Warning: NSFW Language
In an earlier post, I offered up an explanation (by smarter people than I) of how a sign in a Chinese hotel offered “smallpox” as an option for guests.
This one popped up in a feed somewhere today, and though I had seen it before I never took the time to find out how such an awful translation could have taken place.
In traditional Chinese, “乾爆鴨子” (gān bào yāzi) means dry fried duck, or duck cooked in very little oil which causes the skin to pop and crackle more than usual.
When written in simplified Chinese characters used in the People’s Republic of China, this becomes 干爆鸭子, pronounced the same way.
However, simplified Chinese often reduced more than one character in traditional writing to the same character, hence 干 (gān) means “to interfere, to concern,” 乾 (gān) means “dry” as in dried food, and 幹 (or 榦) (gàn) means “tree trunk, capable, to do.” In simplified characters, all of these are written 干, and there are many, many other meanings of gān or gàn as well.
The last character also means something entirely different, as in the phrase “I’d love to do him/her.”
For some odd reason, this last meaning was very popular with a poorly-designed automated translator:
“Notoriously, the 2002 edition of the widespread Jinshan Ciba Chinese-to-English dictionary for the Jinshan Kuaiyi translation software rendered every occurrence of 干 as “fuck”, resulting in a large number of signs with irritating English translations throughout China, often mistranslating 乾 (gān) “dried” as in 干果 “dried fruit” in supermarkets as “fuck the fruits” or similar.(Wikipedia, “Radical 51”)
The software was later corrected, but the embarrassing results are still seen in many places, as China seems heavily dependent on machine translation.
Amazing to me is that companies don’t understand the importance of using professional translators when dealing with other countries, at least if they want to be taken seriously.