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As a linguist, former ESL teacher, and current English instructor at a bilingual college, I am more aware than most of the vicissitudes of language. I adore grammar and semantics and can sometimes be a little judgmental when it comes to native-speaker errors, but I take great pleasure in a “bad” translation or just a more creative use of English when I am traveling. Here are just a few of my favorites:

In the old hutong sections of Beijing, China, we saw some curious restaurant names, such as Easy Fun, Heavenly Festival, and Home Pizza, but these were far outdone by the packet of “Aviation Food” – emblazoned with the baffling slogans “Childhood Memory” and “Leisure Share” – that we ate on a flight out of Chengdu. While that elicited a chuckle, the fact that this tasty treat “does not lose hand” (see photos) generated a laugh that almost caused us to spray the crisps right out of our noses. (Perhaps airline food is a linguistic as well as culinary joke around the world. On Aerolineas Argentinas, we were repeatedly offered “ham-flavored mini-crackers,” a combination I do not need to ever taste again.)

Tibet & China June 2011 242Tibet & China June 2011 243In Lhasa, Tibet, we chortled as we strolled by shops called Antique Thing, Jewel Ripehouse, Homely Treasures, Merit of Jewel, and Many Love Lake. We also loved the sign at the Norbulingka Summer Palace, which exhorted us to “please consciously accept the security.” And in Turkey, we enjoyed an errant apostrophe and grammar error in some remarkably apt graffiti – “Idiot’s was here!”

That's for sure!

That’s for sure!

But perhaps the greatest collection of fun names ever was found in Accra, Ghana. Ghana is a very Christian country and they believe in keeping God and Jesus front and center, even in commerce. Here is a much-abbreviated list of our favorite Ghanaian store names:

Ghana 2008 045Jesus My Redeemer Buckets and Bowls
Come to Jesus Taxi
Through the Gates of Heaven Bank
The Lord is my Shepherd Fashions
Jesus is my Last Hope Saloon
Victory in Jesus Taxi
Only Jesus Can Do Business Center
Ask God Glass Venture
God’s Way Metal Company
God First Electricals
Wonderful Jesus Coca Cola
Passion of God Hair
In God We Trust Motorcycle Shop

Religious views aside, the juxtaposition of God, buckets, and motorcycles just has to bring a smile, doesn’t it?!