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Feautured: Lost in Translation

  • The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which can be loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth.”
  • In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” came out as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.”
  • Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off.”
  • The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem – Feeling Free,” got translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”
  • When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that “no va” means “it won’t go.” After the company figured out why it wasn’t selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.
  • When Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the spanish word “embarazar” meant embarrass. Instead the ads said that “It wont leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”
  • An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of the desired “I Saw the Pope” in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed “I Saw the Potato.”
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into Schweppes Toilet Water.

Mad British Laws

The United Kingdom has some of the most absurd laws in the world. Most of these date back to centuries ago and yet have never been repealed. Here’s a sample:

-It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament

-It is illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day

-It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour

-It is illegal to fire a cannon close to a dwelling house

-It is illegal to drive cattle through the streets of London

-It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the King or Queen’s image upside-down

-The head of any dead whale found on the British coast is the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen

-It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him anything you do not mind him knowing

Camping Trip

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner and a bottle of wine, they retire for the night, and go to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes” replies Watson.

“And what do you deduce from that?”

Watson ponders for a minute. “Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe.

But what does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes is silent for a moment.

“Watson, you idiot!” he says. “Someone has stolen our tent!”

English is a Crazy Language

by Richard Lederer

Let’s face it: English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
And while no one knows what is in a hotdog,
you can be pretty sure it isn’t canine.

English muffins were not invented in England
nor French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads,
which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted.
But if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly,
boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write,
but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce,
and hammers don’t ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth,
why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth?
One goose, 2 geese. So, one moose, 2 meese?
Is cheese the plural of choose?
One mouse, 2 mice.
One louse, 2 lice.
One house, 2 hice ?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
what does a humanitarian eat?

Why do people recite at a play, and play at a recital?
Ship by truck or car and send cargo by ship?
Have noses that run and feet that smell?
Park on driveways and drive on parkways?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
How can the weather be hot as Hell one day
and cold as Hell another?

When a house burns up, it burns down.
You fill in a form by filling it out
and an alarm clock goes off by going on.

You get in and out of a car,
yet you get on and off a bus.

When the stars are out, they are visible,
but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it,
but when I wind up this essay, I end it?

English is a silly language …
it doesn’t know if it is coming or going !!

What the British Really Mean

What the British Say What Others Understand What the British Mean
I hear what you say He accepts my point of view I disagree and do not want to discuss it further
With the greatest respect… He is listening to me I think you are an idiot
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal He thinks I have courage You are insane
Quite good Quite good A bit disappointing
I would suggest… Think about the idea, but do what you like Do it or be prepared to justify yourself
Oh, incidentally/ by the way That is not very important The primary purpose of our discussion is…
I was a bit disappointed that It really doesn’t matter I am annoyed that
Very interesting They are impressed That is clearly nonsense
You must come for dinner They will probably do it I’ve forgotten it already
I’m sure it’s my fault Why do they think it was their fault? It’s your fault
I almost agree He’s not far from agreement I don’t agree at all
I only have a few minor comments He has found a few typos Please re-write completely
Could we consider some other options They have not yet decided I don’t like your idea
Correct me if I’m wrong I may be wrong, please let me know I’m right, don’t contradict me
Up to a point Partially Not in the slightest

You Know You’re a University Student When …

1. Going to the library is a social event.

2. You play the lottery to ensure housing, not win money.

3. No matter what ails you, the nurse can only give you generic
non-aspirin.

4. You need a map to find your classroom.

5. You’re grateful that the cafeteria labels the food.

6. It’s not unusual to see four feet in the next shower stall.

7. You plan your schedule to have Fridays off.

8. You wear flip-flops in the shower, to avoid the mysterious
creeping crud.

9. You pay outrageous prices for books that are worthless to you
after four months.

[Editor’s Note: And you know you’re a college graduate when you
wish you had those books back. ]

10. The word rush does not mean to be in a hurry.

11. You buy enough underwear to last five weeks so you do not have
to wash your clothes often.

12. You’re willing to pay extra for edible food.

13. You’ll pay any sum of money to have a pizza delivered to your
room at 2:00 a.m.

14. Out of sheer desperation, you attempt to cook a grilled cheese
sandwich on an iron.

15. Standing in line for half an hour to get a bowl of corn flakes
is worth the wait.

16. The same fish sticks that are served square on Tuesday are
served round on Friday.

17. While your mother lectures you over the phone, you take notes.

Oxford University Entrance Exam

Biology: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English Parliamentary System. Prove your thesis.

Chemistry: Reproduce from memory the entire periodic table with all known values of physical constants to the limits of their uncertainties. For each element, discover enough new properties to correspond to each Greek and Arabic letter not in current use as symbols for physical constants. Use your data to formulate a new theory of science.

Cosmology: Define the universe. Give three examples.

Ecology: From readily available starting materials (i.e., “I think, therefore I am,” and hydrogen), devise a total synthesis of the planet Earth down to the most subtle chemical detail. Discuss barriers that you would encounter in carrying out this synthesis and how you would overcome these barriers.

Economics: Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist Controversy and the Wave Theory of Light. Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

Engineering: The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In 10 minutes, a hungry bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel necessary. Be prepared to justify your decision.

Epistemology: Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your stand.

General Knowledge: Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.

History: Describe the history of the Papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Be brief, concise and specific.

Medicine: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until you work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.

Music: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.

Philosophy: Sketch the development of human thought. Estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

Physics: Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

Political Science: There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects if any.

Psychology: Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisis, Rameses II, Hammuarabi. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Extra Credit: Find the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything.

Anecdotes About Studying in the UK

We foreign students have all had at least one funny English-learning anecdote. Tell us yours!

Featured:

I had my first sip of “real” British afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms in Harrogate, a little town near York. I had certainly heard that tea was “the” British thing to do, but I had no idea how many rituals would be involved in the process of drinking a cup of tea! First of all, I was expecting just that: a cup of tea. Instead, I found my table suddenly holding an extraordinary assortment of pastries and savoury foods served on a tiered stand, a huge teapot, milk, sugar, lemon, and even a cute tea strainer! My friends and I were clueless about what to do with the tea strainer, so we tried to (discreetly) get some tips from our neighbours at the table near us, who just looked like they were tea experts. As it turns out, these neighbours were equally clueless and were also trying to learn from us!

Others:

I was taking a Drama lesson while my English was still rusty, and one of my first homeworks was to perform a monologue in front of the class. I chose a monologue that was directed to God, so I found myself shouting the word “God” several times. When I finished, everyone was terribly confused as they thought I had been “talking” to someone named “Gus”!

“I was still learning English when I was invited to a friend’s bridal shower. I wanted to buy her a card, but I didn’t know which card would be OK since I didn’t know how to say “bridal shower.” In the end, I bought her a SYMPATHY card because the message sounded nice! You can imagine the look on her face when she read the card out loud in front of all the guests…”

“When I first arrived in the United States, kids in my middle school would trick me into looking up when they said “gullible is written on the ceiling” because I didn’t know what “gullible” meant!”

“When my family moved to the U.K. from Mexico, we barely spoke English. During my first few weeks in secondary school, my teacher marked some of my papers with the word “terrific,” and when I brought the papers back to my mother, she would get very angry at me, since she thought the word meant “terrible” in Spanish. This lasted for a long time, until my mother, who at this point was very concerned about my performance in school, went to speak with my teacher. She was so embarrassed to learn that “terrific” actually meant I was doing well! I was so embarrassed too.”

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