April 17, 2007

"Last week, the city commemorated 'Queuing Day,' an event held on the 11th of every month because the date symbolizes an orderly line."

The city in question: Beijing.
Volunteers wearing satin Queuing Day sashes shooed rush-hour commuters into lines at busy subway stations, while hospital administrators and a few city officials handed out long-stemmed roses to patients who stood in line to pay their bills or pick up medicines. Local news media swarmed the event.
They're getting ready for the Olympics, and there's a real concern about China's image:
[S]ome Communist Party officials have publicly fretted that Beijing may not measure up. One delegate at the country’s annual political meetings in March recommended heavy fines and a public education campaign to curb spitting, cutting ahead in line, smoking and foul language....

In fact, Beijing had already announced that people caught spitting in public before the Olympics could face fines up to 50 yuan, or about $6.50, hardly small change in China. Mr. Wang, the anti-spitting activist, said the Olympic spirit inspired him to begin his campaign. “I felt I must do something to contribute,” he said.

He chose a very dirty task. Public spitting is a frequent practice in Beijing and even more common elsewhere in China. (The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it “the national anthem of China.”)
Oh, no!

There's also the signage problem:
English translations on signs are considered fashionable and good advertising, as well as a gracious gesture to foreigners baffled by Chinese characters. But until recently, the attention paid to the accuracy of the translation was, at best, uneven. Consider that a local theme park about China’s ethnic minorities was initially promoted in English as “Racist Park.”...

[David Tool, an American who has been been enlisted by the city to fix bad translations,] said he spent his weekends visiting different businesses as if he were a detective in a linguistic vice squad. “I go in and I say the Olympics are coming and this sign is wrong,” Mr. Tool said. He then sends an e-mail message with a correct translation or has a printout delivered.

He is writing a book on the subject, and no wonder: regular blunders include typos on menus in which the ‘b’ in crab becomes a ‘p.’ Some translations are trickier, like describing pullet, which is a hen less than a year old but appears on some menus as Sexually Inexperienced Chicken. Mr. Tool said one prominent sign had become a regular photo op for foreigners: the Dongda Anus Hospital.

Mr. Tool intervened. It is now the Dongda Proctology Hospital.

12 comments:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Bodily fluid blogging on Althouse!

Ann Althouse said...

Check this out: someone just left a comment on this three year old post... and it's a bodily fluids post.

(Do I need a bodily fluids label?)

Jennifer said...

Ah, nothing more charming than Engrish.

rightwingprof said...

You know about engrish.com, don't you?

Robert Burnham said...

Google the word chinglish, then click on the images link. Or go straight to:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/chinglish/pool/

And of course Wiki has a page for it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinglish

Internet Ronin said...

When I lived in Taiwan, I was impressed by the incredibly large numbers of dedicated "V.D. Clinics." That is, I was until I realized they were actually just regular "OB/Gyn" offices.

Another interesting slice of life was there was differentiating "barber shops." Asking for a shampoo in one meant you got a shampoo. Asking for a shampoo in another meant you were offered a selection of girls to satisfy your sexual desires. (A reasonably good rule of thumb was the more it looked like the inside of a fancy whore house, the more likely it was to be exactly that.)

Ann Althouse said...

All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you
I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you
I want to renew you again and again

MadisonMan said...

Mr Tool has a great name when his client is a Proctology Hospital.

One of the charms of going somewhere where English is not the native tongue, or anywhere close to it, is seeing the mangled prose. It's too bad the Chinese see it as something to fix.

Internet Ronin said...

I agree, MadisonMan, it is entertaining. And I doubt they will fix much in the end. One of the more enjoyable relaxing bits of entertainment while visiting Japan can be reading the English-language material in hotel rooms at the end of the day. Even the five-star hotels catering to a foreign clientele are chock-full of delightful mis-turns of phrase, and this is in a nation that takes such things as language and its proper usage very seriously. Very seriously indeed.

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

I like this menu posted by a blogger. I'm not sure what I'd order, but I probably wouldn't take my chances with the Every Kind Rape.

Freeman Hunt said...

My mistake, it's actually "Every form rape."