February 19, 2008 09:07 PM Missouri Time
Found this image over at The Chinglish Collection.
China Going Crackers over Chinlish
Beijing has launched a campaign to wipe out "Chinglish", a version of English that results in weird and largely incomprehensible phrases.
The "language mandarins" of Beijing have decided that Chinglish is a blight on China's modernising pretensions and must be obliterated before the city hosts the Olympic Games in 2008.
The targets of the campaign range from the nonsensical to the charming. A road sign on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, for instance, advised: "To Take Notice of Safe; The Slippery are Very Crafty", a warning that the pavement was slippery.
A sign in a Beijing park reads: "Little grass is smiling slightly, Please walk on pavement." At a Chinese eatery near the British embassy, diners can choose "bean curd with feeling" or "special fumed fish".
There are times when
Chinglish communicates a message well, if a little quaintly. Signs at
railway stations, for example, often state: "Take very good caution
over pocket pickers." The reason for the abundance of such convoluted
phrases is that Chinese is a difficult language to translate literally
into English - or vice versa.
There are many traps that Chinese and foreigners both fall into. One notorious victim was Coca-Cola which first tried to market its drink with the Chinese characters "Ke-Kou-Ke-La", which translated as "Bite the Wax Tadpole". Corporate chiefs in Atlanta ordered an emergency rebranding and the Chinese now drink "Ke-Kou-Ke-Le", meaning Happy Mouth, Happiness. If the "mandarins" do succeed in eliminating Chinglish, some wonderfully obscure linguistic contortions will be lost forever.
One hotel, in a link to the days when Maoist commissars took a dim view of sexual relations between unmarried couples, has been confusing visitors for decades with a piece of paper on their beds saying: "Decadent songs and actions that go against decency are not allowed here."
The campaign is less than a week old but has received an enthusiastic response. The Beijing Tourism Bureau has established a hotline for reporting signs and other public messages that do not read correctly and has received many telephone calls and emails. Li Honghai, the city official in charge of the campaign, said: "Linguistic perfection is becoming increasingly important with the rise in the number of foreigners flowing into the city."
Not everyone shares the disdain of the Beijing authorities for the hybrid language. "The choice of words is pretty infinite. One can either substitute the verbs, adverbs, nouns or what ever one delights," explained a Hong Kong aficionado on an internet website.
He continued his defence in mild Chinglish, saying: "There is almost no wrongdoing as long as you don't over-capacitate your audience. If used rightly, your Honkie friends will love to communicate with you the whole night long."
So many examples exist that several internet sites have been set up to collect Chinglish phrases. Many come from English instructions on packages such as a candle marked with "keep this candle out of children" and a model boat - curiously named Posh Sailboat - which recommends "Please don't place it in dusty play".
Another favourite is Chinese Superglue which claims to "bond daily domestic goods and interior gooks", adding "give a slight moisture on to the wild surfaces when difficult to bond".
Indeed, if the campaign against Chinglish is successful, officials will also have to turn their attention to the English-language versions of their official newspapers.
A recent article, translated from the People's Daily attacked foreign journalists for writing about the quirkiness of life in China.
It stated: "It's far from enough for these correspondents to make copy and paste, and they must always be eagle-eyed and pull a long ear.
It added: "They also run after strange things and load their papers with pictures telling how the Chinese people eat tortoise and turtle."
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