The Art of Translation

Some wonderful signs in English seen around the world where something vital has been lost in translation …

Norway cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

Rome doctor’s surgery: Specialist in women and other diseases.

Bangkok dry cleaners: Drop your trousers here for the best results.

Nairobi restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

Nairobi – Mombasa main road: Take notice – when this sign is under water, this road is impassable.

A city restaurant: Open seven days a week and weekends.

In a cemetery: Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.

Tokyo hotel rules and regulations: Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed.

Swiss restaurant menu: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

Japan hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

Moscow hotel lobby opposite a Russian orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

Germany Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for this purpose.

Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

Thailand donkey ride promotion: Would you like to ride on your own ass?

Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.

Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

Precise Pronunciation

There are several different ways to produce sounds within the English language despite many words looking very similar. This rather long poem (reproduced from Facebook) highlights the problem facing many trying to learn the language as well as some native speakers …

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy
Make your head, with heat, grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard and heard
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and award, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,

Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll, and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, knob, bosom, transom, oath.

Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breaches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour but our, and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup
But my advice is to give up!!