Austrian Airlines' Press Release: "Pimp your Economy Class Ticket"
As my blog turns ten years old next week and I’m flying over to Vienna on Sunday, I thought it might be nice to give a little fodder to my “Lost in Translation” series of posts, where I present some amusing and ridiculous attempts by companies to translate content from German to English.
Whether it’s Vienna’s public transportation corporation wishing you a happy new jear or an airport restaurant requesting that you order at the eating version, these little amusements make me smile.
With the background on the series out of the way, let’s look at this unique case. This isn’t so much an oversight or bad translation software as it is a cultural phenomena.
I remember being in Austria in the summer of 2005 and Pimp My Ride littered the daily MTV Germany schedule morning, noon and night. To make matters worse multiple localized spin-offs were created that “pimped” everything from bikes to doghouses.
Five years later Austria’s flag carrier, Austrian Airlines, feels it’s perfectly normal to place this phrase in an official press release.
Spotted on a board at the Wien-Speising station of the Vienna S-Bahn that informs riders of service changes.
The text reads:
Planning your travel please consider the actual information.
The actual is probably the result of a bad attempt by the ÖBB (which runs the S-Bahn) to translate aktuell, which means current. However, interestingly, the German version of the message doesn’t use that word.
I am happy to report, however, that, unlike last year, I didn’t see any signs by the Wiener Linien wishing everyone a “Happy New Jear” this New Year’s.
My previous translation postings, all involving German to English mistranslations, were quite amusing. However, those examples simply cannot compare to the Chinese to English translation I’m presenting you today. Have a look:
You can click on the image to enlarge it, but the text reads:
Welcome to Chinese Restaurant.
please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glorious history.
Let’s sum up what’s wrong here:
The lack of an indefinite article (a) before “Chinese Restaurant.”
The second sentence starts with a lowercase ‘p’, but for some reason “Nice”, “Food”, “With”, and “Chopsticks” are capitalized. There should also be a comma before the second half of the sentence.
The third line never mentions what the adjectives “traditional” and “typical” are describing! My guess is that “utensil” is the missing word here!
The random “and cultural” in the fourth line, all by itself!
The word “glorious” and the random “and cultural” line are in a different font, which might indicate corrections were attempted to be made!
These chopsticks are generic, and thus can probably found at a Chinese restaurant near you! This package was discovered at the Chinese/Japanese Buffet on Erie Boulevard in DeWitt, a suburb of Syracuse.
But then there was also the fortune in the fortune cookie:
This is without a doubt the most obscure and just plain horrible translation I’ve found so far for my Lost in Translation Series. What sets this translation, found on a card at a Düsseldorf International Airport bistro, apart, is that I can’t see how the translation came about! Some translation program or reference book must have translated “Ausgabe” to “version!” To give the translator credit, or perhaps simply pity, the standard translations of this word won’t work for this usage.
When I entered “Ausgabe” into my translation widget, it spit out “output.” Altavista Babelfish gave me “expenditure.” Yet another site gave me “issue.” None of these come close to what the sign is trying to say, namely that warm food and “snack meals” (hahah, didn’t even notice that!) are available at the counter where food is served.
Wow, just about everything is wrong with translation! There’s an “eating version” that serves “snack meals” and the sentence starts with “You get,” which you might find at a small Southern U.S. airport as well!
Ahhhh, the Wiener Linien… Perpetrators of two out of the three sightings involved in my “Lost in Translation” series so far. Here’s the third, and possibly worst one! “Happy New Jear”!? Everyone knows this… Come on! You could have given all eight million plus Austrians a multiple choice quiz on this one and I bet you at least six million would have done a better job than the operators of the Wiener Linien’s departure monitors!
There’s not more to say about this one… Simply enjoy!
Oh wait… There is one more thing to note… The Wiener Linien have over 8,000 employees, and, together with its parent organization, Wiener Stadtwerke Holding AG, there are over 14,000 employees. Yep, it’s quite an embarrassment that they don’t have a qualified English language proofreader! Photo Credit: Josef N Patoprsty
This past summer I began posting examples of botched translations I stumbled upon around Vienna. First there was the city’s public transit operator, Wiener Linien, which posted thousands of signs in ugly English. There was also the city’s international tennis tournament that “went a noun.”
Today my friend Kathi sent me a photo she took with her cell phone of another translation that obviously did not pass too many English-enlightened copyeditors before hitting the streets. It’s a poster advertising a special tram service run or sponsored by a bakery chain during the holiday season. What should read “The ‘Christmas Tram’ Stops Here” has been sloppily translated to “Here stops the ‘Christmas Tram'”.
Many Viennese speak great English. Had this ad passed through more than two or three hands before it was posted all around town, someone would have probably caught the mistake. But apparently that would have required too much effort. Update: It turns out the Wiener Linien are responsible for this sign as well… Who would have thought!?
I just love when someone gets something wrong, isn’t made aware of it, and then everyone does the exact same thing.
Take phrases such as “Vienna goes Tennis” for example. While still grammatically correct, they are ugly, bad, English. This kind of phrase structure has been popping up all over Austria and it’s really ridiculous that it hasn’t been stopped. What makes this usage even more ridiculous is that the comparable sentence in German would be “Wien geht Tennis”, which is just as incorrect in that language. I really want to know what genius first started the “Goes [Noun]” trend.
“Vienna goes Tennis” is currently being used as a new marketing phrase for the city’s annual tennis tournament, called BA/CA TennisTrophy, that’s going to take place in October. The poster attached to this entry is presently posted all across town. The organizers of the tournament might draw a few additional younger attendees, but it’s also dumbing down the entire population of Vienna, which is now increasingly being taught that phrases such as “Vienna goes Tennis” are acceptable English.
As if this tournament doesn’t already use enough bad English, why spell the name using CamelCase!? It would be one word in German, true, but it’s two in English. Is it supposed to be some sort of compromise!?
I see so many ridiculously hilarious signs and posters in Vienna on a daily basis that I’ve decided to start a series on this very topic right here on my weblog.
My first sign is this sticker that was posted in nearly every metro car here in Vienna, as well as many buses and trams that would be affected by the subject of this sticker.
Basically, Gumpendorfer Straße, a stop on the U6 metro line is closed all summer for renovations. This message in German was translated into English as “Closed of U6 Station Gumpendorfer Straße”! Apparently the Wiener Linien (Vienna Transit Lines) didn’t consult a native speaker or expert of the English language to translate this message!
After a nearly-full rollout, corrected stickers began showing up, that, didn’t simply change ‘closed’ to ‘closure’, but rather rephrased the entire sentence to “U6 Gumpendorfer Straße Station will be closed…”
Almost all of the original stickers have been replaced, but I occasionally still encounter them.