Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Choose One from Column A . . .

We were once amused by the menu of a restaurant in Rome. The owners, obviously hoping to appeal to English-speaking tourists, had translated their menu valiantly, if a trifle unsuccessfully, into English. “Tepid” apple pie didn’t seem so bad, but we were reluctant to discover the true identity of “hog scraps”. I suppose it could have been julienned ham, but . . .

So I wasn’t surprised to learn that the Beijing Tourism Bureau has released a list of translations of 2,753 dishes and drinks to solicit public opinions and to ensure some conformity in preparation for the Olympics. According to the article at, “Bad translations of Chinese dishes are headaches for foreign epicures. There used to be translations like "Virgin Chicken" and "Burnt Lion's Head", which are actually dishes based on young chicken and pork ball resembling lion's head. These translations either scare or embarrass foreign customers and may cause misunderstanding on China's diet habits.” I should say so.

After an explanation of the guidelines used to establish the new translations, the article goes on to note two examples of dishes described based on the materials used. The first is "Mushroom-Duck's Foot". It is the second that piqued my interest—“AmentJuice-BalsamPear”. You can imagine why.

It also piqued the interest of Garreth Powell, who writes for ChinaEconomic In his September 4 post he recognizes that the purpose is to help foreign guests to recognize the materials and content of the dish. “Except”, he continues, “that the writer in his pitiful ignorance has no idea what Ament Juice is although there is a singer in Pearl Jam with the second name of Ament but that may not be the connection.”

He ends the article,”The committee also plans to launch a training program to equip waiters and waitresses with knowledge of the dish names in case customers demand explanations. They can start by explaining Ament Juice to one ignorant Westerner.”

Make that two.

No comments: