Words & Stuff

TT: Lost in Translation

(15 November 1998)

I realize that it's not polite to make fun of writing that's been translated poorly from another language. I suspect that mocking Japanglish, Franglais, and Chinglish can be considered politically incorrect at best and racist at worst. But I can't help myself. I find myself vastly entertained by the weird English that translators come up with when they don't speak English very well. Jon Carroll calls such items "Odd Prose," a good name since even presumably native English speakers can sometimes come up with it (just read a Dr. Bronner's soap label if you doubt me). But the items I'm presenting this week are definitely the fault of the translators.

The first one is brief but nonetheless odd; it's poorly translated from the Italian, and is written on a tag attached to a small leather sculpture:

The original leather sculptures are fully handmade.
The collection is made by unique and limited pieces.

The second item this week is from a box of Chinese tea. I have attempted to reproduce the spelling and punctuation exactly; the misspellings are precisely as given on the box (I triple-checked). The spacing is slightly more doubtful, as I suspect an inept word processor is to blame for the lack of spaces after some commas (apparently the software attempted to fill-justify some lines by removing such spaces); still, it adds to the overall effect, so I left it as given on the box. Near the end, a blurry two-character string that I can't quite make out appears twice; it might be "93," but in absence of certainty I've replaced it with a pair of question marks in both instances.

HEALTH KUDING TEA

(in Pouches)

This new pattern and highlevel health tea is well made of wild natural medicinal plants of GuiZhou Province in a modern science way. Through testing and verifying by scientific research institution and colleges, we found that it contents tannic acid, glucoside, steroid,ketone. It also contents 16trace elements,such as Zn,Cu,Fe,Mn,Co,Ca,Rb,Se,etc. It has the functions of getting rid of cold wind, sharping eyes, cleaning lungs, subsidencing of a swelling, clearing up heat, reducing fat, hypertension, anti - radiation, refreshing oneself and quenching one's thirst, etc. It can also regulate central nervous system, protect heart blood vessel system,make blood,invigorate the circulation of blood,enrich the blood,reduce fat,cure hypertension, promote sex action, augment immunity from disease, prevent losing memory of the middle and old ages,and prevent senile dementia,etc. What is more. Except the general characteristic of tea,it has a function for health and a distinctive flavour. It is above average of other tea. That's why as it was produced, it has been welcome both at home and abroad. And it has good names as "Long Life Tea" and "Cometology Tea". It won the Praise of the Advanced Science and Technology of the Southeaest GuiZhou in 1992, the Praise of ??Quintessence Products for Health in 1993, and the ??Gold Medal of Science and Technology Quintessence Products for Health of China.


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>