China’s economic boom may be great for exporting countries like Australia, but it’s coming at a high social price. As the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription only), Beijing is cracking down on one of China’s most enchanting tourist attractions – Chinglish.

Last week, reports the Journal, Beijing city officials unveiled a plan to deploy ten teams of linguistic monitors to patrol the city’s parks, museums, subway stations and other public places searching for loopy English translations that appear on signs and restaurant menus. In preparation for next year’s Olympic Games, authorities have established a body called the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program, headed by language professor Chen Lin. “Beijing will have thousands of visitors coming,” says Prof. Chen. “We want everything to be correct. Grammar, words, culture, everything. We don’t want anyone laughing at us.”

The crackdown has already resulted in the replacement of 6,300 road signs, like the one which read “To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty”, and in changing signs like the “Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestine Disease Beijing” into the “Hospital of Proctology”. But there’s still a long way to go when signs like “Deformed Man” (outside toilets for the handicapped) and “Show Mercy to the Slender Grass” (on park lawns) can still be seen around Beijing.

More examples of Chinglish can be found at www.pocopico.com, including a photo of a restroom sign that reads “Genitl Emen”. But don’t wait to look; by the end of this year there may be no public toilets left in Beijing for deformed or genitl men.

Peter Fray

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