Do you want some Wood flower picks sea cucumber hoof with your Cowboy leg?

Il est incertain qu’on puisse encore appeler cela une traduction. Lien déconseillé aux asthmatiques capables de lire l’anglais.

What about Gold silver lotus root silk fries shrimp fucks? Carbon burns black bowel? Maybe Benumbed hot Huang fries belly silk? Or a Good to eat mountain?

It’s like Patrick Hall said: the worst-translated restaurant menu ever. (The link comes with a health warning — it can bring on an asthma attack if you are asthmatic.)

P.S.: One of the commenters provides valuable insight in how things can get that wrong:

Oh, this is so not made up. I’ve travelled to China for 20 years and this is TYPICAL, though I must admit it’s a classic example. If you read Chinese (as the previous commenter clearly doesn’t), you can see exactly how each of the errors was made. They’re all perfectly logical, even if the result is unintentionally hilarious.

Take #1313, “Benumbed hot vegetables fries fuck silk.” It should read “Hot and spicy garlic greens stir-fried with shredded dried tofu.” However, the mangled version above is not as mangled as it seems: it’s a literal word-by-word translation, with some cases where the translator chose the wrong one of two meanings of a word:

First two characters: “ma la” meaning hot and spicy, but literally “numbingly spicy” — it means a kind of Sichuan spice that mixes chilies with Sichuan peppercorn or prickly ash. The latter tends to numb the mouth. “Benumbed hot” is a decent, if ungrammatical, literal translation.

Next two: “jiu cai,” the top greens of a fragrant-flowering garlic. There’s no good English translation, so “vegetables” is just fine.

Next one: “chao,” meaning stir-fried, quite reasonably rendered as “fries” (should be “fried,” but that’s a distinction English makes and Chinese doesn’t).

Finally: “gan si” meaning shredded dried tofu, but literally translated as “dry silk.” The problem here is that the word “gan” means both “to dry” and “to do,” and the latter meaning has come to mean “to fuck.” Unfortunately, the recent proliferation of Colloquial English dictionaries in China means people choose the vulgar translation way too often, on the grounds that it’s colloquial. Last summer I was in a spiffy modern supermarket in Taiyuan whose dried-foods aisle was helpfully labeled “Assorted Fuck.” The word “si” meaning “silk floss” is used in cooking to refer to anything that’s been julienned — very thin pommes frites are sold as “potato silk,” for instance. The fact that it’s tofu is just understood (sheets of dried tofu shredded into julienne) — if it were dried anything else it would say so.

3 comment(s) for 'Do you want some Wood flower picks sea cucumber hoof with your Cowboy leg?'

  1. (Comment, 2006-03-09 00:00 )

    I love the mountain. I started to look for trackbacks after blogging the same menu (oh, do my sides hurt!) and found our blog. I didn’t realize how extensive the translators’ blogosphere is. Whee! I’m part of a movement!

  2. (Comment, 2006-03-11 10:30 )

    Hi Chris! Coincidentally enough, I just posted on the exact same thing on the Language Log. Now I’m feeling very unoriginal…

    Great new look to the blog, by the way.

  3. (Comment, 2006-09-04 17:24 )

    Sure i need a lot not “some” so get me few. :D