Lost in translation

On our first day back in Korea, my wife and I went to her previous local bank. I noticed a sign near the stairs to the second floor reading ‘2층 TWO CHAÏRS’, with the diaeresis styled as large diagonal diamonds. Elsewhere, 층 (cheung) is always translated as ‘floor, stor(e)y)’, the standard Korean word for chair is 의자 (uija), and none of the more unusual words for chair looks or sounds anything like 층. Also, the diaeresis is simply not necessary, whether as large diagonal diamonds or medium-sized dots. The signs looked commercially-made. As this was in a bank, I didn’t take a photo.

I then had to fly to Fukuoka, Japan to apply for my working visa. At a bus stop, I saw a sign (photo below) with the behavioural instruction ‘Fishing doesn’t go out’. It’s obviously something about small coins, but I can’t type the Japanese into Google translate (or, indeed, at all), so can’t attempt to find out what the original says. Combining that with the second icon, does it mean that those passengers paying cash can only use Y1000 (approx $10) notes (smaller coins prohibited by the first instruction and larger notes by the second)?


(Note also that the bus company is called ‘Nishitetsu’. Even though I know it’s Ni-shi-te-tsu’, I just can’t not see ‘shit’ in the middle there.)

Back in Korea, I have joined the university gym. The treadmill bears the slogan ‘The Future Enemy Treadmill System’. The possible explanation s is that same Korean word (적, jeok) means ‘enemy’ and ‘target’: approximately ‘The “set your target” treadmill system’ (it has a large number of customisable settings).

Less ‘lost in translation’ than a genuine variety in English. After a session in the gym this morning I bought a cup of hot chocolate (yes, I know!). The attendant asked me if I wanted ‘whipping cream’. I said ‘no’, then pondered the phrase. I have only ever known ‘whipped cream’ (‘cream which has been whipped’; to me ‘whipping cream’, if anything, is ‘cream which is suitable for whipping’ (cf ‘wrapping paper’). (According to Wikipedia, cream must have a fat content in a certain range in order to be suitable for whipping.) The sign above the counter lists the various drinks available, then we can add ‘Espresso Shot, Syrup, Whipping’. At least she didn’t say ‘Do you want whipping?’. Wikipedia’s article is titled ‘Whipped cream’, and ‘Whipping cream’ redirects there. Google N-grams shows that ‘whipped cream’ is the original and more often used phrase (hovering around three to four times more common).


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