Signs of Confusion: My new essay in World Hum

A new travel essay of mine, “Signs of Confusion“, has just been published by World Hum. A meditation on the colorful absurdities of mistranslated English overseas, it begins thus:

One afternoon late last year, I went out for lunch at a restaurant not far from the south Thailand guesthouse where I’d been staying.

Posted by | Comments (8)  | December 11, 2004
Category: Rolf's News and Updates

8 Responses to “Signs of Confusion: My new essay in World Hum”

  1. Justin Says:

    Omigod…..I just HAVE to pass along this story:

    My best friend’s father, Hobby, lived (on Long Island, NY) for 11 years with a very wealthy Hong Kong aristocrat named Joan, who was a fabulous cook. Joan had 12 little dogs running all over the place. Hobby and Joan had a neighborhood kid named Richard who worked for them as a Houseboy (!). Mind you, this is a house full of real characters. One day, Joan was preparing a feast (as usual) for us, a fair sized crowd, and this was the ensuing scenario:

    JOAN: Ri-chahrd! Go outside and bring me craps! In brown bag! We clean craps now!

    RICHARD: (with bewildered expression) Ummm, okay.

    [20 minutes go by, no Richard]

    JOAN: Where Ri-chahrd? RI-CHAHRD!!!! Bring me craps! Water boil!

    [Richard comes in holding big brown bag at arms length]

    JOAN: What take you so long?!

    RICHARD: I was picking up all the dog crap, and putting it in the bag, like you told me to!

    We just about died laughing.

  2. Jerry Says:

    Of course, it works the other way ’round, too: In “Around the Bloc,” Stephanie Elizondo Griest discovered that if you say “I like eating tofu” in Mandarin, but with the wrong inflection, it will be heard as “I like giving oral sex.” (Whereupon your dining companions will snort tea out their noses.)

  3. Rolf Says:

    Classic stuff! Thanks for sharing…

  4. Jeremiah Says:

    Great story, Rolf. Keep up the good work! You back in the states yet?

  5. Rolf Says:

    Yup, I’m stateside, and heading to Kansas to spend the holidays with my family. Then it’s abroad again for much of 2005!

  6. Brandi G Says:

    This story reminds me of several I could share of my father’s Chinese restaurant (I work for him).

    Below menu items list ingrediants, some of which include “ham and pork.” I am constantly reminding the chefs who speak just a bit of English, “ham and pork are the same.”

    They also get confused about seafood being meat. “No meat means no seafood, either.”

    So amusing.

    My goal is to learn choice phrases in Chinese so there’s less frustration. 🙂

  7. Brandi G Says:

    How could I forget?

    I just remembered that years ago, a cousin of mine told me he liked learning “craps” in school. He meant crafts.

    Rolf, I comment with such excitement! (That sounds so dorky.) Vagabonding has been inspiring. I gave 15 bags of clothing and hangers to a local woman’s shelter and about half of that I took to a consignment shop.

    I have such plans.

  8. Rolf Says:

    Thanks for the stories, Brandi! It’s good to hear that Vagabonding has been an inspiration for you. Sounds like you’re taking the first steps toward lightening your material load at home. Good luck with the steps yet to come. It’s all worth it, believe me!