I can’t look at the URL printed on this bag and not think of the “salt and battery” (assault and battery) couples costume concept, which relies on the two meanings of “battery”. It’s kind of a tasteless pun, despite the salt!
This collection of translations of Bill Watterson’s The Revenge of the Baby- Sat probably got started when I went to Italy in 2002 and chanced upon a copy of the Italian translation.
Undoubtedly I bought the Portuguese one in Portugal in 2004 and the German one in Germany in 2008. My husband fetched me the French one from France at some point or other, having somehow determined that the contents were the same even though the cover was different. A neighbor kindly brought back the Chinese version for me when she went to visit family in Beijing recently.
Seeing Calvin’s words in other languages that use the Roman alphabet is one thing; seeing them in Chinese characters is quite strange.
Below are images of the six different book covers: French, Italian, Portuguese, German, English, and Chinese.
There are translations available in other languages, including Spanish (ISBN 9786075271170), Dutch (ISBN 97890542562), and Czech (ISBN 9788074490798), as well…
I saw this message displayed on a programmable sign over a highway, prefaced by the notation “Georgia Law”.
Obviously, the message is
Turn on [your] headlights when [it is] raining.
The intent is clear, but the syntax is awful.
Syntactically, the implied subject of both the verbs “turn” and “rain” is “you”, so technically the sentence means:
Turn on [your] headlights when [you are] raining.
I don’t have any particular suggestion for how to “improve” the sign. Signs aren’t written in normal syntax because of space constraints, so any alternate version would have to be really short. Writing “If it is raining, turn on your headlights” is obviously longer and not obviously better, because even when space is not limited, we expect signs to be written in a terse style that lacks pronouns.
If you’ve never heard of Mad Libs, it’s basically a kind of kids’ activity book that helps you create silly stories. The booklet asks for examples of different kinds of words (parts of speech like “adjective” or more specific kinds of words like “color”). The words will be used in a specially written story, but you don’t know exactly how they will be used. After all the words have been written down, you copy them into the story and read it aloud to see how it sounds.
Every once in a while, I tell someone the story of the time my mom and I did a Mad Libs story that made us laugh like crazy. In fact, there’s already a blog post about it. See below for more on that story, which I rediscovered on my recent trip to Atlanta.
Interestingly, the cucumber package shows ‘salads’, ‘sandwiches’, ‘stir-fry’, and ‘sushi’ all in the correct form, even though ‘salad’ requires an ‘s’, ‘sandwich’ requires ‘es’, and ‘stir-fry’ and ‘sushi’ are uncountable.
Why, then, was it so hard to give ‘cucumber’ its plural ‘s’?
When my husband took me to a squinchy Japanese restaurant that had high chairs at a bar-style counter, the server laconically instructed me to put my bag “downstairs”, which meant “on the shelf under the seat of the chair”.
I have heard English teachers eager to hold students accountable for their spoken language deride this common Singlish use of “downstairs”, but it’s wonderful (and typical) in its succinctness.
If you use the preposition “under”, you have to include a noun for the preposition to be, well, positioned in front of. If you use the adverb “downstairs”, you’re just saying something needs to go below something else, and letting context do the work of indicating what the something else is.
Chinese has a phrase approximately meaning “down side” which can be used the way the server was using “downstairs” to adverbially indicate “under something”. It also has phrases meaning “up side”, “behind side”, “opposite side”, etc., and you can say “located opposite side” without needing to say “located opposite the hotel”, for example, the way we can say in English that “the receipt is in the bag” or just “the receipt is inside”.
I get the sense that Chinese relies on context more than English, or at least relies on context in ways that English doesn’t, since a large proportion communication in any language is always shared context.