So goes the blurb for “Lost in Translation“, a 2006 book by ‘Charlie Croker’ (aka Mark Mason) about “misadventures in English abroad” which I’ve just finished reading. It demonstrates some of the very best and worst instances of ‘grammar-gargling’ from around the world. Sometimes you can guess what is meant (especially if you speak the language in question), but other times you’re left scratching your head. As the author cautions us however, we should never forget that although other nations’ mistakes with English are amusing to us, their English is generally much better than our Japanese, Vietnamese, Arabic etc (and the book includes some examples from English speaking nations).
I thought I’d share with you some of the examples I found most amusing, but don’t worry there’s still plenty more in the book (and in its sequel Still Lost in Translation)!
Italy: This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.
Thailand (offering donkey rides): Would you like to ride on your own ass?
In a hotel in Tel Aviv: If you wish breakfast, lift the telephone and our waitress will arrive. This will be enough to bring up your food.
French hotel restaurant: Wondering what to wear? A sports jacket may be worn to dinner, but no trousers.
Madrid hotel restaurant: Our wine list leaves you nothing to hope for.
Finnish hotel fire procedure: If you cannot reach a fire exit, close the door and expose yourself at the window.
Nairobi restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.
Laon, France, English translation of a sign in French reading “En cas de feu – restez calme”: In case of fire do not lose your temper.
Restaurant menu: Sole Bonne Femme (Fish Landlady style).
French menu: Nut of Holy Jacques jumped, guinea fowl stinks to it and its farce with cheese-topped dish, almost cheese-dish of mould in spice on bed of spinach.
China, describing a pancake dish: Waiter will roll in front of you.
Chelsea, London: Plat du jour, changed each day.
Japanese washing machine instructions: Push button. Foam coming plenty. Big noise. Finish.
Sign at a Philippines ferry terminal: Adults: 1 USD. Child: 50 cents. Cadavers: subject to negotiation.
A Japanese copy of a Meatloaf album includes the following tracks: ‘Sixty Six Per Cent Is All Right’ (for ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’) and ‘You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouse’.
In an Israeli butcher’s: I slaughter myself twice daily.
Shop in Amman: Visit our bargain basement – one flight up and in the same shop they sell: Pork Handbags.
Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
At a Hong Kong costume shop: This merchandise is to be used for turning a trick on Halloween.
On Japanese toothpaste: Gives you strong mouth and refreshing wind!
On a Japanese tea bag: Do not wet with water.
Resort at Iguaco Falls: We offer you peace and seclusion. The paths to our resort are only passable by asses. Therefore, you will certainly feel at home here.
Chinese temple: Please take one step forward and crap twice.
Swimming pool sign, resort, Philippines: Drowning absolutely prohibited.
Sewage treatment plant, as marked on a Tokyo map: Dirty Water Punishment Place.
Newly appointed Danish minister: I am in the beginning of my period.
On a French pest-control firm’s website: Small animals nibble you the life. They give you the cockroach?
In an East Africa newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.
Slogan on mugs produced by Warwickshire County Cricket Club, who wanted to bill their star bowler ‘King of Spin’: Ashley Giles – King of Spain.
The book certainly brought a smile to my face and just goes to prove – you always need a translator!
- Lost in Translation and Still Lost in Translation (2007) by Charlie Croker
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