Fractured English is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a facetious term for inadequate and amusing English as used by non-native speakers.” I suppose you could call them English bloopers. The amusement, of course, is elicited by the incongruity by what the non-native speaker intends their sentence to mean and what it actually means. Generally, the incongruity is caused by incorrect word usage, awkward sentence structure, mixed metaphor, mangled idiom, or malapropism.
Recently, while browsing the shelves of a used bookstore, I came across a small book titled English Well Speeched Here and Other Fractured Phrases from Around the World (1988) by American journalist Nino Lo Bello. Bello shares some of the actual fractured English signs that he has seen in his travels around the globe. Here are some amusing examples of non-natives struggling with the English language:
Norway (bar): Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
Tokyo (bar): Special cocktails for ladies with nuts.
Copenhagen (airline ticket office): We take your bags and send them in all directions.
Bangkok (temple): It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.
Brussels (clothing store): Come inside and have a fit.
Madrid (hotel): If you wish disinfections enacted in your presence, please cry out for the chambermaid.
Rumania (hotel): The life is being fixes for the next few days. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
Sweden (clothing store): Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
Lisbon (hotel): If you wish for breakfast, lift the telephone and ask for room service. This will be enough for you to bring your food up.
Geneva (business district): The parade will take place in the morning if it rains in the afternoon.
Budapest (zoo): Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food give it to the guard on duty.
Seville (tailor shop): Order now your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.
France (hotel): A sports jacket may be worn to dinner but no trousers.
Finland (bathroom, sign by faucet): To stop the drip turn cock to right.
Athens (hotel, sign at concierge’s desk): If you consider our help impolite, you should see the manager.
England (restaurant): Our establishment serves tea in a bag like mother.
Czechoslovakia (carriage rides): Take one of our horse-driven city tours. We guarantee no miscarriages.
London (sign on restaurant window): Wanted: man to wash dishes and two waitresses.
Majorca (sign outside a shop): Here speeching American.
ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.
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