Hungarian phrasebook sketch comes to life

Whenever I see a magazine with Chinese calligraphy on the cover, which I cannot read at all, I have to wonder if it means something strange, like
"My nipples explode with delight". The journal of the Max Planck Research Institute was hit by this little problem: they used some lovely Chinese calligraphy on their cover without looking up the meaning.

i-b28e5a61545d1f5f5a97d5b194c5e1ea-maxplanck.jpeg

Translation:

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.

Whoops. Max Planck Forschung apparently ran an ad for a Chinese brothel or strip club on their cover. At least they didn't get it as a tattoo, and have reissued the magazine with a new cover.

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One should really never put something on themselves that is difficult to remove if one does not know the meaning and all implications.

I guess the same goes with Journals.

I saw that tattoo on Angelina Jolie's ass.

Glad I know what it means now. I will cc KK.

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 10 Dec 2008 #permalink

Why don't people just put words in english on their body instead of chinese? If they put stupid words like "love" or "perseverance" in english on their backs people would laugh!

Fortunately I haven't seen a person proudly showing his/her tattoo with cuss words in Chinese...

And why does this reminds me of ENGRISH?

On the other side of the world, the Japanese use almost incomprehensible English whenever an anime calls for a token Gaijin character XD

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 10 Dec 2008 #permalink

in my time in Japan so far, i have spotted t-shirts for sale that read, among other things, "INTOXICATED DRUG PERSON" and "JESUS OF POWER".
the appropriation of inappropriate foreign words for their aesthetic value alone is totally mutual.

I had a Korean friend in high school, and people kept pestering her to translate things with Chinese characters, despite the fact that she told them she couldn't read it. So finally she got fed up and convinced one person that their necklace said "Scrotum".

One wonders if this cover caused many instances of people tiptoeing to it in the university library, carefully looking around, and then peeking inside to see if the journal had pictures...

This reminds me of a friend who once made her own blouse from a fabric with Chinese calligraphy on it. It was beautiful and well made.

I just didn't have the heart to tell her she made it with the script upside down.

By Tony Popple (not verified) on 10 Dec 2008 #permalink

they used some lovely Chinese calligraphy on their cover without looking up the meaning

That was quite an extraordinarily stupid thing to do.

The set decorators for Heroes just admitted (on TV last night here) they didn't know what the foreign language signage they'd put up (to dress sets as being other countries) meant. However, they had at least previously had someone check it over when selecting it, even if they'd failed to keep a record of the translations.

PZ, maybe it's only me who does not get it, but what the heck has this thing to do with any Hungarian phrasebook?

dolphin, try clicking on the first link in the post.

By John Morales (not verified) on 10 Dec 2008 #permalink

Dolphin (#16), I do think it's only you. Just click the first link and see what happens.

Could've been worse - it could've said crazy diarrhea or so. (BTW, Hanzi Smatter is an interesting blog in general, too.)

Perhaps it wasn't really such an accident at all - Max Planck has the same initials as Monty Python ...

Holy Banjo-Kazooie! I absolutely NEED a high res image of this for my office. Anyone have a link?

By Hauntedchippy (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

"Please fondle my bum!"

Ah, yes. Down the High Street, left at the lights and the railway station's right in front of you.

What? WHAT?

It reminds me of a very international meeting of young professionals I attended: As a highlight of the first evening a humourous lecture was given on the perils of todays business world and on one slide a lot of chinese characters were given as an example of an incomprehensible manual. A very short moment after the man in front asked rhetorically "who would understand that?", a tiny voice from the back answered: "I speak chinese... its a an introduction to the art of rowing..."
Loved it.

SC-

From that interview with Madonna

How did it come to publish? Were you lovemaking with a man-about-town printer?

Rats, the little secret of my affair with Madonna is now common knowledge in Hungary. Will the Enquirer be far behind?

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

The best thing about Engrish is that the Japanese, completely unashamedly, don't really care much about the meaning at all in most cases. Tell them what something means and they likely be indifferent rather than embarrassed or even amused.

Let's borrowing language!

By CrypticLife (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

A girl in my office has some Chinese characters on the back of her neck. I told her it means "don't hold my ears, I know what I'm doing."

My favourite bad translation has to be from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). While the main characters are in a lab the sign on the door reads "Super Scientific Play Room".

That movie actually gives Plan 9 a run for its money. **Spoiler Alert** After King Ghidorah starts destroying Tokyo they resurrect Godzilla to defeat him. After Godzilla kills the King he picks off where Ghidorah left off and starts destroying some building. How do they solve this? Yes, they actually resurrect King Ghidorah! **End Spoiler Alert**

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

My second favourite bad translation was a pen ad in Latin America. They wanted it to say: "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you". While translating they made one mistake. Someone figured that embarazar was Spanish for to embarrass. It isn't. It means to impregnate.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

While the main characters are in a lab the sign on the door reads "Super Scientific Play Room".

Check out the Wikipedia article for "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US."

HA HA HA HA . . . .

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

I lived in South Africa for a year in the early 1980s. Once at the movie theater during the commercials there was a commercial for Electrolux vaccuum cleaners. It ended with the statement, "Remember, nothing sucks like an Electrolux!"

By murgadroid (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

I wish I could remember the title or author, but it's been a long time since I read it...there's a comic murder mystery (it's not by Hiaasen, but somebody kinda like him) which revolves around a tattoo artist who convinces people he can find the perfect Chinese character to fit their personality, sort of a tattoo feng shui. However, he's really picking them at random from a Chinese takeout menu. Hilarity ensues when a somebody finds out his tattoo really says "extra hot sauce."

I lived in Latin America for a number of years, and there are great possibilities for saying funny things. Someone already mentioned the common mistake of thinking "embarasar" means "to embarrass." Another classic gringo error is to confuse "pene" (penis) with "peine" (comb). The difference in pronunciation is very slight--a pure vowel vs. a slight diphthong on the first syllable--but crucial.

Also, putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable turns "I liked it" into "I like myself"
(me gustó vs. me gusto).

And don't get me started on the verb for "to come" (venir) in combination with the reflexive pronoun...

The only Chinese character I have (on my car window) means "serenity" -- unless the Firefly people are screwing with us. "We get signal."

By CortxVortx (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

But what if your hovercraft actually is full of eels? What will you do then, smart guy?

By chancelikely (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

There was a Paul Theroux novel, "Saint Jack," where the title character gets drugged by Chinese gangsters who then have terrible things tatooed on his arms. He solves the problem by having another tatoo artist convert the threatening Chinese characters into flowers.

By Leslie in Canada (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

The silly thing is, my faculty would have cought this before publication. You don't need an expert in Chinese to look up the characters and check if the results are plausible. In this case, they obviously aren't (I checked to see what I would have found and the results were not totally coherent but ominous enough), and we'd have sought a replacement, this time from a reputable source.
(Note: I don't understand either Mandarin or Cantonese and all the knowledge I have about kanji is self-taught. But the basic structure of a character is relatively simple: built from a limited set of radicals, which you have to recognize of course, but even in fluent hand-written form, that's mostly doable due to the limited set of possibilities. Then you can use software to lookup the characters from the radicals, verify the result and use a dictionary and the Internet to distill multiple character words and such.)
Anyway, seems like they forgotten the first rule of publishing: never publish something if you don't understand what it says. Some might argue that that applies to English (or rather, in this case German) too by the way.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

I undertand what #34 means.

When we latin american people speak english we are always afraid of these kind of mistakes.
You can imagine my surprise when I found out that I was mispronouncing the word "beach"
Instead of saying "let's go to the beach" I was saying "let's go to the bitch"
Aaargh!

By LUFTRITTER (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

From the tattoo story:

Britney Spears was apparently not so cautious. She reportedly got a tattoo she thought said "mysterious" but actually meant "strange."

That's a clear cut case of synchronicity, since she believes she is "talented" but is actually a "harpy-voiced bimbo whose career is delineated by the same melodies rehashed and recycled ad nauseam". Sadly, her younger sister appears to be the more-talented, but less bright, of them.

Re the cover art -- it was damned foolish of the graphics department to slap untranslated text on anything, particularly using a non-latin/cyrillic character set. They're lucky a brothel ad was all they got.

MS and Luftritter,
I think that kind of thing happens anytime someone's speaking a language that they're not 100% comfortable with. As an English-speaker in Sweden, I'm always afraid of saying "Gävle" (a town) for fear of it sounding like "jävla" (a swear-word), and I don't know how many times people have laughed at my attempt to say "jag är lite full" (I'm a bit drunk) when it came out as "jag är lite ful" (I'm a bit ugly). I remember a German friend in Ireland who simply couldn't hear the difference between "colour" and "collar", even though they seems distinctly different to me; I feel more sympathy for him now.

that's my frackin institute. oops

By molecanthro (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

"I have a t-shirt that says Reggae Hair Style Rock and Roll. Could I be any more Japanese?"

Engrish.com has some interesting uses of English by Japanese and other non-English speakers.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

But what if your hovercraft actually is full of eels? What will you do then, smart guy? chancelikely

Ah! If only you'd asked a couple of days ago: I had some Hungarian colleagues visiting. I'm shocked to find Babel fish has no English-to-Hungarian option.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

In Wales lots of road signs are both in English and in Welsh. Somebody needed a translation for "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only" so they emailed the request to a translator, and put the response on the sign.

Turns out the response was: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7702913.stm

**Spoiler Alert** After King Ghidorah starts destroying Tokyo they resurrect Godzilla to defeat him. After Godzilla kills the King he picks off where Ghidorah left off and starts destroying some building. How do they solve this? Yes, they actually resurrect King Ghidorah! **End Spoiler Alert**

Saves my week.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 11 Dec 2008 #permalink

dolphin #36 asked: what the heck has this thing to do with any Hungarian phrasebook?

Click on PZ's first link and you'll see, or better yet, look up Monty Python tobacconists on YouTube. The "Hungarian phrasebook" refers to a Monty Python sketch from the early 70s in which a Hungarian comes into an English tobacco shop and addresses the clerk using a very bad Hungarian-to-English phrasebook.

Calvin Trillin had some pieces where he was trying to persuade his wife to have her Chinese students translate Chinese-restaurant menus for him. Whenever he asked waiters what the menus said, they would just respond "You no like" !

Reminds me of an old story about a woman who copied some calligraphy off a restaurant menu and embroidered it onto one of her dresses. Unfortunately, it said, "This dish is cheap but delicious!"

If the menu's on the blackboard in Chinese, I just look around and say "I'll have what THEY're having."

And Japanese fashion: Shirts that read, "Let's all do sex and sweat."

I have to say I'm puzzled by the response to these kind of disasters that goes along the lines of "Why do people want to use foreign words anyway?" Because they're exotic, because (when they're done right) they add a layer of mystery, prompting curiousity. In the case of a magazine, people will (hopefully) pick up the magazine to find out more; in the case of a tattoo or a tee-shirt, they might start a conversation.

I have to say I'm puzzled by the response to these kind of disasters that goes along the lines of "Why do people want to use foreign words anyway?" Because they're exotic, because (when they're done right) they add a layer of mystery, prompting curiousity. In the case of a magazine, people will (hopefully) pick up the magazine to find out more; in the case of a tattoo or a tee-shirt, they might start a conversation.

Sorry about the double post, I had a timeout on the first submission and assumed that meant that it hadn't posted.

And I suppose if we placed English text, indecipherable to him, on a Chinese publication, we'd be told to keep it quiet, since the Chinese guy thinks he's learning Welsh...

Oops! Thanks for the laugh today, PZ!

我的媽和她的瘋狂的外甥都