Last week I had a business trip with a group of Americans. When waiting for the return-trip at the train station, we dropped by at a bookstore. ‘Derek, look!’ The director of the team, pointing at a magazine, burst out laughing.
It was a Chinese magazine called BOSOM. I guess he thought it was a Chinese counterpart of Playboy magazine. I laughed and answered: ‘It’s Chinese name is Zhi Yin (知 音), which literally mean ‘close friends’. It’s a magazine famous for tear-jerking stories. It has nothing to do with sex.’ thought for a moment and said: ‘I guess what it is supposed to say is: bosom friends.’ The American replied: ‘Oh, bosom buddies. That makes sense.’
This misuse of the word ‘BOSOM’ reminded me of a blog I read recently. The blog is about how ‘digital printing’ was translated as ‘the numerical code flushes India’. The blogger suspected the shop owner used the lousy ‘Made in China’ translator iCIBA.
Lost in translation
The photo in the blog was taken five years ago, so you may wonder whether Beijing has made any progress in English since then. I got the answer last weekend, when I ran into an advertising board (see picture) where the Chinese phrase ‘Painless Abortion’ was translated into ‘Stream of People’.
You can find many more ridiculous translation failures via Google Images. No matter how embarrassed some Chinese people may feel about it, I want to say ‘thank you’ to those who created these hilarious Chinglish phrases. It is an endless source of guilty pleasure for my life in China.