Monday, January 18, 2010

Multilingual malapropisms

Honestly, I try really, really hard not to giggle at the Turklishisms -- humorous manglings of English written by Turks -- that I encounter on a daily, nay, hourly, basis working as a copy editor. At least, not outside the confines of the copy desk. I know I couldn't write half as well in Turkish as our reporters do in English and I have, in fact, been laughed at for my attempts to do so.* But some things just tickle my funny bone to an impossible degree. Yesterday, for example, a short news article about a Turkish ship fending off Somali pirates contained both of the following malapropisms:

"According to a statement in the official website of Turkish General Stuff..."
That would be, of course, the Turkish General Staff, which oversees the country's armed forces. But, you know, a website of Turkish general stuff would be awfully helpful as well.
"A machine equipped with global poisoning system was seized in the boat as well."
Those crafty, malevolent pirates! You can't put anything past them. Not even Poisoning The Entire Globe. Just wait until Hollywood gets its hands on that story.

* As I said, I've been on both sides of this joke. Early on in my stay here, I needed to request permission for an interview and photo shoot at a museum and was turned away with the official letter I brought from the magazine I was freelancing for in the States because it was written in English. I went home, painstakingly translated the letter as best as I was able, and brought it to the museum, where I presented it to the director (who spoke no English) and his assistant (who was helping us communicate). They looked it over, and then chatted briefly in Turkish. I didn't get it all, of course, but I did understand: "Where did this letter come from? Ankara? It's kind of funny..."

At that point, I had to interject. "I translated it," I said in Turkish. "Oh! Well, that's alright then," they responded, charitable as always to those crazy foreigners.

5 comments:

Nomad said...

One of the funniest things I ever read was a brochure for a deluxe hotel in one of the outlying areas of Turkey. Cross my heart, it read, "You may come and relieve yourself in our pools."
Thinking of it from the Turkish point of view, it sounds like a perfectly appropriate thing to do.

Melissa Maples said...

When I first moved here, I had trouble with the differences between çilek/çelik/çiçek... imagine my host's confusion when I asked her, "what the hell is a strawberry door?" I kept seeing all these signs on shops for "çelik kapı".

They still call me "çilek kapı".

Personally, I love the whole making fun/being made fun of thing... it takes the seriousness out of feeling like you have to get things right all the time, if everyone can just relax and giggle with each other.

Nomad said...

Garbage shish? Yum

Jen said...

OMG, @Nomad, that pool comment is hilarious!! I always thought the idea of çöp şis was funny too.

Another good one, quoting a patient angry about the recent doctors' strike:

"What about their Hypocrite oath?"

nomad said...

There is always confusion between b'tch and wh're due to faulty film translations. As an English teacher, having to explain to the technical definition of one ( a female dog) and the other (a prostitute) was something i enjoyed only my first year when being naughty was cool.
Off topic a bit but...
One of my students in an adult conversation class one time asked me what the C-word meant. (If it had been slapstick, my wig would have flown in the air.) He had heard it in a rap song. Thanks Snoop Dog!
Like an imbecile, I made the fatal mistake of saying, "Please do NOT use this word in class. It is one of the worst words in English." Immediately the classroom was buzzing and students were falling all over themselves to learn the word. Hangsi? Hangsi? Ne dede?