Amazing slop (updated)


I'm on record as thinking it Colonel Blimpish for native speakers of English to make fun of other people's mistakes in our language -- above all when we're doing it on their soil, and when our command of their language is less than total. Odds are any college-educated Chinese person I meet will be much better in English than I am in Chinese. After all, English was one of their mandatory subjects through school and in their college-entrance exams. Not quite the same for me with Chinese. (But let's try some French! Or Latin! Or Esperanto! Or Japanese!) So not once in talking with such a person have I been other than grateful for such English as they know.

On the other hand, I repeatedly marvel at the blitheness with which Chinese organizations put things in English designed for foreign readers without having even a minimally-literate native speaker give it a quick look. (Background again here and more broadly here.)

Today's case study: promotional map, conveniently in English for foreign investors and tourists, which I just received from a fancy Chinese resort I won't otherwise identify:

Sigh. My kingdom for an "e."

Update: George Bradt of Shanghai reports that the city's hockey rink has ramp marked "Sloppy Passage," for the convenience of wheelchair-bound patrons. Update #2: Via Micah Sittig, photo of the ramp, with its full name "Disabled Sloppy Passage," here.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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