​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Sino-Logical Jargon

     I try not to laugh at English with Chinese Characteristics, otherwise known as "Chinglish." I've botched up enough attempts at communicating in Chinese that I completely sympathize when they botch up English. I have to admit, though, there are times when I can't suppress a snicker or two.
     For example, I had to laugh when I saw the sign on the bathroom wall in a Shanghai hotel room. It offered to provide a bath mat on request, followed by: "We are looking forward to service you." (There's a glossary at the end of the post for the convenience of my Chinese readers.)
     Restaurant menus are a rich source of Chinglish. Would you like some "saltied chicken feed"? Well, you probably wouldn't order it even if "feet" were spelled correctly. And the eerily appropriate sign just outside the restaurant means "No Littering", even if it says "No Tossing".
     Sometimes the intended meaning is plain even if the wording isn't. For example, "Be Careful with Falling" on a tile walkway is obviously "Slippery when Wet"; and "Preserve the freshness fron time to time" printed on a box of saran wrap is definitely not the claim that the manufacturer wanted to make.
     Context will often clarify the meaning. Thus, you can easily guess the purpose of trash cans labeled "organism" or "unrecycle" when you notice that the neighboring can says "recycle"; or the meaning of "Stone Cared" on a placard in front of a carved stone. Similarly, if you saw a red "Fire Extinguisher Box", you'd certainly pull to open even if it said "TULL".
     Other times the meaning is a little harder to discern: "The scenic area safely defends the telephone" doesn't really describe the park's "Emergency Telephone"; and it will probably take a moment or two to realize that "The Attention is Safe" has got to be "Think Safety".
     Even if you don't know the language, when you see a sign saying "Export" pointing to a door, you might surmise that "exit" and "export" are the same word in Chinese (出口). And if a building on a school campus was called a "Computer Message Heart", you'd get the connection between "heart" and "center".
     Occasionally, however, understanding the Chinglish is almost impossible unless you can read the associated characters. Without the Chinese, for example, you might never guess that "You and I altogether do afforest the bodyguard!" actually means "We're all custodians of reforestation". And if a sign on a museum diorama said "The construct size can't be tentually criticized", you'd probably have to peek at the Chinese to understand that the actual size of the original structure could not be verified.
     Unfortunately, sometimes even reading the Chinese doesn't help much. The Chinese characters would let you know that "Zoology Latrine" was actually a mistranslation that should have been "Ecological Latrine". But you might have to look elsewhere to learn that an "ecological latrine" is a self-contained, composting toilet.
     Suppose you could read Chinese and were translating a park sign with five characters meaning, literally, "The Pavilion of the Stone Tablet Inscribed with a Prayer for Rain." That's too many English words to fit on the sign, so you might be tempted to shorten it a bit. But you probably wouldn't just make up a new word and call it a day, like whoever translated the sign as "Pavilion with Artical".
     On the other hand, Chinglish is actually more expressive than English at times. "The Position of your Now" is much more elegant, even more spiritual, than "You Are Here". And "High Fire Hazard" is definitely no match for the poetry of: "Potential danger is worse than naked fire, Precaution before salvation, Fire can be devastating."
     Or how about "conventional hotel" for a "business hotel" with meeting rooms? I think we should add that one to our Funk & Wagnalls.
     And finally, there's a social club in downtown Liuzhou that doesn't serve alcohol and therefore calls itself the "非 bar", which means "not a bar". As if that weren't clever enough, the sign goes on to invite customers in to "lie fallow". That's much more descriptive of what a couch potato does than "relax".

   "service" 当名次用,服务,当动词用(包括动词不定式),交配。
   "chicken feed" 是“鸡饲料”(也可以比喻‘为数甚微的款项’)。还有,salty (咸味) 和 salted (加过盐)是两个词,不应该混为一个词。动词"toss",不带宾语也没有上下文,可以理解为“呕吐”(俚语)。
   因为"falling"是动名次,所以译文"Be Careful with Falling"的意思是“掉地这个动作要审慎而做”。"fron"拼错了,该写"from",而"from time to time"是“偶尔”“有时”的意思。
   “不可回收”该译为"nonrecyclable";"unrecycle" 不通,意思是“消除回收”。"拉手" 是"pull".
   原文“你我共做绿化卫士”,译文的意思是“我们一起造林于保镖身上”。原文“建筑尺寸已难详考”的译文,不知道是啥意思。想不到一个像"tentually" 的英语词。
   原文 “您现在的位置”,译文有点神秘,意味着“您目前的状态”。原文“隐患险于明火,防范胜于救灾,责任重于泰山”。
   "lie fallow",  [农田]休耕。

Email comments to jimmahler1@yahoo.com