25 Jan 2007

Chinglish Humor

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Daniel Feng had an alarming experience.

A short two months after getting my Chinese driver’s license, I was about to lose it again. I drove the Jetta into a garage with this insane Chinglish (Chinese-English) sign warning me about crafty slipperies: “TO TAKE NOTICE OF SAFE. THE SLIPPERY ARE VERY CRAFTY.” As I remarked, I nearly dented the car (and the sign), having nearly spontaneously combusted in the worst laughing fit ever.

And he has been on a crusade since to memorialize, and rebuke, public signs in Beijing featuring unsatisfactory English translations of Chinese idioms.

One Feedback on "Chinglish Humor"


Yeah, I’m not too sure what to make of “crafty slipperies” either.

Though I must admit, some Chinglish is better than the “correct” English, in my opinion. Take this:

“Tender, fragrant grass. How hard-hearted to trample.”

I much prefer that to “Keep off the grass”. I’ve also got a soft spot for “No noising” and “No scribbling” as well, although they’re less poetic.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not flying the banner for Chinglish to be left to run rampant, as there are some situations where it just isn’t appropriate and can be downright dangerous. Legal documentation, medical logs, those should all be handled by a professional translation company. Likewise, I’d much prefer a sign saying “Shark infested waters” rather than any Chinglish version.

But wherever it’s not doing anyone any harm, I don’t see why Chinglish shouldn’t be left in place.


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