He Says, She Says

English is a tough language. Here’s a sign in a Hong Kong dentist office: “Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.”

If you’re a faithful listener of Laugh Again, you are not only wise and discerning, you know we love to have fun with words. And so, we present another episode of Typo Tuesday, featuring badly mangled English signs. Like the golden nugget we discovered while travelling: “Take luggage of foreigner, no charge.” Hmm. Reminds me of the guy who stole a case of soap. Police say he made a clean getaway.

Well, here are a few of my favourite mistranslated signs.

“If you are stolen, call the police at once.”

This from a sign in a hotel: “We have good rooms and the price very cheap. Have three human lives and have four human lives. Many human lives.”

Or this: “No Smorking in building.” Apparently smoking is okay, but smorking is not allowed.

On a bathroom door: “It has separated to the male and female. Don’t mistake.”

In one place public restrooms are designated “Fe man,” and “Male man.” I think we get the idea.

From a park: “If you fall in the pond you will be boiled.” Woah. That’s harsh.

On a restaurant menu: “Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.” Ooh, that’s a relief.

A beach sign reads, “Warning. No swimming if you can’t swim.”

A road sign: “Beware of missing foot.”

This is a wet floor sign: “Execution in progress.”

A stay off the grass sign: “I like your smile, but unlike you put your shoes on my face.”

Mistranslation. Early on in my marriage I realized that my wife and I spoke different languages. When she elbowed me in the middle of the night and said, “Did you hear the baby?” she wasn’t looking for a yes or no answer. She was saying, “Please, I haven’t slept in four days, would you get out of bed immediately and change him? Then take him to work with you. See how that goes.”

When she said, “Phil, you are really manly,” she wasn’t complimenting my testosterone levels. She was saying, “Phil, something smells like the north end of a south bound moose in here and there’s a good chance it’s you. Please have a shower.”

When she says, “You’re wearing that in public?” it is not a question, it is a commandment to go back into the bedroom and change my shirt. Now.

When we’re driving past a tea house and she says, “Would you like some tea?” this is not a question either. She loves tea. She wants me to pull over and get her some. I think she should say, “I want tea. Pull over now. Or shall I grab the wheel?” This I understand perfectly well.

When she says, “I’ll be ready in five minutes,” I’m learning that what she really means is, “I’ll be ready in 30 minutes, maybe an hour…maybe next Tuesday. Make yourself a sandwich. Watch the game.”

When she says, “Do you know what day today is?” she is saying, “Haloooo, it’s our wedding anniversary. Did you get me anything? I got you a dog house. You can sleep in it later.” No. She wouldn’t say that. But I’ve learned much about our language skills through the years.

We traveled some rough terrain early on, but slowly I learned to listen. To ask questions. To stop jumping to conclusions. To say, “That’s fascinating. Tell me more.” To pull over and get her some tea.

I did my Master’s degree in wifese and began learning her language. She did the same.

When I said, “This casserole is very interesting,” she learned to take the recipe and light it on fire.

Better yet, we learned the wisdom of Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another…as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

May we be gracious, kind, and put on love today. Here’s a start: When your wife says, “Does this dress make me look—” cut her off mid-sentence, and say, “That dress makes you look fantastic.”

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Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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