What's this castanet doing in my café
"Pepsi will raise your ancestors from the dead!" That, at least, was the promise on Taiwanese billboards a few years ago. It was an unfortunate translation of the commercial slogan "Come to life with Pepsi!"
I think the same translator did the instructions for my video-recorder. I have a vision that everything produced in the Orient is made in the same factory: televisions, pianos, computer knock-offs, wristwatches, motorcycles, frying pans with synthesized voices warning you to turn the bacon —it's all done in the same place on the same assembly line by the same guys! And when they have adjusted that final vertical hold and put that last door-panel or trombone slide in place or sharpened the edges on that last ninja throwing star, just to prove that they really can do everything, they run chop-chop down to the end of the line, scribbling translations of operating instructions in twelve languages as they go, stuffing them into the appropriate packing crates at the last possible minute, all of which are then loaded onto melancholy little mules who wend their way down, down the steep mountains and along the mist-shrouded banks of an unnamed river in a secluded valley to a distant harbor where great vessels wait to carry the goods to a world hungry for the technology that comes from the East. The mules, of course, are sworn to secrecy. You will never, ever get them to tell you the location of their masters' mountain works, a place where they (their masters, not the mules —c'mon, pay attention!) turn out nefarious instructions like these:
• Disconnect the main plugs from the supply socket when not in use.
• When you are not using the equipment for a long period of time, disconnect the power cord from the AC outlet.
These instructions were printed as you see them, one after the other. I have a feeling that the translator was trying to tell me two different things, but I can't figure out how or even if the second one is different from the first one. I'm sure it was clear in Japanese or Tok Pisin or whatever the original was. But since I'm not sure what that other thing is or isn't that I'm supposed to do or not do if I turn off my equipment, I dare not turn it off at all. I'm doomed, like some electronic version of The Flying Dutchman, to watch video forever.
According to Mark Twain, a bad translation was the reason his story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was a flop in France. He even translated the French version back into English just to prove his point. The original was: