Hilarious Signs That Were Lost In Translation


It’s no secret that English can be tricky for second language learners. Although the accuracy of translation software has increased, without the help of a well versed native speaker, even the best of us fall victim to bad translations. Here are some of the funniest public translation fails from around the world.

Chicken Of Your Mother

Everyone knows that your mom and grandma are the best cooks around. But one restaurant’s appeals to mom’s cooking got a little lost in translation.


Do Not Empty Here

We’re not quite sure where this sign comes from, given the lack of original text, but it must be an area with a large number of English speaking residents if the groundskeepers felt the need to kindly ask that dogs don’t use the grounds as their personal toilets. Or at least, that’s what we think they’re trying to say. It’s not entirely clear if dog walking itself is prohibited in the area, or just letting them use it as a bathroom is.


Take Luggage Of Foreigner

Given the font and the coloring in this sign, it could very well be from a Chinese branch of the late video rental great, Blockbuster. Of course, it’s hard to say what they were really trying to say from this awful translation. Ironically, given that this was almost definitely a sign from a store in China, it might not be so fruitful to warn foreigners so loudly that they’re luggage will be stolen, free of charge.


Gingerbread Oops

There’s no excuse for this hilarious typo posted in an American grocery store. While it’s not exactly a botched translation to English from a foreign language, there’s no way unsuspecting customers didn’t get a good laugh when they went looking for their morning breakfast treat. Hopefully the “every day low price” was only referring to the store’s sale and not the actual contents of the beloved breakfast pastry. Otherwise, the store should probably throw out its entire stock and start over.


Male And Feman

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember what to call the opposite gender in a foreign language. In English, you have man and woman, but also male and female. It’s pretty easy to get confused between the two, leading to the amusing translation on the bathroom signs below. Of course, the photos on each probably would have given it away to non Chinese speakers, but just in case someone were inclined to read the pictograph of a woman as a superhero, a translation was thoughtfully provided as well.


Due To Further Notice

It’s hard to say if this is a poor translation or just written by someone who doesn’t have the best command of English. Unfortunately, their customers probably would have liked a better explanation as to why their favorite eatery was closing from here on out. The white printed sign is posted on the glass next to decals for Apple Pay and some minuscule print notifying customers about the food allergy policy, which is really our only clue that this is a restaurant.


Straight From The Source

Intrusive R is a well documented phenomenon in several English dialects, most notably the Boston accent. It’s so ingrained in the Bostonian accent, that natives will tell you that’s where they put all the r’s they drop from other words. We have a feeling that this sign, however, was not written by a Bostonian, but rather someone who may not have noticed the difference in pronunciation between “sauce” and “source”. Definitely not the worst mistake we’ve seen.

Beware The Mutant Bread

We’re sure Pao Village’s bread is delicious, especially when it’s warm. But this message, describing their baking practices is quite confusing. They might have been referring to how well done customers may like their toast. The description of “becoming happy and full” could very well describe the bread baking process itself. In fact, it’s a rather poetic way to describe the rising process, until you reach the bit about the bread eating the unit. That’s where we were lost.


Call If Stolen

This translation of a sign from the Shanghai Public Security Bureau is another puzzle. We’re not sure if they were trying to come up with the word kidnap, in which case it’s highly unlikely you’d be able to call the police, though you can hope your assailants are dumb enough not to take your phone. More likely, they intended to convey that if your belongings are stolen, call the police, rather than handling it yourself, we suppose.


Do Not Fall In

This sign looks like it came from Thailand, and while we’re heartened to know that wherever this is has actual toilet bowls, we wonder what kind of mishaps would have lead to this sign being a necessity. It’s entirely possible that too many unsuspecting Westerners failed to notice a possible lack of toilet seat when they were in dire need of facilities, precipitating an unfortunate dunk for their rear ends. They’re probably grateful for the sign.


Explosive Dog, Beware

There are a few things this missed translation could mean. On the one hand, it could very simply be warning of a dog who’s prone to snapping at strangers who come too close. Or it could be a way of letting the public know that this is not in fact a dog but a bomb. Most likely, though, is that this pretty little pooch is a bomb sniffing dog, wearing his official police uniform, and notifying the general public of his duties.

Whole Foods Boneless Thighs

Whole Foods really messed up big time with this one. Accidental typos happen to the best of us, but this sale sign takes it to a whole different level. It’s clear the natural grocery behemoth was intending to sell chicken for the low price of $2.59 per pound, but whoever did their copyediting missed a massive mistake in publishing “boneless skinless children’s thighs”. Hopefully, not many people noticed the error, and that those who did immediately notified customer service.


Noun Adjective Bathing Area

In a hilarious mishap from an Israeli beach, it seemed whichever translation software the start up nation was using didn’t know how to translate “Caution! Deep water next to the beach.” At least the most important information, that bathing was forbidden in the area was conveyed in the English, but the inclusion of English parts of speech earns them some definite side eye. At least spelling errors make some sense, but this mistake is a total mystery.


Gas Station Technology

This may be less a case of mistranslation and more a case of cultural miscommunication. What looks like the logo and advertisement for a Polish tech company has a rather unfortunate name for the English speakers of the world. Of course, it could be entirely possibly that the tech company is working on a solution for those with afflicted GI tracts, but given the lack of further information, it’s hard to say what the company is working on.


A Dire Warning

Given the shape and placement of this sign, it’s clear that the maintenance team was trying to clean the floors. However, the attempt to translate that into English went horribly, horribly wrong. Instead of conveying that the area in question would soon be squeaky clean, they accidentally implied that this stretch of the floor was the staging area for what would amount to a public execution. We really hope this was just a mistaken translation and not the latter.

Exploding Chicken, Burning Beef

This menu is full of exceptionally poor translations. While the second menu item is almost certainly referring to some kind of soy bean mixed in with the beef, the first, which is titled “the temple explodes the chicken cube” is pretty hard to parse. “Explodes” may be a description for how the chicken is cut, while “burns” is probably referring to charred or seared beef. Of course, we have no way of knowing what “slip away the chicken slice” actually means though.


Family Planning Advice

This sign is less a case of a poor translation than really bad placement. It’s likely there was no good way to explain where to go for the required services that wouldn’t have invoked a giggle or two from those who were so inclined. But intended or not, the advice is somewhat, though not entirely sound. That being said, if you’re seeking advice on those matters, please see a professional and don’t take the word of a sign.


Resist Bacteria Hotel

We can only hope that whatever this sign is supposed to mean makes more sense in either Chinese or Arabic. It’s one of the few signs we have that is translated into multiple languages. Perhaps it’s a classic “employees must wash hands” sign that was mistranslated as “resist bacteria hotel”, which would make some sense, as washing hands is done to prevent the spread of bacteria from person to person. There are many ways this sign could be taken.


Please Cherish The Use

It’s alarming to consider there are public toilets that might not provide toilet paper or even charge for its use, but this public bathroom has kindly provided for its patrons. They just ask that you cherish it, whether that’s because it’s hard to come by or because the institution values environmental protection is hard to say. Regardless, we love the gentle manner suggested by the use of the word “cherish” in this sign, even if that’s not what the writers were intending.


Hand Grenade

One would think that a fire extinguisher is more like the antithesis of a hand grenade, being that one explodes and the other extinguishes. It must be that the way to describe an extinguisher is similar in this language to the way one would describe a grenade, otherwise we’re at a total loss as to how this translation came to be. It’s likely that the design of a fire extinguisher is generally recognizable to many different cultures, rendering a badly translated sign unnecessary.


Warmth Is A Warm And Thoughtful

This description proves just how limited Google Translate’s algorithms can be. It seems at the time this was written, they couldn’t handle the drastic structural differences between the syntax of English and the syntax of Chinese, leading to this jumbled mish mosh of what may have been intended as a heartwarming inscription on whatever product this is. We can’t even tell if this is soul warming chocolate or something more practical like a space heater. Either way, “warm your”.


Full Speed Ahead

It’s mildly unfortunate and often hilarious when you learn that a funny word in one language is the same as an absolutely mundane word in another. This occurs fairly often between German and English, but in the sign below, it’s Danish at risk of being misinterpreted. Given away by the currency markers, we were able to determine with a little help from Google that this Red Bull ad is saying “full speed”, not that the drink will make you gassy.


The Ear Juice

Perhaps this company was trying to make a pun on the word “juice” to disastrous effect. It seems to their detriment though, that not only did they confuse jews and juice, which is an easy mistake to make, we’re really not sure what they meant by “ear” either. The drawing of mountains on the can would seem to indicate that they didn’t mean something like aloe, which generally grows in warmer locals. We’ll pass on this one for the time being.

The Hidden Kingdom Of Women

To any woman who may have been looking for a sanctuary here on earth that’s devoid of menfolk, look no further! The entrance to the Kingdom of Women has been found! It’s been hiding in plain sight all along. Definitely a more enticing prospect than entering the room labeled “Feman”. This may be where all the myths men believe about the luxury in women’s bathrooms began. With any luck, it lives up to all of the hype.

Half Old Chicken

Back in the day, when food was scarce and often foraged from your own land, it was common to eat the oldest chicken in times of need or celebration. However, given that this is a grocery store, “old chicken” would probably not have the same connotation to most customers, who would assume that these are the chicken halves that have been lying around the longest. Probably not the best idea for a grocery store trying to stay in business.


Having Fun Prohibited

Well, that’s a bummer. We’re not sure what happened here to warrant such a downer of a sign, but we hope the perpetrators were having way too much fun for the situation. Of course, it could also be yet another of our botched translations, likely urging caution to visitors in a sensitive area, without being able to effectively convey that nuance. We can imagine it’s not simple fun that’s prohibited, but rather out of control horseplay that’s been banned.

Beat The Moose

No smoking, beat the moose, basically the same thing. Without understanding the other language, it’s hard to say just how something that seems like it would be simple to translate can be so misinterpreted. Maybe they were trying to encourage patrons to quite smoking, which somehow got mistranslated as moose, but given the context, it seems more likely given the probable context that this sign was located in a no smoking area, not a moose dominating area.


Bureau Of Soybean Ketchup

So this restaurant was definitely trying to convey that this was the condiment station, but what soybean ketchup is in and of itself is still a mystery. Given the original language, it could be referring to both soy sauce and ketchup separately, which would be logical for a condiment bar, though how well ketchup goes with Chinese food is not entirely clear. Regardless of the poor translation, this area’s purpose was hopefully otherwise apparent to patrons.

Fall Down Carefully!

Caution signs in public places are definitely important, especially when the danger might not be noticeable at first glance. But whoever was in charge of translating this sign may not have realized that word order in English sentences is integral to the overall meaning. While it might be possible to put “careful” anywhere in the sentence in some languages and still have it mean “Careful! You might slip and fall” the same just isn’t true for English.


Tiny Grass Is Dreaming

In what is perhaps the sweetest mistranslated sign of the bunch, a sign warns visitors “Do not disturb, tiny grass is dreaming.” While the implications of the sign are clear, we do wonder what they sign writers really intended when they said the grass is dreaming. It probably means new grass is growing, but to think of baby blades of grass tucked in as they gently grow in their sleep is a much cuter picture than “don’t step on the new grass.”