Friday, January 4, 2008

Strange English Sign at Palomar Observatory












As some of you may know, I've had other postings dedicated to funny English signs, usually photographed in non-English speaking countries. However, recently I discovered that there is some funny English being displayed right here in Southern California. I couldn't resist taking these photos of a sign at the foot of the entrance to the Hale Observatory on Palomar Mountain outside San Diego. It says, "Do not pick the fern." I don't know who did the translations of the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, but I wonder how good those are. Did the translator make a typographic error, dropping the 's' making 'the fern' singular? Is it okay to pick the other plants? As it reads now, the viewer is left wondering which fern the sign is referring to, and why this directive was translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean only. There were lots of Spanish speakers at the observatory when I was there. Do the rest of the non-English speaking tourists know what a 'fern' is in English? Are Asians more prone to picking ferns than other tourists outside the observatory? So far, it's a mystery to me. There seems to be a subtext here, but I don't have the full context to figure it out. Can you?

5 comments:

Christina Niven said...

Great find. Very funny.

evelyn said...

Thanks for your comment. I'm going to keep my eyes open for more of these kinds of signs. Please check your comments soon re: Martin Luther King, Jr. Great lesson plan!

Evelyn said...

I've had feedback from two native Japanese speakers who are advanced level English speakers. Both confirm that the Japanese part of this sign is also strange/'funny.' So, was this a machine translation? I hope to have more input from a few Korean students.

However, I'm still looking for a logical explanation of why the sign is only written in Asian languages.

Anonymous said...

Four and a half years later...

Went there recently and was amused by this sign. Being Korean, young ferns (fiddleheads to be precise) is used as food.

...and at least the Korean makes sense.

manyenglishes said...

Thanks very much for the comment. The mystery of this sign is why it is only written in Asian languages. I wonder if there were ferns growing there when you visited... I'll remember the vernacular name of the fern as "fiddleheads." Maybe only Asians recognize this fern as an edible plant - or some guards saw Asians picking the fern to take home, but they didn't know if they were Japanese, Korean, or Chinese.