After the inauguration of President Obama, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity and acceptance. I would like to think that, as a world, we’re coming together more and more each year and appreciating not only our similarities, but also our differences. In light of this cultural evolution, how can we better embrace diversity than through the adoption and admiration of different languages?
Without further ado, I give you a celebration of what can go awry when we dabble, with the best of intentions, in the languages of other cultures.
First, Hanzi Smatter, a blog dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in western culture. Asian character tattoos on westerners are an incredible way to announce your willingness to embrace other cultures. Truly, high school jocks and weightlifters are our cultural ambassadors.
Unfortunately for this “ambassador”, who was attempting to get “Knowledge, Loyalty, Courage, Warrior, & Father” tattooed on his back, ended up with:
識 knowledge, consciousness
寿 congratulations, celebration, long life, sushi
危 danger, dangerous
狂 crazy, insane, mad
“Dangerous, crazy, father.” Close, right?
Onto Engrish.com. Like the West, the East has truly embraced capitalism and shown its cultural inclusiveness by often having helpful signs posted in the local language and in English. Unfortunately, cross-cultural enthusiasm does not guarantee accuracy. Lucky for us, the mistakes are often hilarious. One of my favorites appears on their most popular list: http://www.engrish.com/2007/06/youll-block-traffic/.