Lost in Translation * Le Bêtisier * Metidas de Pata

Take a moment from your hectic day to enjoy some linguistic humor, Esprit-style!

The Butchery of English Across The World

(Why professional translators are so precious!)
An online shopping site from China – New user’s registration: Their invitation to join and shop says: “Customer on it is dear the fine in you, it buy goods invite first”
In a Tokyo hotel: Is forbitten to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.
In another Japanese hotel room: Please to bathe inside the tub.
In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
In a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.
In a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin shoudl enter more persons, each one should press number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
In a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.
In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.
In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetry where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to parambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave nothing to hope for.
On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.
In a Hong Kong supermarket: For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.
Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.
In a Bangkok dry cleaners store: Drop your trousers here for best results.
Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking.
In a Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summers suit. Because is a big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
Similarly, from the Soviet Weekly: There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.
In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.
In a Vienna hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.
A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.
In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth extracted by latest Methodists.
A translated sentence from a Russian chess book: A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.
In a Rome laundromat: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.
In a Czech tourist agency: Take one of our horse-driven city tours, we guarantee no miscarriages.
In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.
Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop: Drive Sideways.
In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today no ice cream.
In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.
In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for ladies with nuts.
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.
In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
In the office of a Roman doctor: Specialist in women an other diseases.
In an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.
In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you’ll find they are best in the long run.
From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.
Signs in a Majorcan shop entrance (Spain): English well speaking – Here speeching American.
Online shopping site from China (www.worldsupermarket.net) – New user’s registration: Their invitation to join and shop says: “Customer on it is dear the fine in you, it buy goods invite first”

And our all-time Esprit favorite…
From the brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor. TOP


The European Union commissioners have announced that agreement has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for European communications, rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five year phase plan for what will be known as EuroEnglish (Euro for short).

In the first year, “s” will be used instead of the soft “c”. Sertainly, sivill servants will resieve this news with joy. Also the hard “c” will be replaced with “k”. Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced by “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20 per sent shorter.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent “e” ‘s in the languag is disgrasful, and they would go.

By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replsing “th” by “z” and “w” by “v”. During ze fifz year, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and similar chnages vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls of difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand. TOP

International Marketing Blunders

A certain Iranian detergent manufacturer transliterated the brand name of its top detergent from Farsi into English as “Barf.” (“Say, want a box of Barf? I actually have a box of this stuff; it was given to me from a diplomat friend who picked it up on her travels in the Middle East”.)

For the Coca-Cola market launch in China, its erstwhile slogan “Coke adds life” was translated into Chinese. The company found out that the Chinese ideograms, when translated back into English, read “Coke brings your ancestors back from the dead”. This, they determined, just might have affected the product’s sales.

The famous Coors slogan “Turn it Loose” was translated into Spanish as “Suffer From Diarrhea”.

An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Hispanic market to commemorate the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I Saw the Pope” (el Papa), the T-shirts read “I Saw the Potato” (la papa).

In a Mid-East marketing campaign it was discovered that “Jolly Green Giant” translated into Arabic came out “Intimidating Green Ogre”.

U.S. chicken magnate Frank Perdue wanted to sell his products to Hispanics using his slogan “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”, but the Spanish translation used came out like this: “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chick affectionate.”

The grocery store chain Konsum in Sweden was experiencing a bit of a problem with shoplifting by their Hungarian customers in the chain’s convenience stores called Servus. When investigated, it was found that “Servus” means “yours for free” in Hungarian.

When Coca-Cola first came to China, it was given a similar sounding name … but on closer inspection, it was found that the characters used for writing the name rendered it “Bite the Wax Tadpole”.

In Japan, advertising for a peanut-packed chocolate bar targeted at Japanese teenagers cramming for exams ran headlong into a traditional belief that eating peanuts and chocolate caused nosebleeds.

When Parker marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Unfortunately the marketing pros who were hired for the campaign used the verb embarazar (to impregnate) instead of dar vergüenza (to embarrass), so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

Sales for the Chevrolet Nova in Latin America were considerably underperforming compared to forecasts made by the carmaker’s marketers. It was then brought to Management’s attention that in Spanish, “No va” means “Doesn’t go”!

One of the senior editors of a Swedish car magazine surprised his colleagues by refusing to travel to the U.S. for an international motor magazine convention. He had attended the previous year, but this time categorically stated that he wouldn’t go again. He worked for Fart Magazine … ‘fart’ being the Swedish word for speed.

Some scientists were testing a program that could translate from English to Chinese and back again. They fed into their computer the English phrase “Out of sight, out of mind”, and out came some Chinese ideograms. Since none of the scientists present in the room knew Chinese well enough to determine whether the computer’s Chinese translation had captured the spirit of the English phrase, they fed the ideograms back into the computer. The translation rendered back into English read: “Invisible idiot”. TOP


I have a spelling chequer It came with my pea sea It plainly marques four my revue Miss steaks eye cannot sea.

When eye strike a quay, right a word I weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong oar wright It shows me strait aweigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid It nose bee fore two late And eye can put the error rite Its rarely, rarely grate.

I’ve run this poem threw it I’m shore your pleased two no Its letter perfect in it’s weigh My chequer tolled me sew.

Sauce unknown

Ships in The Night

I had only just arrived at the club, when I bumped into Roger. After we had exchanged a few pleasantries, he lowered his voice and asked, “What do you think of Martha and I as a potential twosome?”

“That,” I replied, “would be a mistake. Martha and me is more like it.”

“You’re interested in Martha?”

“I’m interested in clear communication.”

“Fair enough,” he agreed. “May the best man win.” Then he sighed. “Here I thought we had a clear path to becoming a very unique couple.”

“You couldn’t be a very unique couple, Roger.”

“Oh? And why is that?”

“Martha couldn’t be a little pregnant, could she?”

“Say what? You think that Martha and me …”

“Martha and I.”

“Oh.” Roger blushed and set down his drink. “Gee, I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t, I assured him. Most people don’t.”

“I feel very badly about this.”

“You shouldn’t say that: I feel bad …”

“Please, don’t,” Roger said. “If anyone’s at fault here, it’s me!” TOP

Resumé Blunders

The following are actual resume blunders as reported by Fortune Magazine:

“I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience”

“I have lurnt WordPerfect 6.0 computor and spreadsheat progroms”

“Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year”

“Reason for leaving last job: Maturity leave”

“Wholly responsible for two (2) failed financial institutions”

“Failed bar exam with relatively high grades”

“It’s best for employers that I not work with people”

“Let’s meet, so you can “ooh” and “aah” over my experience”

“You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time”

“Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details”

“I was working for my mom until she decided to move”

“Marital status: single. Unmarried. Unengaged. Uninvolved. No commitments”

“I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse”

“I am loyal to my employer at all costs … Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail”

“I have become completely paranoid, trusting completely no one and absolutely nothing”

“My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I possess no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage”

“I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant”

“As indicted, I have over five years of analyzing investments”

“Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far”

“Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store”

“Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as “job-hopping”. I have never quit a job”

“Marital status: often. Children: various”

“Reason for leaving last job: They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Could not work under those conditions”

“The company made me a scapegoat, just like my three previous employers”

“Finished eighth in my class of ten”

“References: None. I’ve left a path of destruction behind me” TOP

Employee Evaluations

Actual quotes taken from performance evaluations:

  1. Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig.
  2. His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of morbid curiousity.
  3. I would not allow this employee to breed.
  4. This associate is really not so much of a has-been, but more of a definitely won’t be.
  5. Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a trap.
  6. When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change whichever foot was previously in there.
  7. He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle.
  8. This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
  9. He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them.
  10. This employee should go far — and the sooner he starts, the better.
  11. This employee is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.


Tips for Proper English

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  3. Employ the vernacular.
  4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  7. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  9. One should never generalize.
  10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  11. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
  12. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  13. Be more or less specific.
  14. Understatement is always best.
  15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  22. Don’t never use a double negation.
  23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point
  24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
  25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
  26. Proof-read carefully to see if you words out.
  27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  29. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
  30. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  37. The adverb always follows the verb.
  38. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague. They’re old hat; seek viable alternatives.


Incompatible Software

I’m currently running the latest version of GirlFriend and I’ve been having some problems lately. I’ve been running the same version of DrinkingBuddies 1.0 forever as my primary application, and all the GirlFriend releases I’ve tried have always conflicted with it. I hear that DrinkingBuddies won’t crash if GirlFriend is run in background mode and the sound is turned off. But I’m embarrassed to say I can’t find the switch to turn the sound off. I just run them separately, and it works okay. Girlfriend also seems to have a problem co-existing with my Golf program, often trying to abort Golf with some sort of timing incompatibility.

I probably should have stayed with GirlFriend 1.0, but I thought I might see better performance from GirlFriend 2.0. After months of conflicts and other problems, I consulted a friend who has had experience with GirlFriend 2.0. He said I probably didn’t have enough cache to run GirlFriend 2.0, and eventually it would require a Token Ring to run properly. He was right – as soon as I purged my cache, it uninstalled itself.

Shortly after that, I installed GirlFriend 3.0 beta. All the bugs were supposed to be gone, but the first time I used it, it gave me a virus anyway. I had to clean out my whole system and shut down for a while.

I very cautiously upgraded to GirlFriend 4.0. This time I used a SCSI probe first and also installed a virus protection program. It worked okay for a while until I discovered that GirlFriend 1.0 was still in my system. I tried running GirlFriend 1.0 again with GirlFriend 4.0 still installed, but GirlFriend 4.0 has a feature I didn’t know about that automatically senses the presence of any other version of GirlFriend and communicates with it in some way, which results in the immediate removal of both versions.

The version I have now works pretty well, but there are still some problems. Like all versions of GirlFriend, it is written in some obscure language I can’t understand, much less reprogram. Frankly I think there is too much attention paid to the look and feel rather than the desired functionality. Also, to get the best connections with your hardware, you usually have to use gold-plated contacts. And I’ve never liked how GirlFriend is totally “object-oriented.”

A year ago, a friend of mine upgraded his version of GirlFriend to GirlFriendPlus 1.0, which is a Terminate and Stay Resident version of GirlFriend. He discovered that GirlFriendPlus 1.0 expires within a year if you don’t upgrade to Fiancee 1.0. So he did, but soon after that, he had to upgrade to Wife 1.0, which he describes as a huge resource hog. It has taken up all his space, so he can’t load anything else. One of the primary reasons he decided to go with Wife 1.0 was because it came bundled with FreeSexPlus.

Well, it turns out the resource allocation module of Wife 1.0 sometimes prohibits access to FreeSexPlus, particularly the new Plug-Ins he wanted to try. On top of that, Wife 1.0 must be running on a well warmed-up system before he can do anything. Although he did not ask for it, Wife 1.0 came with MotherInLaw which has an automatic pop-up feature he can’t turn off.

I told him to try installing Mistress 1.0, but he said he heard if you try to run it without first uninstalling Wife 1.0, Wife 1.0 will delete MSMoney files before doing the uninstall itself. Then Mistress 1.0 won’t install anyway because of insufficient resources. TOP

Airline Squawks: Techno Problem Solving

Here are some actual maintenance complaints/problems, generally known as squawks, recently submitted by QANTAS Pilots to maintenance engineers. After attending to the squawks, maintenance crews are required to log the details of the action taken to solve the pilots’ squawks.

Problem – Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
Solution – Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

Problem – Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.
Solution – Autoland not installed on this aircraft.

Problem – No. 2 propeller seeping prop fluid.
Solution – No. 2 propeller seepage normal. Nos. 1, 3 and 4 propellers lack normal seepage.

Problem – Something loose in cockpit.
Solution – Something tightened in cockpit.

Problem – Dead bugs on windshield.
Solution – Live bugs on backorder.

Problem – Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent.
Solution – Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

Problem – Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
Solution – Evidence removed.

Problem – DME volume unbelievably loud.
Solution – Volume set to more believable level.

Problem – Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
Solution – That’s what they are there for!

Problem – IFF inoperative.
Solution – IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

Problem – Suspected crack in windscreen.
Solution – Suspect you’re right.

Problem – Number 3 engine missing.
Solution – Engine found on right wing after brief search.

Problem – Aircraft handles funny.
Solution – Aircraft warned to “Straighten up, Fly Right, and Be Serious”

Problem – Target radar hums.
Solution – Reprogrammed target radar with words.

Problem – Mouse in cockpit.
Solution – Cat installed.

Airline Monologue

I was flying to San Francisco from Seattle this weekend, and the flight attendant reading the flight safety information had the whole plane looking at each other like “what the heck?” (Getting Seattle people to look at each other is an accomplishment.) So, once we got airborne, I took out my laptop and typed up what she said so I wouldn’t forget. I’ve left out a few parts I’m sure, but this is most of it.

(Before takeoff….)

Hello and welcome to Alaska flight 438 to San Francisco. If you’re going to San Francisco, you’re in the right place. If you’re not going to San Francisco, you’re about to have a really long evening. We’d like to tell you now about some important safety features of this aircraft. The most important safety feature we have aboard this plane is . . . The Flight Attendants. Please look at one now. There are 5 exits aboard this plane, 2 at the front, 2 over the wings, and one out the plane’s rear end. If you’re seated in one of the exit rows, please do not store your bags by your feet. That would be a really bad idea. Please take a moment and look around and find the nearest exit. Count the rows of seats between you and the exit. In the event that the need arises to find one, trust me, you’ll be glad you did. We have pretty blinking lights on the floor that will blink in the direction of the exits. White ones along the normal rows, and pretty red ones at the exit rows. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure these baggy things will drop down over your head. You stick it over your nose and mouth like the flight attendant is doing now. The bag won’t inflate, but there’s oxygen there, I promise. If you are sitting next to a small child, or someone who is acting like a small child, please do us all a favor and put on your mask first. If you are traveling with two or more children, please take a moment now to decide which one is your favorite. Help that one first, and then work your way down. In the seat pocket in front of you is a pamphlet about the safety features of this plane. I usually use it as a fan when I’m having my own personal summer. It makes a very good fan. It also has pretty pictures. Please take it out and play with it now. Please take a moment now to make sure your seat belts are fastened low and tight about your waist. To fasten the belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle. To release, it’s a pulley thing — not a pushy thing like you’re car cuz you’re in an airplane, hello! There is no smoking in the cabin on this flight. There is also no smoking in the lavatories. If we see smoke coming from the lavatories, we will assume you are on fire and put you out. This is a free service we provide. There are two smoking sections on this flight, one outside each wing exit. We do have a movie in the smoking sections tonight, hold on, let me check what it is . . . Oh here it is, the movie tonight is ‘Gone with the Wind’. In a moment we will be turning off the cabin lights, and it’s going to get really dark, really fast. If you’re afraid of the dark, now would be a good time to reach up and press the yellow button. The yellow button turns on your reading light. Please don’t press the orange button unless you absolutely have to. The orange button is your seat ejection button. We’re glad to have you with us on board this flight. Thank you for choosing Alaska Air, and giving us your business and your money. If there’s anything we can do to make you more comfortable, please don’t hesitate to ask. If you all weren’t strapped down you would have given me a standing ovation wouldn’t you?

(After landing…)

Welcome to the San Francisco International Airport. Sorry about the bumpy landing. It’s not the captain’s fault. It’s not the co-pilot’s fault. It’s the Asphalt. Please remain seated until the plane is parked at the gate. At no time in history has a passenger beaten a plane to the gate. So please don’t even try. Please be careful opening the overhead bins because shift happens. TOP

For the Love of the Language

For those that just love our language… Each year the Washington Post’s Style Invitational asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing only one letter and supply a new definition.

Here are the 2002 winners:

Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

Giraffiti: Vandalism painted very, very high.

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit).

Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

Glibido: All talk and no action.

Dopeer Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

And, the winner of the Washington Post’s Style Invitational: Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole. TOP

Math Terrorism

At New York’s Kennedy Airport today, an individual later discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square and a calculator.

Authorities believe he is a member of the notorious al-Gebra movement. He is being charged with transporting weapons of math instruction. TOP

The Last Word….

Laughter is a healthy pressure-release valve in a fast-paced production world. At Esprit we work hard for our clients but also like to maintain a joyous spirit despite fast-paced deadlines and brain-taxing work. Esprit is happy to share a smile and contribute to a feeling of goodwill across borders, and hopes that your visit to our site was both informative and enjoyable!
– The Esprit translation team.