by Victor Wanchena
Some things are just plain funny. A poor translation of manuals and slogans into English is one of my favorites. Being a fan of motorcycles from the Far East as well as Europe, at last check I had five different countries represented in my garage. I delight in pouring through the owners manuals for translation missteps. Sometimes they are simply poor grammar or wording on the part of the translator. For instance, the manual for the Kymco Venox we tested back in issue MMM #61 had these gems. “When starting the engine, the battery must be installed to facilitate starting…” and “…be sure to lock the steering handlebar to prevent pilferage.” I’m pretty sure that I have never heard the word pilferage used in anything other than a pirate movie. Or how about this excerpt from a 60’s vintage Honda motorcycle manual.
1.At the rise of the hand by Policeman, stop rapidly. Do not pass him by or otherwise disrespect him.
2. When a passenger of the foot, hooves in sight, tootel the horn trumpet melodiously at first. If he still obstacles your passage, tootel him with vigor and express by word of mouth, warning Hi, Hi.
3. Beware of the wandering horse that he shall not take fright as you pass him. Do not explode the exhaust box at him. Go soothingly by.
4. Give big space to the festive dog that makes sport in roadway. Avoid entanglement of dog with wheel spokes.
5. Go soothingly on the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon! Press the brake foot as you roll around the corners, and save the collapse and tie up.
Tootle? I never have nor ever will tootle my horn. Festive dogs, wandering horses, exploding exhaust, it was just too much. I do feel thoroughly warned about the grease mud. Damn those lurking skid demons! My mother told me stories as a young boy about skid demons; filthy creatures with claws and breath like burning rubber to keep me out of trouble. Never did much good.
Not to pick on our friends from the Far East too much. It must be that English doesn’t mesh well with oriental languages and lest you think it’s just a one-way street, we’ve sent some zingers abroad. Like Coors beer with the slogan “Turn it loose” which when they put it to Spanish read, “Suffer from diarrhea”. Two Coors cerveza por favor. Or Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” translated into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” I’m not sure that would make me drink a Pepsi.
Now let your imagination run wild. I could see one of our American motorcycles exported and the manual translating from English to Dutch to Sanskrit, “Turn the loud handle too make rapid your butt.” Pure comedy gold. Or better yet our humble publication does have international readers and is almost certainly fertile ground mistranslation. I envision a Chinese rider reading the Mandarin edition of MMM where our slogan promises “Read MMM or you will be banished to the land of wind and