Nothing Lost in This Translation

April 18th, 2007 | 0 comments | Posted by Jen

The New York Times published a story today written by Pulitzer-Prize winning, Beijing correspondent Jim Yardley about Beijing getting ready for the Olympics. The writing is a bit inscrutable at times, so I’ve provided translations when necessary:


“What if foreign visitors are forced to navigate a minefield of saliva left by local pedestrians spitting on sidewalks? What if lines at Olympic events dissolve into scrums as local residents jump to the head of pack? What if Chinese fans serenade rival teams with the guttural, unprintable “Beijing curse”?

TRANSLATION: What are we ever to do with those SAVAGES? I can’t understand a word that’s coming out of their DISGUSTING mouths! I say, lock them up in cages and throw away the key!

“(The sinus-clearing, phlegmy pre-spit hawking sound is so common that one foreigner wryly dubbed it “the national anthem of China.)”

TRANSLATION: Wry? Little old me? No. “Oh say can you HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOCK! By the dawn’s ear-ly HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOCK!” Teehee! Guess I am clever!

Beijing’s mangled English signage is not so much a bad local habit as a local institution in the eyes of resident foreigners. English translations on signs are considered fashionable and good advertising, as well as a gracious gesture to foreigners baffled by Chinese characters.”

TRANSLATION: Darling, don’t ever expect ME to learn THAT LANGUAGE, if you can even call it that. How appalling! I’d much rather be baffled, in any case, by the ways of the Celestials. I think it adds to my charm, don’t you find? It makes me feel like life is a Conrad novel. I’ve never actually read Conrad but I’m pretty sure the chap loved imperialism like I do! I just yearn to wear linen and a pith helmet and hunt wild beasts. MY TINY COCK is swelling to the size of a boil just thinking of it! Mmm!

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