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Poor Wording

by Ken Manheimer last modified Oct 18, 2011 12:39 AM
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Unfortunate Oversights

2 female Boston Terrier puppies, 7 wks old, Perfect markings, 555-1234. Leave mess.

Lost: small apricot poodle. Reward. Neutered. Like one of the family.

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food expertly served by waitresses in appetizing forms.

Dinner Special -- Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.

For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover.

Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home, too.

Wanted: 50 girls for stripping machine operators in factory.

Wanted: Unmarried girls to pick fresh fruit and produce at night.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.

For Sale. Three canaries of undermined sex.

For Sale -- Eight puppies from a German Shepperd and an Alaskan Hussy.

Great Dames for sale.

Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition.

Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it.

Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

Vacation Special: have your home exterminated.

If you think you've seen everything in Paris, visit the Pere Lachasis Cemetery. It boasts such immortals as Moliere, Jean de la Fontain, and Chopin.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool while you drink it all in.

The hotel has bowling alleys, tennis courts, comfortable beds, and other athletic facilities.

Get rid of aunts: Zap does the job in 24 hours.

Toaster: A gift that every member of the family appreciates. Automatically burns toast.

Sheer stockings. Designed for fancy dress, but so serviceable that lots of women wear nothing else.

Stock up and save. Limit: one.

We build bodies that last a lifetime.

For Rent: 6-room hated apartment.

Man, honest. Will take anything.

Wanted: chambermaid in rectory. Love in, $200 a month. References required.

Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.

Used Cars: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!

Christmans tag-sale. Handmade gifts for the hard-to-find person.

Modular Sofas. Only $299. For rest or fore play.

Wanted: Hair-cutter. Excellent growth potential.

Wanted. Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink.

3-year-old teacher need for pre-school. Experience preferred.

Our experienced Mom will care of your child. Fenced yard, meals, and smacks included.

Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops.

Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once, you'll never go anywhere again.

Holcross pullets. Starting to lay Betty Clayton, Granite 5-6204.

Illiterate? Write today for free help.

Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting-off-head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.

Wanted. Widower with school-age children requires person to assume general housekeeping duties. Must be capable of contributing to growth of family.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.

Semi-Annual after-Christmas Sale.

And now, the Superstore--unequaled in size, unmatched in variety, unrivaled inconvenience.

We will oil your sewing machine and adjust tension in your home for $1.00.

Violence Committed Against English by Foreign Speakers

  • Sign in a hotel in Belgrade:

    "To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each press button for wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by natural order."

  • Instructions on a package of convenient food from Italy:

    "Besmear on a baking pan, previously buttered with good tomato sauce, after, dispose the canelloni, lightly distanced between them in an only couch."

  • Polite request in a Tokyo establishment:

    "Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are a person not to do such a thing is please not to read this notis."

  • Outside a tailor shop in Rhodes:

    "Order now your summer's suit. Because is big rush we execute customers in strict order."

  • Outside a hotel in St. Andre-sur-Verdon (France):

    "English spoken here; feel yourself home."

  • Bangkok dry cleaner's suggestion:

    "Drop pants here for best results."

  • Korean advertizement for the American movie "West World: Just Like Being There":

    "West Wood: Will Be Just Like Standing Over"

  • Inscrutabilia on a book bag in Korea:

    "Little Tommy: Everything in the world is a friend of Tommy's. Tommy can have a talk with everything in the world. Because he loves all. Tommy can have a talk with everything in the world. That's why he loves all and always opens his mind to the neighbors."

  • A Korean student essay:


    "My family are mother, elder brother, the wife of one's, two of nephew, me, all of family of six. Nephews do cute thing look a quick time pass at home. The holidays not nephews a vacant and a silent home. So a house more noisy than silent a good. Two nephews quickly grow up is expect a reasonable person. Todays look nephews peaceful sleep image, Morning attendance go to the company."

  • Improbable international menu items:

    "Spaghetti with bacon insurance and oily vegetables (i.e. covered with bacon and fried veggies)" (Italian restaurant on Crete)

    "Godburger", "Bagel Spikedog Olive" (Japan)

    "Meet Kebabs" (southern Turkey)

    "Sh*t Kababs" (Olympia)

    "Baked Lamp" (Athens)

    "Sir Loin" (Firenze)

    "Arrogant Smelts" (Delphi)

    "Dreaded Veal Cutlet" (Greece)

  • In a restaurant window:

    "Fresh hot creeps served here"

  • Warning to foreigner visitors to a Japannese bath:

    "Foreigners are requested not to pull cock in Japannese bath" (i.e. cork, i.e. plug)

  • Credentials on a doctor's door in Turkey:

    "Specialist in women and other diseases"

  • Apology in Eastern Europe:

    "The elevator is broken. We regret that you will be unbearable."

  • Enticements for a cruise to Patomos:

    "All nimbles and luxurides"

  • New technology in Israel:

    "Slime phone"

  • Explanation on a closed post office at Messene:

    "Idleness day"

  • Promise from a San Francisco Chinese restaurant:

    "We never let dissatisfied customers leave"

  • Sign at the cosmetics counter in London:

    "We apologize for the wait: the assistant is on the floor servicing a customer."

  • Tourist information in Rome:

    "In the middle of the forum was an erection that had to be mounted."

  • Warning at a Bangkok temple:

    "It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man."

  • Name of the ballroom at a hotel in Sparta:

    "The Room of Nine Mouses"

Violence Committed Against English by Native Speakers

Ambiguous headlines:

  • "Problem in Teenage Prostitution is Mounting"
  • "Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim"
  • "Red Tape Holds Up Bridge"
  • "Milk Drinkers Turn to Powder"
  • "Can't Stand Pat -- Nixon"

Ambiguous signs:

  • "Absolutely no dying in the machines" (Laudromat in Columbia, Missouri)
  • "Refuse to be put in this basket"
  • "Visiting faculty are invited to take advantage of the secretaries in the main office."

General stupidity:

  • "Hester Prynne had to leave the town that branded her behind" (graduate student paper, adesp.).

Short Bibliography:

  • Miranda Kendrick, Gems of Japanized English.
  • The Columbia Journalism Review (a regular feature on the last page, I gather)
  • "Traveller's Tales," Sept, 28 (1989) Far Eastern Economic Review 41.
  • Malcolm Bradbury, "Why Come to Slaka" (NY: Penguin, 1991) and "Rates of Exchange"
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