One of the great advances of modern technology like the Internet is that now anyone can publish. One of the horrors of modern technology like the Internet is that now anyone can publish.
This means at least three things:
1) You can lose your lunch when you accidentally find someone's personal website, which details (with pictures) their recent open-heart surgery.
2) You can suffer serious eye trauma when you stumble across a movie star fan site, done up with a bright red background and flashing yellow type.
3) A book you buy from a publisher/jokester gets you into serious trouble.
According to a recent news story, some Japanese tourists have been having major problems abroad because they've been relying on a bogus English phrase book. For example, when the Japanese think they're asking “Can you direct me to the rest room?” the book actually has them propositioning inappropriately.
Usually, the person on the receiving end of this query:
1) Notices the cameras, handbags and “I just visited Disney World!” t-shirt
2) Sees the person is reading from a book
3) Hears the bad pronunciation and hesitation and
4) Comes to the inescapable conclusion that the person really does want to be inappropriate and punches the tourist's lights out.
The person who published the fake language books is probably having a huge laugh about this, but what would happen if the situation was reversed? Just think of the trouble you and I could get into using a fake phrase book to say “Could I see your menu?” in a foreign language. You could be saying:
In Japanese: I think Godzilla was a fake. And furthermore I could take six of your ninja warriors with one arm tied behind my back.
Australian: Please cover me with poisonous spiders.
Russian: I wish to be stripped of my clothes and shipped to Siberia.
Egyptian: Pyramids, phooey! I could build better with my Lego kit.
Italian: I plan to knock over the leaning tower of Pisa.
Canadian: Hockey is for wimps. Plus, your doughnuts are stale.
British: I have information about a huge royal family scandal.
Chinese: I would like to drive my truck through the Great Wall repeatedly.
Spanish: I wish to go to Pamplona and release all the bulls early.
Singaporean: I plan to go vandalize several important landmarks and chew gum in public.
French: You call this wine? This is plonk!
Hong Kong-ish: Jackie Chan is an amateur.
Finnish: I have come to shoot all the reindeer.
German: You call this beer? This is dishwater!
Cuban: You know, the cigars here are just awful.
Scottish: I still say they should be called skirts.
Hindi: I like my curry extra, extra, extra hot.
Mexican: Your World Cup football team stinks.
Greek: Yeah, yeah, democracy, the Olympics, philosophy, but what have you done for us lately?
So remember, readers, it's not always a good idea to believe in and rely on what you read. Play it safe and check out at least three independent sources, especially when it comes to foreign languages.
And never, ever, rely on a humor columnist to give you the straight goods.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.