Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shakespeare's NIGHTMARE !!!

No, it's not the name of another masterpiece by one of literature's most celebrated playwrights. Our post today is about poor use of English around the world in situations where someone could have taken the time to check first... but didn't.

Although our point is not really to make fun of the use - the examples do that quite well on their own - we do want English Users to think about the importance of checking what they print, publish or send out in the language of old William.

Let's start with this one. It says " Help Oneself Terminating Machine". Not really, right? So let's look at it in Shakespearean terms.

The Obvious: It's a machine used for withdrawing money from your account.

The Comedy:  It sounds like it's some kind of machine where you can "terminate" (kill) yourself without the help of anyone else. Convenient, but slightly tragic.

The Drama: Whoever had this done works in the banking business and could effortlessly have checked how these machines are called in English-speaking countries. Instead, they assumed that English or any other language is based on their own in a word for word, character for character symmetry. It will be dramatic when somebody informs those responsible for this avoidable mistake because there are probably hundreds of machines like it out there with the same "terminal" message.

The Solution: ATM or "Automatic Teller Machine" (most common). Or "Cash Point" or "Cash Machine"

Next, we have this lovely red sign.

The Obvious: Somebody makes cakes for a lot of situations.

The Comedy: Poor use of the apostrophe followed by "s" that makes it sound like the cakes are the possessive property of the Wedding, the Birthday, the Anniversary or the Christening.

The Drama: Unlike the example before, this one is probably from an English Speaking country, so this person has very little excuse. In any case, before sending graphic material out to print it is highly recommended to ask another person to read it for mistakes in spelling, grammar, word choice (diction), and register (level of formality).

The Solution: Cakes for all occasions: Weddings / Birthdays / Anniversaries / Christenings (in other words, use the plural form of the words NOT the possessive)

Here the tragedy becomes darker and more inexcusable.

The Obvious: It's a set of instructions for a media player.

The Comedy: A foreign company can make mistakes, even a small bakery can get it wrong, but if you know which huge IT company made this mistake, it'll put a smile on your face that this manual got through all the different stages and no one spotted the mistake.

The Drama: "Your" is a possessive adjective and does not mean the same as "You're" (you are) - a subject + a verb, which is the right answer. The person here simply used "your" because it is a Homophone (a word that sounds the same), but the real tragedy lies in the dozens of people on staff (all native English speakers) who saw it and did not notice the mistake.

The Solution: "When you're on the road, sometimes you don't have a PC around."

For this last one, we'll let you figure out bad use of English. But we'll give you a hint: it's so tragic, it's funny!

So remember, if you're writing the message, put it through a spell-checker. If you're having it printed, have several people read it first, including someone who is highly proficient in English.

And remember, English is not based on your language and vice versa.

Now imagine if William Shakespeare were alive today. What would he think of all this? Would he spot the comedy and drama in these examples and write a great play about it?