Alibaba Not Skidproof

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

One of the many harmless on-line diversions for those of a linguistic bent is “Chinglish”: those comic failures by the Chinese when it comes to properly translating English phrases. The subject is a sure-fire winner for newspaper Travel Section editors looking to fill some space. Here’s one example of a treatment by England’s Daily Mail, featuring photos of signs found in China printed with things like “Don’t Forget To Carry Your Thing” (a reminder not to leave one’s personal possessions on the train), “Advert Skidproof” (difficult: must be a warning about slippery conditions) and “When old man’s child go up hand ladder temporary need the family to accompany” (i.e. children must be accompanied on the escalator).

Amusing, but all this just comes from provincial officials too cheap to afford a proper translator, right? Maybe not.

Wegwerf
That’s a tweet referring to an article in the German paper Handelsblatt by reporter Anis Micijevic about how the German-language version of the Alibaba website is supposedly rife with whatever you might like to call the German counterpart to “Chinglish.”

This is where things aren’t quite as funny. As the article’s lede puts it:

With its record-IPO the Chinese on-line business Alibaba ensured worldwide attention. Still, the German version of the site was apparently chased through Google Translate. Much silly nonsense ensued.

The piece headlines with an eBay-style entry for Neues populäres Wegwerfbaby (minimum required order: 10,000 pieces) – that means “new popular disposable baby,” even as it apparently is trying to sell baby-wipes. Elsewhere you can encounter an offer of “body parts” for your shower, and other absurdities. Indeed, Micijevic claims that “[m]ost of the German product-descriptions are linguistically wrong and raise more questions than they answer.”

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