On the eve of China’s National Day, guest blogger Stuart Beaton writes from Tianjin about botched English. You can hear Stuart’s wonderful author podcasts at http://rastous.podomatic.com. Here’s Stu:
Sometimes I will stop abruptly here in China, fumble my iPhone out of my pocket, and take a snap seemingly at random. It causes my wife to sigh explosively, and look at me like I’m a very naughty puppy that’s just left a monumental deposit on the carpet, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that there’s just so much bad English here, it’s hard to know where to begin. A couple of days ago we were in the Carrefour supermarket closest to my Campus, when I saw this sign advertising the impending opening of a bakery:
I wasn’t previously aware that cheese could be gloomy, I always thought of it as a happy substance – a wee block of gold on an otherwise drab day. Apparently the political climate here though can affect the very whey it can develop. But it’s not all moribund bovine by-products here.
In fact, some of the beef is so fresh, it’s still able to pass water…
I’m told they have a liquid centre, but I’m not giving them a whirl any time soon.
Sometimes I’m just downright perplexed as to what it is that people are attempting to sell me –
Does this mean that the box contains something that is yellow, irrespective of the amount of fish that is involved? Or is it meant to say that there will always be cowardice, despite piscine intervention…
Of course, terrible English isn’t just limited to food packets, it’s everywhere.
At the start of this semester, I was offered a shiny new British Literature text book to work from. I’m not a big fan of trying to teach from a text book, as they give students too big an opportunity to have any old book open on their desks – and thus be doing work for some other subject. I also find that students don’t take it too well in China when you deviate away from whatever’s in the book.
Add in that over half the book was in Simplified Chinese, and already I wasn’t too keen on using it.
The real deal breaker, however, was that no one had bothered to proof read the text itself. There, on the page before me, was the immortal line:
“Ninteen Eighty Fur – By Jorge Orwall.”
People wonder why I wrote my own syllabus for the course…
As China heads into its sixty-fourth year as the People’s Republic, it could be time for it to make a create a new PSB. The Punctuation and Spelling Bureau.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my red pen…
Somewhere, a Grammar Crime is happening.