[ilds] lampooned by novelist Lawrence Durrell

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu Nov 29 16:49:36 PST 2007

/Hernando Today/
> Nov 29, 2007
>     Linguistic gaffes likely at Summer Games
> The handicap restroom symbol is the same throughout mainland China --- 
> the internationally-recognized stick-figure in a wheelchair we can 
> find almost everywhere in the world. The accompanying text says the 
> convenience is for a "Deformed Person," Makes for a great photo op. 
> "You can make a lot of mistakes in the English language," I encourage 
> foreigners, "but you'll still be understood." Leaving room for 
> well-intentioned slip-ups, non-natives deserve high marks for at least 
> trying to express themselves in English.
> Next year, the Chinese will host the 2008 Summer Olympics and will run 
> the gauntlet of problems, not least language. New construction seems 
> to be on schedule. I wouldn't expect anything less of a steely 
> dictatorship. Red Chinese handling of dissidents will be more of a 
> challenge.
> But, Beijing, the Chinese capital where the Games will be staged, 
> still has far to go in tackling massive air and water pollution 
> problems. Traffic jams will have to be untangled by next summer; even 
> before the Games, Beijing is in permanent gridlock.
> The last thing I expect the Chinese to worry about is a language 
> problem. They'll have English-language sports jargon down pat, but 
> everyday signs and menus will be something else. Even if our favorite 
> team does not medal, we will surely take away a few Chinese-English, 
> aka, Chinglish, chuckles.
> Standard Chinese gaffes include the golden tailor shop oldie, "Ladies 
> have fits upstairs." Or the Hong Kong supermarket sign reading, "For 
> your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service."
> A few other Chinese linguistic boo-boos have been remedied: The 
> Beijing sign announcing the" anus" hospital has been changed to the 
> "Hospital of Proctology." In a hotel, "You are invited to take 
> advantage of the chambermaid." A Chinese dentist may still advertise, 
> "Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists."
> Even the ever-so-proper Englishmen apparently can fumble in their own 
> language, discreetly, of course. A sign in a public restroom in a 
> London park urges "Gentlemen --- please rearrange your clothing before 
> leaving."
> *The English language was lampooned by novelist Lawrence Durrell in 
> his partly autobiographical collection of short stories, "Esprit de 
> Corps," 50 years ago. (Durrell is better known for his "Alexandria 
> Quartet," four soft-core novels on every college kid's "must" reading 
> list back then.)
> In "Esprit de Corps," Durrell writes about two spinster-sisters who 
> wrote, edited and even printed the Balkan Herald in the former 
> Yugoslavia back in the 1930s. Although they were well educated in 
> Britain, the sisters were never too sharp at proofreading, publishing 
> daily headline gems like, "Keep the British Flag Frying," "Wedding 
> Bulls Ring Out for Princess," and "Britain's New Flying Goat."
> Continuing through World War II, the Balkan Herald informed readers, 
> "Britain Drops Biggest Ever Boob on Berlin." According to Durrell's 
> story, the old girls were eventually knighted for "their services to 
> the British way of life." In an upscale cafe in Buenos Aires, the menu 
> offered "Entrances" instead of "Entrees," "Salads --- Ingredients to 
> your pleasure and Election," and "Crepe of the Magician --- cooked 
> ham, tomatoes (sic), hard egg, blow, spans and golf sauce." As far as 
> I know, "blow" is slang for marijuana. Never figured out what "spans" 
> are. *
> When I was working in Copenhagen, Denmark, I frequently walked by an 
> airline ticket office offering a convenient downtown check-in 
> alternative. Wondered about the big sign in the plate-glass window, 
> though, which read: "We take your bags and send them in all 
> directions." Guess the airline business hasn't changed that much in 25 
> years!
> /A regular columnist for Hernando Today, John Herbert lives in Spring 
> Hill.
> *This story can be found at:* 
> http://www.hernandotoday.com/MGBO0GYTL9F.html/

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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