Convey your heartworm feelings
September 15, 2008 5:44 AM   Subscribe

"I love Chinglish: it constantly surprises and delights me. It refreshes our view of language, and reminds native English speakers of our own deficiencies in other languages. It also sometimes defines a wonderful characteristic of Chinese matter-of-fact-ness".
posted by flapjax at midnite (41 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent gallery! This is not an uncommon subject for linguistics blog entries. Language Log has a great post regarding an eye-opening example, and there are a lot of good links therein.
posted by sappidus at 5:50 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


MeFi's own jonmc noticed this by way of a box of Pimple tea; if that was anything like the canned scruples I had last week, I'd pass.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:50 AM on September 15, 2008


Don't forget the long-running site Engrish.com.
posted by arcticwoman at 5:54 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see an Englese gallery of American signs with "chinesey" writing on them decoded back into English. I think I've seen such a thing for tattoos, but something more general and wide-ranging would be cool.
posted by DU at 5:56 AM on September 15, 2008


This had me laughing out lout.

Let's shopping!
posted by sveskemus at 6:00 AM on September 15, 2008


Hanzi Smatter is probably the best you can get for mistakes going the other way around. I suspect it's the tattoo site DU is referring to.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:02 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was in Taiwan - years ago - a friend took me to Roxy Junior. The stairs leading up to the venue were adorned with posters from the various acts that had played there. One stand-out was a punk outfit, sneering at the camera with the large caption "WHO WILL GIVE ME A SHIT"
posted by mattoxic at 6:10 AM on September 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


This.
posted by you at 6:34 AM on September 15, 2008


Elyse Sewell's blog features many examples of fine Chinglish.
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:36 AM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


Sorry to be so forward, but this is for a survey...
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:39 AM on September 15, 2008


DU's post reminded me of a recent AskMe (see pic2).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:06 AM on September 15, 2008


For me Chinglish connotes direct mixing of the two languages more rather than 'badly-translated English' which is what the word seems to mean in this post. (?) But then I'm not exactly the best to judge since I speak it, heh.

It make English so much more expressive la, don't you think so meh?
posted by monocot at 7:15 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there's a lot to learn here... thanks.
posted by nicolin at 7:36 AM on September 15, 2008


A classic example here, featuring the enticing menu items Fragrant spring onion sauce explodescow son and Fuck the salt (beautiful pole) duck chin.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 7:38 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Outrageous self-link - that I need to update at some point - of a welcome pack prepared by my school in Japan to welcome me.
posted by liquidindian at 7:43 AM on September 15, 2008 [7 favorites]


Fuck The Ginger Water
posted by roll truck roll at 8:03 AM on September 15, 2008


monocot: are you Malaysian?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:04 AM on September 15, 2008


...welcome...welcome...

Yes, those Japanese are very welcoming.
posted by liquidindian at 8:09 AM on September 15, 2008


...reminds native English speakers of our own deficiencies in other languages.

Hmmm. No, it just make me laugh. Nice try though.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:11 AM on September 15, 2008


This is one about lives greatly joyfully in Hong Kong. Has not been assorted humble or pettily about the attention language vicissitude. These kind of matters remind our how many language phrase and the evolution, and, in the evening, gain circulation essential emotion! [Note: original comment machine-translated to traditional Chinese and then back to English.]

I know this isn't a thread about machine translation, but regardless: Recently, the company I work with (here in HK) had to fire a lot of people. The story was in all the local papers, though no one in the office was very keen to explain to me what was going on. So I searched Google News for the company's Chinese name, and had Google auto-translate from traditional Chinese to English.

Oddly, the phrase "inflatable pig irony" kept popping up. I have no idea what it means or implies, but I can only assume that it is awesome, and will be the name of my next grindcore band.
posted by milquetoast at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


For me Chinglish connotes direct mixing of the two languages more rather than 'badly-translated English' which is what the word seems to mean in this post. (?)

Agreed. For me and the other Chinese-speaking foreigners I know here in Taiwan, Chinglish consists of several things:

- Ironically and deliberately using English words within a Chinese grammatical framework or vice versa. Something like "Let's go get some dinner吧"

- Directly translating word for word from Chinese to English. For example, saying "eat medicine" for 吃藥/take medicine, "close the light" for 關電燈/turn off the light, "I very like ice cream" for 我很喜歡冰淇淋/I like ice cream very much.

At least amongst my other foreigner friends, using Chinglish will usually get a chuckle, but if a local uses it (in particular, dropping English words in a Chinese sentence like "這首歌真實有rhythm!") I'd be liable to run out of the room screaming and tearing my hair out.

Joking about poor machine translations is a tired cliche that wears off a month or two after you're off the boat.
posted by alidarbac at 8:31 AM on September 15, 2008


This is also not quite about Engrish, but at a Korean restaurant in NYC (Kang Suh), I was once amused to find that a transpositional typo had led to a menu item being rendered, simply, as "marinated crap".
posted by sappidus at 8:33 AM on September 15, 2008


How about stir-fried wikipedia, or maybe some steam eggs with wikipedia?
posted by milkrate at 8:43 AM on September 15, 2008


The official trailer (Youtube link) for Mad About English, a movie about China's love affair with learning English.
posted by hellopanda at 8:49 AM on September 15, 2008


monocot: are you Malaysian?
No, I'm from HK, but having Malaysian/Singaporean friends has an osmotic effect on my spoken chinglish. Not in a positive way.
posted by monocot at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2008


What a coincidence! I used to work at that Office of Mayhem Evaluation. They do a heck of a job.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:18 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Chinglish (and some Engrish)

I didn't click every pic there, but all I saw was Engrish.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:19 AM on September 15, 2008


Directly translating word for word from Chinese to English.

We do this for the LOLs with French. My favorite is saying "That deranges me" for "That bothers me/Ca me derange."
posted by arcticwoman at 9:34 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not really Greeklish, but here's an amusing photo of a sign in front of a restaurant here in Athens that my husband snapped with his cell phone as he was walking by.
posted by taz at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2008


MrMoonPie: DU's post reminded me of a recent AskMe
[hanging head in embarassment] Yeah, I thought that one looked a bit weird, but at least the other one wasn't in English!
posted by exogenous at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2008


Yeah, Chinglish is what my pack of Taiwanese/Chinese-American friends speaks between ourselves and with family: English with Chinese phrases randomly dropped in to describe food, landmarks, etc. We'll say stuff like "I want 饅頭 and 葱油餅" because "steamed buns" doesn't really convey the fluffy deliciousness of the specific type of bread called 饅頭. And "scallion pancakes" just...sounds weird.
posted by casarkos at 10:12 AM on September 15, 2008


My all time favorite Engrish.com entry. I mutter it to myself whenever I start getting pissed off at someone and end up laughing at myself instead.
posted by jamaro at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2008


Here's my favorite.
posted by exogenous at 10:35 AM on September 15, 2008


We do this for the LOLs with French. My favorite is saying "That deranges me" for "That bothers me/Ca me derange."

Awesome! This was also pretty popular in Québec when I lived there. People my age speaking English with me would do direct translation because they thought it was hilarious. "I worked my ass into quarters", for example. But English in Québec is a strange creature to begin with. The dirty little (not well) secret is, for as fiercely proud of their language as they are, many Québecois pepper their language with English words and will give you strange looks if you use the French word for a thing for which they commonly use English. I found this out myself one night when my roommate and I rented a movie, and I asked her if we should pop some "mais éclaté". She looked at me for a beat, then asked, "Est-ce que tu veux dire de popcorn?"

Chinese matter-of-fact-ness

Ha. I have a Chinese friend who lives in Japan. Her first year, as for many immigrants, was a period of acclimation. In her case it was becoming accostumed to the opposite of "matter-of-fact-ness". She told me the Japanese were also aware of this difference between the two cultures, as parlayed into the stereotype that Chinese girls are "toge-toge" (トゲトゲ) - "thorny". Made dating a little difficult for her.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grammatically-loose English has been around for so long, that in many contexts (like advertising,) it has actually become a purposeful affectation - that is, the client requesting English text explicitly wants non-native English rather than a fluent translation. This is typically not the case with the majority of public signage, whose purpose is often to accommodate and show off to foreign visitors, in which case mistakes would be embarrassing.

However, I am still surprised at how poorly English language dialogue seems to be directed and edited for public announcements where it is clear that the voice-over artist is a native or near-native speaker - I haven't figured this one out yet.

I think that the fusion of languages is a very interesting topic - Singlish, for example, has some fantastic turns-of-phrase, but this Engrish stuff seems a little too close to LOLjapan or subtle racialism for me.

alidarbac brings up some good points, though I would remind him that in many cases, youth urban language has fully integrated English words into the lexicon. While something like 阿路安豆B or 「你最愛卡拉﹍我對戴夢有看法」 or 甘八茶 may be stretching it - indeed, none of these are immediately comprehensible to a native speaker - 「她很MAN」 or 宅男 are as natural and fluent as any other loan word, like 電話 or 麥克風.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:42 AM on September 15, 2008


In Miami, I was surprised at the crappy Spanish on public information signs, advertisements, etc. This in a city where there's a zillion people who actually speak the language.
posted by signal at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2008


My favorite advertising slogan (from a package of scouring pads):
Besmirch Abscondence!
posted by aws17576 at 2:47 PM on September 15, 2008


That first link gives me flashbacks to the Crystal Mall in Burnaby.
posted by Listener at 3:50 PM on September 15, 2008


We'll say stuff like "I want 饅頭 and 葱油餅" because "steamed buns" doesn't really convey the fluffy deliciousness of the specific type of bread called 饅頭. And "scallion pancakes" just...sounds weird.

Hey, if it's acceptable to say spaghetti or sashimi (instead of noodles or raw fish) in English, it should be acceptable to say mantou or congyoubing.

alidarbac brings up some good points, though I would remind him that in many cases, youth urban language has fully integrated English words into the lexicon.

Goddamn kids, get off my lawn.

While something like 阿路安豆B or 「你最愛卡拉﹍我對戴夢有看法」 or 甘八茶 may be stretching it - indeed, none of these are immediately comprehensible to a native speaker - 「她很MAN」 or 宅男 are as natural and fluent as any other loan word, like 電話 or 麥克風.

My problem with 他很MAN is that you should at least substitute an adjective in there. I've also got problems with 我很HIGH since for most Taiwanese this means really happy or excited but they have no idea of the drug connotations. I also have problems with 3Q (san-Q) to substitute for thank you, simply because I have to spend so much time with my students to get them to properly pronounce and differentiate between the two th- sounds in English.
posted by alidarbac at 10:44 PM on September 15, 2008


There are many amazing, amusing and useful examples of Konglish. One of the more entertaining are 'Bangladesh' and 'Bangkok'. Because 방, pronounced 'bahg', means 'room' in Korean, and can just refer to your apartment bedroom or whatever, when someone asks you what you did on the weekend, or where you went, you can just answer 'Bangladesh' or 'Bangkok', which means 'yeah, I just hung around at home doing nothing'.

My students, all adults, have been trained to think of Konglish as an unreserved bad thing. I love it, though, and encourage the creative thinking it represents, as long as the speaker is situationally aware that they're using non-standard, Korea-specific semi-English expressions.

Hey, if it's acceptable to say spaghetti or sashimi (instead of noodles or raw fish) in English, it should be acceptable to say mantou or congyoubing.

Most assuredly. Without fail, when Koreans ask me what the English name of a Korean dish would be, I tell them to use the Korean word(s) for it, rather than some clumsy descriptive phrase. Unless they want to actually describe it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:17 AM on September 16, 2008


However, I am still surprised at how poorly English language dialogue seems to be directed and edited for public announcements where it is clear that the voice-over artist is a native or near-native speaker - I haven't figured this one out yet.

It's so surreal to listen to the narrator of some corporate film read garbage text with crisp, clear pronunciation. I've been guilty of this a couple of times myself, at least before I decided that voice-over work wasn't my cup of tea.

Much of the time it's not really feasible to revise the text, because (a) they're not going to pay you for it, (b) it's been reviewed by management and they don't want anyone messing it, especially if it's going to take a few hours and upset the studio schedule, (c) the scribe is there and you don't want to mess with the balance of their workplace, and (d) if you do edit it, you'll get called up for every urgent editing job from then on (and it'll still end up full of errors).

I've been on the other end too, writing up acceptable copy only to see it garbled by management who apparently needed to justify their usefulness in the review process despite having a less-than-fluent grasp on the language. That sort of thing was what turned me off to doing voice work - if no one cared about the results, they didn't really my native speaker's voice anyway.
posted by zhwj at 3:51 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


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