by TOBY LICHTIG
Official language is so intrinsically humourless that it's always a pleasure to see it get mangled. I'm often amazed by poorly translated notices in museums and public places: surely if you're going to the trouble of getting a sign made up in the first place it can't be too difficult to get someone with an idiomatic grasp of the language to cast an eye over it.
Today, however, the ubiquity – and cheapness – of computer translations has if anything littered the world with more bizarre official renderings than ever. And, on a recent trip to Shanghai, I amused myself by taking note of some of the city's more surreal offerings.
I was delighted, for example, to receive the following advice in the Garden of Leisurely Repose (an enchanting translation in itself).
The garden itself is a paradise of charming nomenclature, and includes, among other pleasures, "The Corridor for Approaching the Best Scenery"; "The Pavilion for Viewing Frolicking Fish"; and "The Tower of Containing Watery Jade".
Round the corner, visitors can treat themselves to a selection of delicious dumplings at a restaurant whose name is celebrated in the following notice:
On the subway, customers are warned about the dangers of the electronically operated doors:
The following explains how to use the museum guide:
But my favourite sign of the trip came courtesy of a Chinese translator and editor to whom I was speaking about the matter. She told me that the standard of translation in Shanghai is far better than that in Inner Mongolia, where she had recently been on holiday, and where she had spied the following sign, asking visitors not to disturb the wildlife.