Fun with English

You probably know the computer expression, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. In other words, if your input is terrible, your output will be too.

The same is true with language and translations: If your original sentences are unclear, the translations will be worse. Fortunately, these marvelous statements below were not submitted to us for conversion into other languages. Instead, these statements were written in English by people who were, shall we say, slightly unclear on the concept. And most would be equally as humorous in any of the 80 languages we translate, interpret and localize.

We are delighted to present them to you as a year-end holiday gift and to brighten up your day.

First, however, we start with some interesting questions….


  • Why is the word “abbreviation” so long?
  • Do cemetery workers prefer the graveyard shift?
  • Why in English is the word bra singular but panties is plural?
  • Why do newscasters report power outages on TV?
  • Can fat people go skinny-dipping?
  • If US cops arrest a mime, do they tell him that he has the right to remain silent?


“The patient refused an autopsy.”

“The patient has no past history of suicides.”

“She slipped on the ice and apparently her legs went in separate directions in early December.”

“Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.”

“The patient left his white blood cells at another hospital.”

“On the second day the knee was better and on the third day it had completely disappeared.”

“The patient has been depressed ever since she began seeing me in 1983.”


“I thought my window was down but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.”

“I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”

“An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.”

“No one was to blame for the accident but it never would have happened if the other driver had been alert.”

“The pedestrian had no idea in which direction to run so I ran over him.”

“The car in front hit the pedestrian, but he got up so I hit him again.”

“I didn’t think the speed limit applied after midnight.”

“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.”


“She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.”

“Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.”

“Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.”

“Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.”

“The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan might just work.”

 “The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, just like a dog at a fire hydrant.”


If you missed our Ode to English presented last year at this time, we are pleased to share it with you again. That newsletter gave equally wonderful examples of why English often makes no sense at all…. as any foreign learner will tell you.

Fortunately, most of the technical manuals, contracts, websites, videos, brochures, instructions, presentations, etc. that we receive are written clearly and avoid any obvious miscommunication. And when we see any, our expert project managers alert you.

But rarely, and even internally, the first-step translators in our ten-step process managed to make such gems as:

  • the phrase “curb appeal” of a house that was translated as “the appeal of the curb” and
  • the juice-catching pad at the bottom of a package of supermarket chickens that was translated as “tampon”

…. before our second-translator — the Quality Assurance reviewer — caught and corrected them.
Whether you are a long-time client or a new prospect, we hope you appreciate that clear communications are critical to your success. We greatly appreciate your relying on us to make you shine in any language.

With gratitude for your continued support and best wishes for Happy Holidays!

Bloopers #6 – Ode to English

As a gift to our clients past, present and future, we are pleased to present an Ode to English. If you’ve learned another language, you know how difficult that can be. But English seems exceptionally crazy, as an anonymous author expresses below:

– – – – – –

An eggplant has no egg and a hamburger has no ham.

A pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple.

English muffins were not invented in England.

Quicksand can work slowly.

Boxing rings are actually square.

A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor a pig.

And why in English do writers write but fingers don’t fing?

Why do grocers not groce and hammers not ham?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Why do English speakers recite at a play and play at a recital? We ship by truck but send cargo by ship. We have noses that run and feet that smell. Americans park in a driveway and drive on a parkway.

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, but a wise man and wise guy are opposites?

And in English…

  • your house can burn up as it burns down;
  • you fill in a form by filling it out;
  • and an alarm goes off by going on.

And if a Father is called Pop why is Mother not called Mop?

As for plurals–

We’ll begin with a box and the plural is boxes

But the plural of ox becomes oxen not oxes.

One fowl is a goose but two are called geese

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice

Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men

Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

One may be That and two would be Those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

And since the masculine pronouns are he, his and him

Why aren’t the feminines she, shis and shim?

– – – – –

In conclusion

English words and structures have been influenced by the Vikings, Greeks and Romans; the French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, East Europeans and Russians; Arabs and Jews; American Indians and Asian Indians; Chinese, Japanese and Koreans; and immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. No wonder it’s such as mess!

To paraphrase the late pianist and great Dane, Victor Borge, the British invented the language. We Americans are just borrowing it … and help to add new words all the time.

We hope you have gained a bit more respect for professional linguists, especially those who have to master English to translate and interpret into their native languages. It’s a wonder that we all still communicate so well.