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June 11, 2014

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Park signwriters flunk English test

A number of English-language signs in Zhongshan Park have been taken down after being described as gibberish by Internet users, the Changning District government said yesterday.

The problem came to light on Sunday when a Weibo user posted comments about the information board beside a bronze bell in the park.

The translation was “pure nonsense” and “shameful,” the person said, adding that it resembled “the work of a junior middle school student.”

The wording on the offending sign was: “Original big bronze according to historical records: in 1865, American manufacturing, New York, originally shipped in 1881, Originally in the public concession will fire lookout, as Shanghai’s first fire bell, displace to park in 1922, for visitors to watch in 1958 in the steel-making lose whereabouts during the clock according to the historical records of generic.”

For those unfamiliar with gobbledygook, the Chinese version of the sign roughly translates as: “In 1881, a bell cast in New York in 1865 was shipped to Shanghai and installed in the watchtower of a fire station in the Shanghai International Settlement. It was the city’s first fire bell. In 1922 it was relocated to the park but went missing in 1958 at a time when demand for metal was high due to people operating backyard furnaces. The bell on display today is a replica of the lost bell.”

Another Internet user said: “The translation was unintelligible, which is ridiculous as there are so many expats living in Changning.”

The district government said it has told the local parks authority to remove all of the signs and not replace them until they have been properly translated by experts at the Shanghai International Studies University.

On a trip to the park yesterday, Shanghai Daily found almost all of the English-language signs had been removed.

Almost ... but not all.

One area of the park was described as “Grove Shrug Shows,” while another was poetically titled “Aromatic Nursery Songs Red.”

A stone pavilion carried a sign that read simply: “Shiting.”


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