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June 30, 2004


Dear Dave,

Perhaps this will open a whole new category for Mr. Language Person -- Inept translations into English. I've seen a lot of poor translations in my day, but none compares to [this] caption.

Rich Johnston

A Star Town in China -- Xinba
Land of Promise and Pioneering, Paradise for Investment
Investment Advantages:


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I don't know about Phoenix, but I'M sure as hell moving to Xinba!

Here are some pretty good ones

And, leave us not forget, a classic brought to our (my, anyway) attention by Dave Barry hisself: "Bite the Wax Tadpole". I forget what it was for. Coca-Cola, I think.

Q. how many chinese people does it take to play a woodwind instrument?

A. apparently 4.

Maybe they're playing team billiards with a reeeeeaaaaaaalllllly long cues stick?

or cuestick (singular), even.


I knew a guy named Phoenix once...

Attracting Phoenix? I've had certain things "rise from the ashes" that way, but none of them were avian. That I know of.

Velcome foreign Wisitors -- a sign outside a factory in China that led the gathered ESL instructors to realize that we had job security.

There once were four men of Phoenix
Who fluted the form of a penis
Pausing between breaths
One thought, what to do next?
About where he could find a new kleenex.

How do we know that wasn't a deliberate mistranslation?

Look at all the free publicity. Those Chinese are pretty clever if you ask me. Blatantly promoting things with blowjobs, and claiming it was "just a mistranslation."

My favorite, in the reverse direction:

John F. Kennedy in a speech in Berlin, Germany: "Ich bin ein Berliner."

This translates literally into "I am a Berliner", but this phrase has two meanings to Germans:

1 - I am from Berlin.
2 - I am a donut.

Guess which one got the most attention?

To avoid confusion, JFK could have said "Ich bin Berliner." But then, no one would remember it today.

/waits for some president to proclaim "Ich bin ein Amerikaner"
// it would have the same meaning as JFK's statement

When I get really bored, I take CNN stories and translate them using any of the fine translation services online. It's a rollicking good time. I swear.

(By the way, off topic-could someone tell me what the "All our _____ are belong to us" is a reference to? I see it all the time.)

I have a postcard from a Korean friend at home that reads on the front, next to a photo of flowers: "You and I have to love long long. It is I get to toad to you cleated face."

This has long been my favorite.

Geez. Wonder what Bill Clinton has to say about blowing this peace pipe.

You should take a look the site www.engrish.com.

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