Jun 292014

This is way off topic for this blog, but I couldn’t help snapping a shot of this food stand I saw on the way to work.

Fast_and_Tastey-02Israel is not China: Most Israelis speak some English, many speak good English and some speak great English. But when making bilingual signs, it seems many sign makers figure perfect English is superfluous and underestimate how appalling a “little” mistake may appear to the native speaker who happens to read it.

Once, while strolling with my mother, who had come to visit the grandkids, she pointed at a sign in my quiet residential neighborhood, and said, “Hey, let’s take the kids to the amusement park.” Looking at the Hebrew, gan sha’ashu’im, I saw that she (and the kids) were in for a disappointment: Disney had not decided to open Disneyworld Israel. “It’s just a piddly playground, Mom.”

During the 10 years I spent working as a translator and editor I was hypersensitive to the more serious instances of abuse of my beloved native tongue, but over the years I became more forgiving. Then yesterday I saw a sign that left me speechless. The menu on this food stand contained such horrific spelling, grammar and usage errors that I couldn’t just walk by and go about my business.

I’m willing to drink “espreso,” but the further you go down the menu, the harder it becomes to decipher. Was this a scheme to get lazy Americans to read the Hebrew? Are we really expected to guess that “Salab” is sachlab? And who could possibly surmise that “Ace” is really ice coffee?

Life in JerusalemAfter reading through the entire sign, I thought my suffering was over, but then on the other side of the food stand was another menu. The English went from bad to worse.

Readers with a powerful imagination may be able to fathom that “Potyto” refers to an order of French fries and “Sabich” is close enough to sabiach for the tolerant English-speaking customer. But hard as I tried, not until I read the Hebrew side was I able to guess that somehow “In Bard” is a hot dog in a bun. Even the most haphazard Google Translate cut-and-paste user would have a hard time missing the mark so badly.

And then there’s the top item on the list, which may be the house specialty. The “French crepe” on the Hebrew side sounds quite enticing, but I couldn’t help changing my mind about it after reading the description on the English side.

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