Culi­nary clangers on the menu

Loughborough Echo - - YOUR PIX -

A TAKE­AWAY in the pit town where I served my jour­nal­is­tic ap­pren­tice­ship had a puz­zling dish on its menu which de­lighted in the ti­tle, “palace of ex­plo­sive loin”.

It be­came such a sta­ple, drunken pun­ters would ask for the meal with­out ques­tion­ing its con­tent: “Give us a palace of ex­plo­sive loin, mate.”

I did, how­ever, ques­tion the owner. “Not lion,” he snapped, “loin, ex­plo­sive loin.”

I probed the “ex­plo­sive” el­e­ment. “Yes, very hot,” he said.

The lin­guis­tic faux pas should’ve been ex­pected from a 1970s es­tab­lish­ment that wel­comed pa­trons with the sign: “Let’s talk eat – I’m hun­gry al­ready.”

Once, an A-board out­side the es­tab­lish­ment proudly pro­claimed: “To­day’s spe­cial – no lamb.”

My mate was so taken by the trout – “trucha” – dishes at a Span­ish water­front restau­rant, he brought home the menu.

Mouth­wa­ter­ing fare in­cluded: “Trout to the va­por – or grilled”, “trout’s crack­lings”, “trout to the cheese” and “sweater gives trout”. The lat­ter sounds like a Cap­tain Beef­heart al­bum.

What I would give to hear a disgruntled cus­tomer rail: “Call that trout sweat! Take it back and make it sweat some more.”

I have pur­chased “Slap­per” crisps abroad and en­joyed a meal at Florida’s Dirty Dick’s Crab House: slo­gan, “Got My Crabs from Dirty Dick’s”.

Such culi­nary clangers are spawned by over­seas restau­ra­teurs, keen to lure English-speak­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers, sim­ply run­ning their menu through Google trans­late.

The re­sults are the fol­low­ing, gen­uine meals: ‘God with vanilla’, ‘steam eggs with wikipedia’, ‘ chicken rude and un­rea­son­able’, ‘I can’t find on google but it’s de­li­cious’.

How es­tab­lish­ments get the lingo so wrong is puz­zling. I mean, come on – it’s not rocket salad!

Yet there are thou­sands of ex­am­ples.

Travel blog Lonely Planet’s list is topped by a restau­rant in Chi­ang Rai, Thai­land, which an­nounces proudly above its door: “Our food is guar­an­teed not to cause preg­nancy.”

The cat­a­logue of clangers also in­cludes the Chi­nese starter “wild spec­u­la­tion” and Shanghai park sign, “love­able but piti­ful grass is un­der your foot”.

Both are eclipsed by the Be­jing eatery of­fer­ing “spicy grandma”.

A lit­tle stringy with a lin­ger­ing af­ter­taste of laven­der, I’d imag­ine.

Yet Chi­nese restau­rants do re­deem them­selves with cryp­tic, pre­cise mes­sages in for­tune cookies. Pearls of wis­dom in­side the pas­try parcels are printed to give long-suf­fer­ing staff the last laugh.

I once took a girl­friend to a swanky Lon­don restau­rant. Af­ter crack­ing open my cookie, I dis­cov­ered the ticker tape mes­sage: “That wasn’t chicken.

My date’s chill­ingly stated: “Help - I’m be­ing held hostage in a Chi­nese bak­ery.”

And who are we to mock? Bri­tish busi­nesses would sim­i­larly trip over the lan­guage bar­rier if forced to trans­late their wares into Man­darin or some South Amer­i­can tongue.

They even fal­ter when at­tempt­ing to con­verse with the na­tives.

A sign in my lo­cal pub’s gents toi­let barks: “Use the ash­tray, not the uri­nal.” And I’m the one serv­ing a life ban. Let’s be hon­est, UK pub chain “The Slug and Let­tuce” hardly con­jured up the most en­tic­ing ti­tle.

English is a com­plex lan­guage, with each punc­tu­a­tion pre­sent­ing a bar­rier to un­der­stand­ing.

There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween “let’s eat, dad” and “let’s eat dad”.

It’s a lan­guage that flies in the face of logic. But it’s lost on many, par­tic­u­larly to­day’s blog­ging and tweet­ing gen­er­a­tion. Com­mas have cer­tainly taken a back­seat.

This was ham­mered home when I read the warn­ing on a fast food restau­rant’s door: Toi­let ONLY for dis­abled el­derly preg­nant children.

It was fur­ther il­lus­trated by the con­ser­va­tion mes­sage: Stop club­bing, baby seals.

Sadly, gram­mar no longer seems a pri­or­ity in schools, yet in my day it was para­mount.

I can re­mem­ber my English teacher rant­ing: “In English, a dou­ble neg­a­tive forms a pos­i­tive.

“How­ever, in some lan­guages, such as Rus­sian, a dou­ble neg­a­tive re­mains a neg­a­tive. But there isn’t a sin­gle lan­guage, not one, in which a dou­ble pos­i­tive can ex­press a neg­a­tive.”

“Yeah, right,” I huffed.

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