Language learner mistakes:
My own contribution to this genre happened in 2004-ish, when I went to a camera store and told the guy behind the counter that I needed 'eine Speichelkarte'.*
Spotted in Schiphol airport, written in faded ink on the back of some Malaysian guy's T-shirt:
'Atomic Jackdaw Eurocentric Explosion'
I just got this Jandlesque solicitation in my junk mail inbox:
Schauen Sie, was ich gefunden
Weg, um binäre Optionen zu gewinnen
Yo, behold this pleasant 1846 painting by Moritz von Schwind:
I admired it in person at the Hamburger Kunsthalle last weekend. It seemed darker in person -- I think the digital version may have been brightened a little. Nevertheless, a nice chunk of late Romanticism, dusted with kitsch. The modeling of the buck's solid, sagging flesh and horns is nicely plastic.
Here is the translation of the picture's title:
I chuckled over the translation of the German word tränken as "saturate". But then I became thoughtful, and stroked my chin. There's no easy translation for tränken. Tränken describes only how animals drink. Humans trinken, animals tränken. Same thing for eating: humans essen, while animals fressen. Add to that the fact that English has no simple transitive word for "give water to". You can "water" plants, but that always implies pouring water over or into something. You wouldn't water your dogs or your children, you would only give them something to drink.
The translators seemed to realize this, but then fatally chose "saturate" as the proper translation from the other entries on the dict.leo.org list. But how can we blame them? The meaning comes across, sort of, and the only other alternatives would have doubled the length of the title, which doesn't seem right.
The other titles were translated quite well.
I just got this beauty in my inbox, from one belen.belen from francetelecom.com:
How do you do
How to pay
I formed, kind. I have an optimistic, but I am alone.
Expensive hits at an affordable price
I Inna live in Yelabuga
Greetings from Peter
Come to my chat
Dreams all here
It inspired me to go to the archive for an episode of the late, lamented Spamasterpiece Theatre, entitled THE STOMATOLOGIST1:
The Chinese poem printed on the cover of the most recent newsletter from the Max Planck Institute (MaxPlanckForschung),
means, according to Victor Mair of Language Log:
With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinées
KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth,
Beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure,
Young housewives having figures that will turn you on;
Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.
Mair comments drily:
Clearly this is an advertisement for some kind of burlesque business. I did find quite a few references on the Web to a "KK Juggy" from a group called "Machine Gun Fellatio," and apparently the KK in her name stands for "Knickers" and "Knockers." Perhaps KK in the sense of "Knickers and Knockers" is an Australian expression, since KK Juggy (Christa Hughes) is from Sydney.
In the interests of fairness, I should note that the MPI immediately issued a heartfelt apology and replaced the cover. [h/t JR]
Finnish band Atrium's musical philosophy, as conveyed by Martian FM's crack shit demo musical bloodhounds:
Finnish band Atrium's music is self-explanatory in Finnish, but here's what frontwoman Diva Panadol says via an electronic translator: 'What it is Atrium? Our visit to the space of the public thing is an approach search with certain lights. It is oneself body dislocated kindly in four subbodys that speak languages dissimilar but that they arise of oneself. Queerly it is a warm and intense quadrilateral. In certain corner the phase mother in which is new sounds that mix melodic, pianos, guitars, drummers and cybernetic systems. In another corner an acoustic way, argued by the one it unplugs of so much tecnics that a little bit, its OK, but it is better to maintain it to line. In the third corner the return to the science of the chips tinged with southern artisan's head and northern yunky fingers. In the fourth corner the one that listens to their amniotic walk, immobile from secret armchairs'.
One day, this blog will become a United Nations World Heritage Site of unconventional translations. I already have a section dedicated to this purpose. However, other outlets -- like Welt Online, sometimes try to horn in on my territory. This slideshow (G) collects attempts at German and English from all over the world, sent in by German tourists. [h/t K.S.]
My favorite is this bathroom sign from Panama:
But perhaps the best source for translations is menus. Whenever I go to Other Foreign Countries, I immediately grab the menu out of my dinner companions' hands and scan it. I'm often disappointed (especially in Northern Europe, where everybody's English is much too good).
But not in India. Here are just two of the precious finds I unearhted there. First, from Hampi, India, "Momus Fried Steam":
A new Chinese restaurant in my 'hood wants to tell us it's opening soon, but, strictly speaking, it's telling us "New Orifice!"