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back to article Dadaist user manuals - a call for submissions

The eggnog has been drunk, the ornaments put away, the hangovers endured. Now it's time for you to dig through those users manuals for all that kit you received as a holiday goodie. Problem: the manual was translated from its original Mandarin, Minangkabau, or Quenya by an autistic babelfish. That was certainly our experience …

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FAIL

The ultimate manual

Oddly enough, I found the ultimate Dadaist manual, right under to your article in my RSS feed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdUDxfZ4Qe4

This is brilliant! I think I'm going to print a few dozen of those myself, when I get ahold of a printer with a folding and stapling unit.

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I like it!

That's great, I don't half think though that the company responsible should be named and shamed. I mean, what was wrong with just sticking a slip of paper in saying manuals can be downloaded from the web.

Unfortanately I can't think of anything I got for Christmas with a really lousy manual. :-(

Rob

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The same as everyone else's manual

"I mean, what was wrong with just sticking a slip of paper in saying manuals can be downloaded from the web."

Obviously (1) you may be depending on this device to get to "the web", and (2) what process puts a product manual on the web that is better than can be put in the box?

In the case of the memory device, the operations that are described seem to be exactly the same as for all other USB memory devices, leaving the question: why didn't we get a copy of sromeone else's good manual? And the answer, I suppose: copyright.

If I remember, I'll check for bad or "gratuitous Engrish" on recently purchased packaging or manuals. Stuff from Maplin is probably fruitful. And Japanese regards "Roman" script as eleglantly ornamental, but without being particular as to meaning.

English-language terms can be converted to Japanese merely by saying "gee" after the rest of the word. And, come to think, to Hindi as well. Hmm-gee.

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Happy

What is that is posssibly wrong?

As preeminently experiential device manual writer person none is seen to be improbable for the above. All knows meaning of whopping - are you ignorant type?

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Happy

I like cake that doesn't lie!

It's been years ago, but I fondly remember a cheap RC car I owned with this sticker in the battery compartment, and I quote:

"Warning! Low battery may cause errotic(sic) function"

Needless to say, I looked everywhere for Low brand batteries!:

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WTF?

Somethings never change

When at Comdex once the guy from the US office of one of our suppliers showed me his pile of brochures. The Taiwanese had taken his proof and corrected his English.

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Flame

Really that hard to proof read these?

Not knocking people whose first language is not English, but come on. If you're going to market a product worldwide, is it really that hard to go down to one of the local foreign language schools and hire a tutor for a small fee, to check the manual makes sense to someone who speaks the more popular languages? After all the most popular languages worldwide are usually European anyway, English, French and Spanish, obviously due the rather nefarious activities and the less than subtle methods our ancestors used to spread our mother tongues!

Nope, cheaper and quicker to knock it through Babelfish and end up with twice as many returns, 'cos the target audience can't understand how to use the damn thing properly!

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more popular languages

Actually, dude, the most "popular" language in the world is Mandarin Chinese. Sorry to burst the old Western dominance bubble there.

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Grenade

You are wrong

You are getting no returns, because shite like that is sold through Tesco and the like. Ever tried to return something through tesco which does not quite work? Dream on. The spiel is - you have cracked open the package, it is no longer in returnable condition.

Welcome to The Shop.

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Anonymous Coward

well...not necessarily

Mandarin certainly beats English on native speakers; but English and Mandarin are likely neck-and-neck when you include second languages. (For now). Give it another 50 years and maybe it will seem quaint to be reading a web page in English...if the coming revolution succeeds, of course.

(xin nian kuai le !).

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Actually, it's not

Putonghua is - and even that is debatable given the number of different dialects spoken in China. For the record, Mandarin is spoken in Taiwan and Singapore.

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Well

By number of people who speak it yes.

By both number of countries, and area of the world it's pretty much as stated by OP.

/pedant

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Babelfish?!?

@AC

"Nope, cheaper and quicker to knock it through Babelfish"

Erm... you know Babelfish knows how to spell "you", right? This was written by a human being... who just happened to learn his English via MSN Messenger.

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Duuuuude

Not sure "widely spoken" is the same as "spoken by the largest number of people". Dude.

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More of the same at Engrish(dot)com

I know, I know, it's rong for amusement having to be not the vault of those other peeps whose languish we not so very good for any ways.

But Engrish(dot)com is a great cheer-up when your feeling a bit down in the dumps. The IT section isn't very busy, but it's still a giggle. There are also links to European linguo mash-ups, so that evens it out a bit.

(I brushes off my copy of "Mandarine for Dummies" - respectfully)

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Not just the written word

Somewhere I have a cd that came with a motherboard that has a short video on it telling you how to mount the board in a box. In it the nice asian lady points out that the board has six holes in it and tells you to put a screw in each hole. Except that she can't pronounce the letter "L", which comes out as an "R".

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Not too likely.

I once read a video card manual which suggested that if no image was visible one should check that the monitor screen wasn't too dirty.

My impression is that many Far Eastern manuals are written by the only person in the company who claims to speak English and they turn out to be someone who knows nothing whatsoever about the product.

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Anonymous Coward

pc or not pc?

..from reporting a dubious use of 'autistic' to incorporating it into your journalism, all within a day, there's progress.

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Nope

Manuals, or more correctly 'Maunals', are just not a bloke thing.

And since there are no females in IT, why do they bother writing them ?

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There is of course the classic

Unfortunately in German, but it provided fun and laughter to German hackers until the advent of Bittorrent.

http://www.trust-us.ch/habi1/094_gedachnistelefon.html

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Happy

WHOP...

..till youdrop.

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endless possibilities

A ladder around the house has the usual verbiage on it about staying off the top rung, etc. etc., both in English and in Spanish. The English is OK, the Spanish I have no idea, except that the notice is dated something like 'May 2005/Puede 2005'.

Let me also say that you should never underestimate the possibilities of native speakers.

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I see it on-line, too

I use Linux and often surf the support forum for my distro. It's depressing, sometimes, to see the lack of grammar, syntax and spelling skills there especially when you realize that the posts are written using Firefox, a browser with a built in spelling checker. It's gotten to the point were, for almost half of the posters, the words "can't," "won't" and "don't" are written more often without the apostrophe than with it. Not only that, but it's getting more and more common for a request for help to start out, "So, I installed Fedora Core 12 on my laptop and..." (For those who don't know, the last version of Fedora Core was 6; starting with 7, it's just been Fedora. Where these newcomers find the older form is something I've never learned.) And, of course, on some sites (Slashdot, I'm looking at you!) it's almost considered a badge of honor to misuse the language. It's taken time, but Professor Henry Higgens' lament has come true: "Use proper English, you're regarded as a freak!"

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FAIL

Grammar nazism

"It's gotten to the point were"

I could go on. Or you could get over it.

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Jobs Halo

Is always better when right....

"It's gotten better" isn't the possessive use of the apostrophe but an indication that a contraction has been used, in this case the exclusion of h and a (it has becomes it's). Similarly the spelling of can't (can not) or hasn't (has not).

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We dont need no steenking proofreader

The problem really is that the manual was probably written by the CEO who also answers the phone, operates the injection moulding machine and puts out the garbage. To imply that his grasp of english is less than perfect would cause a severe loss of face, something to be avoided at all costs. I encountered this on a recent visit to China where my offers to correct any english language were met with an almost universal stony silence.

Really though I think the problem here is not the translation but users who really needs a manual to tell them how to use a USB memory device. If this is the case they (probably) would have difficulty if it was written by a native english speaking 'expert'.

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Anonymous Coward

Dadaist 419ers

I got a gratifying 419 spam the other day which said it was an "emergency massage" from a shipping company, and that they would help me, their "blessed costumer" avoid scammers and their "evil planes". Entirely worthwhile.

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WTF?

Not as funny as Engrish, but this isn't a comic, right?

Following on from Orlowski's Google article (8th January), specifically the posts re. autism, it's clear that it's use has now passed into the official El Reg lexicon with the above direct usage, as opposed a quotation.

Guess I must be oversensitive though, as no-one else has mentioned it.

Shall we go the whole hog and bring back spaz?

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titular bullhickey

Yay! bring back spaz. This autistic spazmo agrees fully ;)

To be fair to Orlowski, he was making a direct quote from one of the carriers involved...

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Whop

Wow, that's fantastic.

I'm going to whop all my USB devices from now on. If this takes off, we could get this usage in the dictionary. This manual would then be the definitive first usage.

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Happy

"Do not join with the circuits of life"

I saw the above warning on a Chinese-made generator a while ago. I thought it was very poetic, something Confucius might have said.

The best safety warning I ever saw was in England, on an electricity sub-station:-

"Danger, medium voltage"

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Alert

Electricity voltage levels

As an approved Electrician i'm allowed to say you:

Very low Voltage : up to 24V

Low Voltage : up to 500V

Medium Voltage : up to 25kV

High voltage : up to 500kV

Very high voltage : More

So yes, the sign is TECHNICALLY correct in a substation, but bay be misleading.

An IT sparky.

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Unhappy

Not quite.

@Albert (11/01/2010 10:20)

I think you'll find that Low Voltage is up to 1000Vac or 1500Vdc according to European Directive Low Voltage Directive (LVD) 2006/95/E.

Nah, it's ok, you can touch those wires, they're Low Voltage.

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Happy

thank god you don't have to rely on users and installation manuals to get it working

Oh, you might have to.

That would not be so funny

complex product +poor driver softwre + incomprehensible manual + Tesco return policy = turkey grade stuffing.

Sure well written software (embedded in the device or in the UI it supplies on whatever OS it's running on) can save the day and make the manual irrelevant.

Now how many of those products have software *that* good?

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Better than many "native" speakers can manage.

At least the folks overseas are trying to convey ideas in a language that is not their primary or first one. I've seen English similarly butchered by folks born and bred on U.S. soil and who, theoretically, should know better: when was the last time a co-worker "lefted" someone a message or "losted" a job to a competitor?

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Singapore

"We hasten to add that our own personal language-translation skills would leave us helpless in China, Singapore, or Middle-Earth"

To be pendantic, English is one of the official languages of Singapore.

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and?

English may be one of the official languages in Singapore, but in my experience that doesn't mean it's anything like universally spoken.

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well

to be just as pedantic: The article does say something like they would be left helpless in SIngapore. As all the road signs, most of the shops and a vast majority of the population speak English. My Chinese, Malay, Tamil, Singlish and local variants is none existent but I manage to survive on English alone

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Gates Horns

Eeeek! Mice!

In the early '90s in Italy arrived a shipment of mice where the manual read "Topo Micro-Morbido", which happily translates to "Micro-soft mouse"...

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WTF?

@ Charles E, re: The Ultimate Manual.

And here's the actual on-line manual...

http://www.cordislabeling.com/pdf/9578500_1.pdf

Pages 16 to 39 are particularly useful!

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Paris Hilton

intentionally blank

That’s normal in all high end documentation, if the page was blank you wouldn’t know if it was supposed to be blank of if it was a production error, the “this page intentionally blank” avoids such confusion.

Paris, another blank mind.

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I once

..bought a doohickey (a SIM-card copier IIRC, when these were common) with a section in the manual mystifyingly titled "Warm Comments".

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This from a USB hard disk enclosure I got a few years back

HDD Assemble Illustration

1, Place the hard disk drive in HDD Enclosuer[sic].

3[sic], Plug a power cable from the case power supply into the power connector on the hard disk. (A)

2[sic], Plug an IDE cable connector into the hard disk drive IDE connector. (B)

4, Use LED cable provided with HDD Enclosuer[sic] to connect to the (c) and push it into case.

5, Secure the metal case of the HCC Enclosuer with four screws.

Is good with machine plank according to the right method conjuction the hard dish[sic], lock the right adn[sic] HDD, can immediately trust the usage.

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FAIL

Slightly-related issue

When I plug a USB drive into my (5-year-old) Win/XP laptop, I too get the message telling me that it would perform faster if I plugged it into a high-speed port, and inviting me to click on the message to resolve the problem.

Clicking returns a message to the effect that there are no high-speed USB ports on that laptop, something which I of course already knew.

Hey Microsoft, would it have been too difficult to check *before* displaying the message? Not just the cable which needs a whop, I think.

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Pointing the finger

"Finger to spiritual emptiness underlying everything"

Allegedly, this was a translation of "Pointer to void" in a Japanese C manual.

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Worrying

Rather ominously, the instruction manual for my Sony Alpha 350 camera has a chapter labelled "Before your operation"

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3113/2872829645_ca092729e8_o.jpg

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Top of the Whops

Has nobody there ever whopped a USB cable in to the socket? Or whopped a cd in the drive? Or even whopped a curry into the microwave? Where I come from (Hertfordshire) that's just normal slang. I reckon the guy who wrote the manual has spent some time working with, or being educated alongside, UK techno-geeks. Until today though, I wasn't sure of the spelling.

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Paris Hilton

Speaking of Curry....

Seen on an Indian restaurant menu...

Flavoured with coriander and cum in.

Paris, I’d bet she’d swallow that (did I apostrophizes with the apostles goodly?)

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Anonymous Coward

Try with hardware specs...

Years ago, I had to write some drivers to an old winmodem-like device on linux. The specs were in chinese with some babelfish translation. The thing was so ugly that I paid for a chinese teacher to help me with it and to teach me chinese.

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Can I be the first to say

"My hovercraft is full of eels"

Many years ago my farther worked with a guy who had been thought the English names of hand-tools by a smart-arse who it would be funny to use swear words as names....

It happens.

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