Recently, we had a friend of mine that came over for dinner, along with her new Britt husband. Which -you could have forseen it- involved endless discussions about French verses English language. Today, going through my archives, I found a big argument in favor of the former. Check it out:
Let’s face it
English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another? Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?
Why is “crazy man” an insult, while to insert a comma and say, “crazy, man!” is a compliment (as when applauding a jazz performance.)
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.
– Richard Lederer
Losing Something in Translation…
This is a copy of an article written by Derek Davies about signs in foreign countries that have been mistranslated. Can you identify the errors in grammar, vocabulary, and spelling?
In a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the 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 elevator:
To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a 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&11 am daily.
In a Yugoslavian hotel:
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian orthodox Monastery:
You are welcome to visit the cemetary where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
In an Austrian hotel for skiers:
Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
On a menu in a Swiss restaurant:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
On a menu of a Polish hotel:
Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beer 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 coourteous, effecient self-service.
In a Bangkok cleaners:
Drop your trousers here for best results.
In a Paris dress shop:
Dresses for street walking.
In a Hong Kong dress shop:
Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
From the Soviet weekly:
There will be a Moscow Exhibition of the 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 porter.
In Germany’s Black Forest:
It is strickly forbidden on our Black Forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men & women, live together in one tent unless they are married for that purpose.
An ad by a Hong Kong dentist:
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.
A Russian chess book:
A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.
In a Rome laundry:
Ladies, leave your clothes here & spend the afternoon having a good time.
In a Czech tourist agency:
Take one of our horse driven tours—we guarantee no miscarriages.
Ad for donkey rides in Thailand:
Would you like to ride your own ass?
On a faucet in a Finnish restroom:
To stop the drip, turn cock to right.
In the window of a Swedish furrier:
Fur coats made for the ladies from their own skin.
On a box of a clockwork toy in Hong Kong:
Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.
Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan:
Swiss mountain inn:
Special today–no ice cream.
It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed like a man.
Special cocktail for the ladies with nuts.
Copenhagen airline ticket office:
We take your bags and send them in all directions.
Moscow hotel room:
If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.
Norwegian cocktail lounge:
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
Office of a Roman doctor:
Specialist in women and other diseases.
The manager has personally passed all the water served here.
Our nylons cost more than common, but you’ll find that they are best in the long run.
Japanese instructions on an air conditioner:
Cooles & Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.
Car rental brochure 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.
Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance:
English well talking;
Here speeching American.
On the box of a Vietnamese laughing tip-toy:
Can’t invert with laugh
The laugh begin. you are youthful
As poke as shaky as shaky as laugh
During the use. open the lid of top and take two cells (NO. 5) in the box. If you want to stop laugh or don’t use for a long time. you must take out the cells (This seller have no cells)
A sign on the lion cage at a zoo in the Czech Republic:
No smoothen the lion
A Finnish hotel’s instructions in case of fire:
If you are unable to leave your room, expose yourself in the window.
A notice in a Japanese hotel (ca. 1950):
Please not to steal towels. If you are not person to do such, please not to read notice