(How to offend an entire planet in 2,500 words or less)
I have a dream. Some day, before I die, I want to meet a few of the hard-working Asian authors who write product manuals for products they then sell to Americans. As English literature goes, those manuals are very entertaining stuff.
(I suppose I could meet the authors after I die, but somehow I don’t think it’d be as much fun. Plus, they might be Buddhists, and we could unknowingly pass each other on the stairs.)
I know you know what I’m talking about – those obligatory, almost-in-English setup instructions, operating manuals, and dire warnings that always get shoved in the box containing your new purchase, whether it be a hair dryer, kitchen appliance, electronic device, or the ever-popular combination discreet pocket catheter & tactical nuclear warhead. You know, all the stuff that we used to make right here in America, before China and Korea out-Henry Forded us.
(To be fair, I think the products we buy are made in lit Korea, not unlit Korea. For you kids out there in public school: lit Korea, also known as South Korea, has cool stuff, like Alan Alda. Unlit Korea has Dennis Rodman.)
Sadly, there’s a very short list of things America actually makes any more:
- TV shows
- TV shows based on movies
- Crystal meth
Once upon a time, whenever the world talked about “American Industry,” you could practically hear the capital letters. Many legendary locations and people in the U.S. became synonymous with success – success solely based on good ideas, hard work and a hardy workforce. Pittsburgh steel. Andrew Carnegie. Detroit automobiles. Thomas “Tesla who?” Edison. Bill Clinton. (He invented the transitory verb. Okay, reinvented.)
A perfect example of America’s decline is California’s Silicon Valley, a place arguably responsible for changing the entire planet. After all, this was the charmed basin that gave us Intel, Microsoft, Apple, and internet porn. But then the State fell victim to self-inflicted tragedies, like overwhelming taxation, crippling regulation, and endless Die Hard sequels. What’s more bizarre, this is a State that actually elected Jerry Brown as their Governor…twice. So it may be a generation or so before Californians get their compost together.
One upshot of America’s downturn is that we’re now forced to decipher product instructions, written by people who obviously learned English from someone who sold them grammar lessons from the trunk of a car. Here are some examples (and observations) that somehow made it into print:
- Please read this fully instruction before use (Oh, I fully are.)
- Charge the battery into an ambient temperature (That’s a disturbingly sensual remark.)
- Detach battery when not in using. (When leaving using, you are having freedom to retach battery.)
- Recharge Battery every 3month. (Or every 90day, whichever comes 1.)
- A small power continues to be used while the Battery is attached and this may to cause battery have an over discharged. (A small power? What, Lichtenstein?)
- Do not leave battery on the Battery charging for long time. (Those capitalizations make me want to joke about the bay in Charleston, South Carolina, but I don’t even think most Americans would get it, much less any Asians.)
- Do not heat or incinerate this battery. (This sounds like the beginning of a “Hey, y’all, hold my beer and watch this!” joke.)
- Do not reconstruct or deform this the Battery. (Battery deformer kit sold separately.)
- Do not leave the battery in direct sun, or in a close car or on summer day. (No worries. I have a far car.)
- Do not let battery become wet or immerse in water. (Apparently, there’s a difference.)
- Do not allow sand dust water, or substances to get a contact to Battery’s terminals. (Dude, you people are obsessed with the battery.)
- Do not use unauthorized chargers. (Sand dust water authorized chargers sold separately.)
So, we thought it might be fun to imagine how offshore authors might handle translating President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. For you kids out there in public school, here’s a reminder – the original Gettysburg Address (Bliss copy):
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
And here’s the offshore translator translation:
Having 87 years of liveness, fathers enjoyed the fullness to country in Liberty Continent. No woman are equal.
Since to happily have a battery, it is if Liberty Country can be enduring to civility war. This reasons are for resting this field’s battery storage. Please check your altogether fitting.
WARNING: Field hallowing not supported. Please contacting Customer Service between hours.
One final comment, before all the “Barry, you anti-Asian bigot” hate mail starts pouring in: I have nothing against Asia, or any other band. And no matter how awkward the offshore authors may be at English, I absolutely guarantee that their English is better than my Korean.