July 22, 2008
The Machine of Dry Hair
On the First Things blog recently, a photo of this (presumably hotel-room) sign from China appeared:
The machine of dry hair only last about 12 minutes. If you keep on using it not to stop, It will be destroyed.
What’s more, the machine of dry hair can only use it for making hair dry and for dry skin. Using it dry the clothes is forbidden.
If you can not use it correctly, The machine is destroyed, and you must pay for it by the price!
I grew up in Japan in the 1950s and 60s, and signs and printed instructions like this were a regular source of delight and wonder. Delight at the surprising and humorous manglings of the English language by those who wanted to communicate to English speakers—and apparently hoped to profit by it. And wonder that they did not consult a native English speaker but valiantly forged on with grammar and lexicon in hand.
Decades later, it's the computerized translation program that puts the fun in the transmission. I still get a kick out of these signs. And I know enough to realize that my own occasional attempts at translating my thoughts into foreign languages have probably been the source of just as much amusement. But you know what? We need editors even when writing in our own language. Even when the author is an editor. As our Chinese translator would have it, the book of dry text only last about 12 minutes. If you can not write it correctly, The reader is destroyed, and you must pay for it by the price! Thanks!*
*And thanks to my blog editor, Dave Zimmerman, for his helpful suggestions for improvements!