Lost in Translation: Funny Chinese English on warning signs

by Jun 22, 2016Humor

Funny Chinese English translation fails are legendary, inspiring countless online spoofs, digital highlights, humor books and, yes, even plays. You don’t have to spend more than a few hours in China before funny Chinese English begins to leap out at you on signs, menus and more, resulting in raised eyebrows, giggles, smiles, and even outbursts of laughter.

These 11 signs with humorous Chinese English, below, are part of our second installment in a series of posts on funny Chinese-to-English translation fails. If you missed the first one focusing on fire warnings, be sure to check out Lost in Translation: Fire warnings become funny Chinese signs. And you will certainly enjoy our third in the series, Lost in Translation: Funny Chinese instructions in hotels. Heck, we were even told by a local that there was an official Chinese government office is in charge of vetting and approving English translations! Now, without further ado, signs focused on warning the public about you-name-it:

Funny Chinese English notes it is not allowed to stand on a toilet.

First, allow us to apologize for the slightly blurry photo. We were, frankly, laughing too hard (in the women’s toilets of an airport) to hold our camera phone steady. And just when we were thinking stamping on a toilet was acceptable. In all fairness, this was above a Western-style sit toilet which, we have been told, can confuse some Chinese traditionalists used to squat toilets. Their inclination, we hear, is to climb up onto it and, well, squat with feet precariously balanced on the toilet’s seat.

Funny Chinese English warning sign for not playing near water ... we think.

We get the “no spitting” admonition. And, boy, can Chinese folks spit — men and women! What had us a tad bewildered was this prohibition on waterside frolicking peril….

Funny Chinese English warning of a slippery slope

This is the sign that kicked off our obsessive search-out-and-shoot of funny Chinese English signs, seen on an airplane deplaning ramp. It greeted us minutes after our arrival in Kunming, China, announcing the slightest of downgrades on the ramp.

Funny Chinese English warning sign for a closed escalator.

Apparently, in Kunming’s downtown, escalators are only closed when they are under adjusting.

This funny Chinese English sign asks visitors to prevent cruelty to plants.

In this park, the vegetation is apparently subjected to regular beatings. So much so, that officials have to ask visitors to stop being cruel.

Absolutely No beasting of the faucet.

And speaking of cruelty, there is absolutely no, and we do mean no, “beasting” of the faucet at this water bottle refilling station.  Now, if someone could explain to us (and we do not mean the personnel at the official funny Chinese English translations office) exactly what constitutes a good beasting, we would be very appreciative.

Funny Chinese English sign warning to slide not to fall.

This sign was posted along a steep rocky footpath in a forested park. If we understand it correctly, if you do start sliding,  you are advised to slide so as not to fall on your posterior. Or something like that.

Warm tips offering a caution for deep water.

How very thoughtful of this park, offering “warm tips” to watch out for deep water. Never mind that it was located in front of a pond that even a frog couldn’t drown in. But, still it is the warm thought that counts. (And one finds these “warm tips” all over China on any number of funny Chinese English signs!)

No thoroughfare funny Chinese English warning sign.

Located alongside a path in the historic rice terraces in Yuanyang south of Kunming. We think the officials were trying to discourage visitors from sitting on the fence or perhaps even vaulting over it from the designated viewing area and walking across a swampy rice field. No smoking? That’s not taken all too seriously anywhere in China….

Old men have to be accompanied according to this funny Chinese English sign.

There is just so much funny Chinese English going on with this sign, we don’t quite know where to start. The one item (besides the request to not walk “convesely,” whatever that is) is the statement that old men must be accompanied with adults. No old women, just old men. Perhaps because it is assumed old women will still behave like adults. Old men , on the other hand, are apt to go sliding down the handrails or hurdling over guard rails at every opportunity, right?

No crashing the platform in this funny Chinese English warning sign.

And finally, we leave you with this, from the same water refill station that brought you “no beasting.” We’re beginning to think getting a drink here can be very risky indeed. And even potentially violent! In addition to that beasting stuff, there is no crashing the platform. Which we take to mean don’t leap on top of the drinking fountain. Like duh!

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