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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Lost in Translation

Ever buy an appliance or a piece of gardening equipment that comes with one of those owners' manuals that has been translated one too many times? You know, with English that started out as Japanese and was translated by way of Croation and Farsi? Where you try to assemble the item in question and are left to drop your jaw on the floor when instructed, "Use a glue gun to insert Screw A into Slot 10 and then tighten with a hammer?"

I've got that feeling going on when reading Liam's latest library selection. It's a very cute book that was originally, as far as I can tell, written in French. The version we have is in Gujarati with English subtext, and that subtext is, well, funny. It's a flip-the-tab book about vehicles. One one side of the page is a riddle about the vehicle that one is supposed to solve to figure out what the picture will show. When the flap is lifted, a finger painting of the vehicle is shown, along the answer in English and Gujarati. I'm having fun figuring out what is an obvious mistranslation/misspelling, and what is just a corruption of British English.

In the former category, we have:

Riddle: "In the fields, the earth yields to my blade."
Answer: "A plough."

or

Riddle: "I'm ace at exploring lunar space."
Answer: "A moon buggy."

In the latter category:

Riddle: "Tuck teddy (bear) in and take him for a spin."
Answer: "A (baby) buggy."

Riddle: "I'm better than a basket at the supermarket."
Answer: "A (shopping) trolley."

But then, there's the following, which is clearly in a category by itself:

Riddle: "I go like the clappers to catch all the robbers."
Answer: "A police car."

That last riddle definitely merits a bit of editing by Mommy. I'm glad my son can't actually read right now.

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