Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The New York Times ran an interesting slide show last week, of Chinese signs and their unusual, and often hilariously bad, English translations. It proved to be so popular that the Times solicited its readers to submit further examples from other countries. The results are in, and some of them are gut-bustingly hilarious.

The best example from my own life was posted in an elevator I rode in Jilin, China. The sign read:

(keep watch phone)

When we finally stopped laughing, our interpreter told us that the sign basically meant "treat the elevator as you would your own home." We all took photos of it; I may or may not be visibly in the reflection in the mirror.

Most of the signs in this feature are self-explanatory, but some of them cannot be deciphered. Its worth nothing that, when you come across these signs, you are invariably in a disorienting context (a feeling nailed by Lost In Translation), which only heightens the absurdity.

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