Friday, March 19, 2010

Lost In Translation

Being in New York means being in a state of constant curiosity. According to the city's count, nearly 170 languages are spoken here. I'm always wondering: what are those two shriveled old men laughing about? What is the headline of the newspaper story featuring W wearing his trademarked confused monkey expression while surrounded by beautiful women? What does that sign mean?

Signs are everywhere. Hand scrawled sign. Nicely printed signs featuring major American celebrities who (apparently) endorse stoop sales in Chinatown. And - my personal favorite - signs created using the method preferred by kidnappers and other nefarious schemers: meticulously cutting individual letters from various newspapers and magazines.

It is not unusual to see a sign in English and another language. It is unusual, however, to see a sign that clearly says one thing in English and something else in another language. That is what I noticed this morning as I passed a laundromat on my way to the train.

An invitation to be taken advantage of, in your choice of languages.

I'm not sure what the two other languages are. Bengali and Urdu? Whatever they are, the language in the middle is offering - or threatening - $400 for doing something. And it's an offer that does not appear to apply to non-speakers. All I'm sure of is that responding to this sign will probably result in the transferring of money from your wallet into someone else's. Move along.

* UPDATE (3/22/2010): A friend from Bangladesh confirmed that the middle text is Bengali. He provided a translation for me. According to him, the $400 is referring to $400 billion, which is listed as the amount of government funds that are allocated based on the census results.

He also said the wording is the exact same wording provided on his census form, which is important only for the fact that the US government considers Staten Island to be something that most of us who live near it don't: something worth counting. Thanks, chodna!

1 comment:

Thin Crust - TX Chuck said...

Tell Anji I said whazzzup!