonald’s but also a KFC, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut) recently opened a few blocks from my apartment. Intrigued by the progress, I walked by a few weeks before it was fully opened. The ongoing construction was discreetly screened from pedestrians by large canvasses bearing images of classy-looking people and slogans such as the following: “Reluctant to leave for myself.” Obviously, some designer picked words at random and put them on the banner to give it a little oomph. Too bad it’s nonsensical.
Perhaps my favorite example of a strange translation is this one, which I found at the local bulk foods supermarket. The label reads like a bizzaro newspaper headline:
|That dastardly lettuce.|
Other advertisements in China that use English may actually make their product sound not only silly, but also of poor quality. Consider the bus I saw completely covered with this slogan: OK Manly Banner. The best they could say about it was that it’s just OK?
|Better than Not Very Manly, I guess.|
Or this one, which I’m sure Pepsi can’t have been pleased about:
|Perhaps "economical" would sound better? Nah.|
This restaurant is also quite modest:
|Want to go somewhere "nice" for dinner?|
And this shop actually says that they are “no right, just suitable.”
|Suitable, but not right?|
I found this restaurant ad in Hong Kong downright unappetizing:
|Guts for lunch?|
Others are just curious…should I write on this or eat it?
|I'd heard of onion-skin paper before, I guess...|
Some slightly risque (or maybe dangerous?!):
|At least they're small.|
And still others, kind of sweet:
|Me so happy too.|
What examples of silly English have you found on your travels? Please share with us in the comments section below.