HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lost in Translation

One of the wonderful benefits of being a native English speaker living in Asia is the abundance of opportunities presented to witness hilariously mangled English. From holiday banners proclaiming "GREETINGS SEASONS!!!", to restaurant menus offering "crap hot pot", to t-shirts proclaiming "Iam fashion MilAN York model? happy!! rabbit", this continent is awash in inadvertently slaughtered grammar and spelling.

A prime example of this is a children's book a few of us found at a bookstore in Pleiku during the bike ride. I have since found out that this publication has been pulled from the shelves here in Saigon, since someone finally realized just how ridiculous the story sounded in its translation. In English, the title is "The Ass, the Cock, and the Lion." What, you don't believe me?
This is the unfortunate translation the publishers chose for the Vietnamese words for donkey, rooster, and...lion. The story begins innocently enough:
But things take a turn for the comical on page 2:
We continue on page 3: "One day, a starving lion wandered around to hunt. It found the cock and the ass seeking for food together. The lion wanted to catch the fat ass to eat."
"The cock saw the lion therefore it crew loudly, 'Cock-a-doodle-doo...Cock-a-doodle-doo...'. Then, the ass tried to shout also. The chorus they made sounded peculiarly." (Try saying that last word out loud and tell me it's not hard.)
"The lion heard that loud voice. It hesitated and went away. But, the stupid ass thought the lion was afraid of it. So, it galloped after him."
"The high-spirited ass chased after the lion and kept screaming. The lion pretended to be afraid. It deceived the ass to the depth of a forest."

"When the ass was deceived far enough (hello, Google translate!), the lion turned to pounce and eat that stupid ass."
The tale closes with a rather unclear moral: "The one who always proclaims himself often encounters with a danger." Yes, just one danger. We are also presented with an image of the disconsolate cock standing on the rib cage of the ass, mourning the loss of his long-time partner.
A truly heartwarms stories for all us.


  1. OMG!!! LMBO!!! This is the funniest thing I have ever read for a children book!!!

  2. Hilarious !!! You have a delightful sense of humor. I have been reading your posts and enjoying them thoroughly. You tell a interesting story in each and every one of your post.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write these posts. It is fascinating to me to experience VN through the eyes of Cajun American.

    BTW, I heard that it is over 102 F in HCMC right now. Yike... and adding the humidity on top of that will be so uncomfortable. And it is only March.

    Stay cool and keep on posting.

    I don't remember it was

  3. Thanks for the compliments, glad you are enjoying them. And yes, it is extremely hot here right now - not a good sign for the coming summer!