Would You Shop At A Store Called “Red Grass Buy Horn Monopoly”?

by:  Peter J. Gallagher

If you answered yes to this question, please let me know what you were shopping for. 

On Marketplace last night, I heard a story about something land use attorneys deal with all the time — signage.  My suspicion is, however, that they never had to deal with signage like this.  The story, titled "In China, Signs Translated Into English Baffle," dealt with something called "Chinglish," which is what ex-pats call the hybrid of English and Chinese that results when Chinese officials translate Chinese words into English.  (Lest you think that "Chinglish" is some sort of derogatory term, a man is interviewed for the story who is studying for his PhD in "Chinglish" at the University of Heidelberg.)  The curious translations abound as a result of the Chinese government's requirement that all merchants display the names of their stores in English, Chinese, and Tibetan.  As you might expect, the only outfit performing the translations is a government run operation, and they do not appear to be spending much time confirming that nothing is lost in translation.  A few highlights:

  • "Chinese Ethnic Culture Park," which was translated to "Racist Park;"
  • "Beware of Falling," which became "Fall Down Carefully;" and
  • a series of stores called "Veteran Barbecue," "Incense Filled the Street by the Fish," and "Tibetan Technology Supermarket."

(Click here for a slideshow of the signs.)  One store that appears to have gotten it right is "Yak Meat," unless of course it is an electronics boutique.  Incidentally, Red Grass Buy Horn Monopoly was closed, so the reporter couldn't determine what was actually sold in that store.

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