Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fractured English

Fractured English: "Thank you for your custom  Please call back again"

When you live overseas in non-English speaking countries, you run across some interesting English translations. The other night featured fried chicken for dinner, which came in the box pictured above. As a professional editor and writer, the tagline on the lid cracked me up and I've decided to start an occasional series at The F-Stops Here...: fractured English. Please to enjoy. :-D

Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 3/10


Gerald Hoedl said...

The english-speaking folk is a very interesting one: you seem to presuppose, that your lovely language is spoken in all places of the world in a perfect manner. Clearly, this cannot be the case, since most of the native speakers in the world are native speakers of a language other than english. But you choose to judge ouir english by the standards you aplly to native-speakers. This is extremely unfair. I would like to read your farctured german, hungarian, yoruba, chinese and the like... People selling chicken somewheresomehow surely are not the kind of people that can affors studying a foreign language or paying someone who has done that.

Gerald Hoedl said...

sorry for the typos

Janet M Kincaid said...

Gerald: My German is always fractured, my French is painfully horrific, and my English is rarely, if ever, perfect. If I appear to be judging, I apologize. In point of fact, I am more bemused by fractured English than judgmental, because 9 times out of 10, I can tell the fractured sentence is more than likely a result of a word-for-word translation than an abject lack of language skills. I also don't see fractured language as a sign of lack of intelligence or intellect or lack of means. I've met plenty of non-native and native English speakers, rich and poor, who fracture language all the time. In point of fact, some of the worst English usage I see in my daily life as a writer and editor comes from native English speakers from, of all places, the United Kingdom. I'm more willing to forgive supposedly bad English/bad translations from non-native speakers than from native speakers, because native speakers should know better.

That said, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I fracture my English ALL.THE.TIME. And if you know any of my friends in Austria, they'll tell you, I frequently slaughter my German.

Finally, as an American living in a country where I don't speak the language and barely understand most of what is said to me, but where most of the merchants and citizens I encounter have been fairly gracious and forgiving of my less-than-elementary French skills, I have a level of appreciation for functional illiteracy that I didn't have before I moved to this country.

As for your typos, no need to apologize. Language isn't easy, fractured or not.

wry said...

Also, that is a bona fide English (as in The Island) phrasing, it just sounds funny in American English. Though they might say "please call again" without the "back" in there. But thanking people for their custom is a proper, if ever-so-slightly-old-fashioned-now, thing to say.

There are plenty of funny fractured English things around -- the other night I saw "blow cream" on the menu (whipped cream I'm sure). LOL.

Gerald, please: Laughing at things that are humorous to us is not meant to be offensive to anyone else. If you prefer, we could spend our time recounting all the ways people offend us on a daily basis for being foreigners or speaking the local language VERY badly or being American or etc...rather than having a very little fun laughing at funny translations, NOT THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THEM. Lighten up FFS.

Janet M Kincaid said...

Wry: I didn't realize that was a British English-ism. Of course, that would make sense now. The guys who run the Fish-n-Chip/Fried Chicken shop in Ferney are Pakistanis by way of the UK. A nice bunch of fellows. They also own the Indian restaurant we go to all the time and the owner and one of the assistants, a guy named Cameron, always greet us very warmly.

I actually "Thank you for your custom" as a bad translation of "Thank you for your business." I suppose they're one and the same, eh?

Can't be any worse than the greatest word-for-word translation gaffe in history: John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech.

Janet M Kincaid said...

Oops. That second-to-last paragraph should have said, "I actually wonder if..."

See? I flub all the time. I can be a doof that way. Oh well. I gave up perfectionism the same year I gave up organized religion.