Monday, January 21, 2013

The Slippery Are Very Crafty...

Originally posted at Murder Is Everywhere, Jan. 13, 2012....


Okay, it's an easy laugh. I know. But I can't help myself.


One freezing winter night in Beijing around 2001, a friend dragged me to the entrance of a well-known and at the time upscale shopping center to show me this sign. We both laughed so hard that I disregarded the advice and nearly slipped on the ice.

There are websites full of "Chinglish" like this, and a part of me feels that I shouldn't laugh at it...but I do. And I take photos...

Sometimes the signs are poetic....


Sometimes they are impenetrable...


Giving very thorough advice is also popular:


Others just involve a different approach to branding:


Supposedly there was a big campaign before the Beijing Olympics to try and rid the city of badly translated signs, but though "the slippery are crafty" apparently is no more, many remain, and outside of the first tier cities, mistranslations abound:


                                                      (I forgive you! Really!)

But some of my favorite signs involve, not mistranslations, but the use of English as "cool" and almost subversive expression...and in some cases, not even "almost." 

My favorite area in Beijing is around the Bell Tower and Drum Tower -- one of the last remaining hutong neighborhoods in the city. One street, Gulou Dong Dajie, has shop after shop selling musical instruments -- everything from electric guitars to traditional Chinese drums to ukuleles...and there's plenty of rock n' roll attitude to go with:



And although English does not have the reputation for romance that French does, wandering down an alleyway one night in Beijing, I came across this:


Of course, mistranslations go both ways...and if there's anything dumber than using computer translation programs to make your English signs without any further checking, it might be, oh, getting a tattoo of Chinese characters without knowing what they mean...

1 comment:

James Rafferty said...

Hi Lisa,

I love these examples. I worked in a Japanese company for a while and often encountered strings of English words which didn't quite cohere. These cases you point out are certainly high on the entertainment scale.

James