Thursday, August 07, 2008

E.g., "Dimplings Warmed in Water Gas "

Dan Pritchard, of The Wooden Spoon and The Hub, directs our attention to what is either a moment of richly reflexive ironic commentary on our pig-idiot monoglossia or a simple error in machine translation. Dan's nota bene itself begs for translation: "Flarf is like motorcycles, they're everywhere!"

The scenario. A restaurant in China, anticipating a large potential dinership with the arrival of the Olympics in Beijing, seems to have used a software program to translate its name into English. The result: a lime-green banner above their entrances, with their Chinese name on the left, and on the right, the words "Translate server error."

Perhaps they mean "server" here to mean "waitperson," and are simply highlighting the ability of their staff to transform mistakes in table service into amazing dining experiences. Perhaps not. The photo shown here comes from the collection of Flickr user tenz1225.

Similar gaffes can be found at the Flickr group Bad translations -- mauvaises traductions -- traduzioi brutte. Through BT-MT-TB, I came across a link to an altruistic outfit operating under the name Signs In China. According to their About Us page, this group of volunteers comprises "some professors, students, and friends of the Beijing Foreign Studies University." They "invite every English-speaking visitor, expatriate, and Chinese-English bilingual to join us in correcting mangled English signs and improving the use of English in China."

Theirs is a laudable linguistic mission, but it brings them into direct conflict with clubby groups like Chinglish that curate a Flickr gallery of confused signage. Who shall prevail? The pure-hearted pedants with their pails of white-out and sense of purpose? Or the snickering connoisseurs of corrupt marquees and menus? The ancient battle continues.

No comments: