December 7, 2007


Italians have an expression,”Traduttore traditore,” — a translator is a traitor. As an international salesman for many years, I frequently observed the confusion that exists among translators. Many funny mistranslations result from the fact that English abounds in words having double meanings.

Unintentionally amusing signs found everywhere in the world are particularly common in countries where English is a second language. For example, most Israelis speak English, but often without the subtle knowledge required to translate idioms and colloquialisms While working there years ago,I saw many signs or notices which made me grin, laugh or howl.

Outside a doctor’s office: Dr. I. S. Cohen, Gynecologist — Women and Other Diseases.
In a dress shop window: Sale Going On. Special Dresses for Streetwalking.
On a butcher shop door: Sol Ben Ami, Butcher—Slaugherst Himself Daily at 4:00 P.M
In a hotel lobby: Visitors Should Complain at the Office Between
9:00 A.M. and 12 Noon.
In a gift shop: Ici, On Parle Francaise; Habia Espanole; English
Spoken Here; American Understood

Don’t be too amused at the distinction between “English Spoken” and “American Understood.” Many of the differences between English and American can be embarrassing. A faggot in England can mean a meatball. A fag, however, is a freshman at a private school, required to perform menial tasks for upper classsmen. If you hear an Englishman saying,”John Jones was my fag at Eaton,” don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. And of course there’s the old chestnut about the young English lass, an overnight guest at an American home, asking the host’s son to,”Please knock me up at 8:00 A.M.” She just wanted to be awakened with a knock on her door.

Friendly conversations can also lead to funny and embarassing statements. I remember traveping in a car with two Englishmen. a Welshman, and his Israeli wife whose English left something to be desired. In a teasing manner, we told her we had heard that, prior to her marriage, she used to pick up men and take them home to sleep with her. She defended her virtue in no uncertain terms. She might have necked or petted, but she had a “limit” beyond which she would not go. That’s what she meant to say. Instead, she said, “No, I didn’t have to do that. I had a “border.” (To our ears: “boarder.”) The poor lady could not understand why everyone couldn’t stop laughing.

Other language shockers arise from pure coincidence. In Thailand, they tell of aMoslem visitor who spoke no Thai and communicated only in limited English. In a restaurant, he wanted to make sure that the meat dish he was ordering did not contain pork, taboo in his religion. He wanted to order a beef dish, but couldn’t remember the word for cow, so he asked the waiter for “Moo.” When the waiter brought the dish, the Moslem man reehecked. “Moo?” he asked. “Moo,” replied the waiter. Several days later, the visitor discovered that in Thai, the word for pork is (guesswhat?)”moo.”

Signs, however, still provided the majority of my amusing experiences with mixed up translations. Or sometimes just due to u n i n t e n d e d word juxtapositions. A chain of restaurant/gas station combinations on certain U.S.highways wanted travellers to fill their gas tanks and their stomachs in a single stop. Their sign read: “Eat Here.Get Gas.” Then there are signs which in themselves are not funny, but where some imaginative soul has penned in an added thought, either out of whimsy or irritation. One great one come to mind. A British Airways poster in a London rail station read:”Lunch in London. Dinner in Paris” Beneath this, an obviously abused soul added: “Luggage in Bermuda.”

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In a Japanese hotel room: Please Take Advantage of the Chambermaids.
In a French rooming house: Clean Tub afterWashing. Landlady.
On a Swiss restaurant menu: Our Wines Leave Nothing to Hope For.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the Impropriety of Entertaining Guests of
the Opposite Sex in the Bedroom, It Is Suggested that the Lobby be Used for This Purpose.
In a Tokyo bar: Special Cocktails for Ladies with Nuts.
In a Hong Kong tailor shop window: Ladies May Have a Fit Upstairs.
In a Greek tailor shop: Order Your Suit Now. Because is Big Rush, We Will Execute Customers in Strict Rotation.
In a Moscow hotel room: If This Is Your First Visit to the USSR, You Are Welcome to It.
At a Bangkok dry cleaner: Drop Your Trousers Here for Best Results.
In a Rome laundry: Ladies, Leave Your Clothes Here. Spend the Afternoon Having a Good Time.
In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies Are Requested Not to Have Children
in the bar.
In a Paris hotel elevator: Please Leave Your Values at the Front Desk.
In a Budapest zoo: Please Do not Feed the Animals. If You Have Suitable Food, Give it to the Guard.
In a Russian Monastery: You are Welcome to Visit the Cemetery where
Famous Russianand Soviet Composers, Artists and Writers are Buried Daily except Thursday.
From a Tokyo car rental brochure: When a passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.

The Manager Has Personally Passed All Water Served Here.

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December 8, 2007

(quite a variety)


Marv Rubinstein’s books can all be purchased online at and

Note: The above piece is one of many delightfully funny shticks you will find in the author;s book


A smorgasbord of e-mail and Internet wit blended with humorous incidents from the author’s wild and wooly life, sure to light up one’s lonely moments and any social gathering.

Author’s Warning: This book should not be read in a single sitting. Uncontrolled paroxysms of laughter can be dangerous to your health. Better to read only two or three sections at a time. A safe suggestion: Keep this book on your coffee table or your bedside night table, and dip in to it from time to time. Or use it to while away a few minutes when you are relaxing in the john, or to while away a few hours on the train or bus or when flying to anywhere by way of Sandusky.

On second thought, perhaps you should not read it while on public transportation. Your howls of laughter will not be appreciated by your fellow travelers. They will think you’re an idiot.

But then again, who cares? Marv’s motto is, “Always leave ‘em laughing.”

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Posted in Uncategorized December 8th, 2007 by Marv | Edit| No comments