English is a world language, but every now and then, someone here in Uganda expresses their surprise at hearing that 'English' is our mother-tongue. I guess it's because it's second or third or fourth language for many Ugandans, as well as many Europeans who come here. In any case, as an American, I can assure myself that what people here speak as 'English' is not my mother-tongue. As the following examples highlight, a language consists in more than the words at face-value, but also the context, appropriate time and style of expression, and other factors.
The other night I asked our night-watchman how he was, and he replied: 'Sir, I am very fine because...I am enjoying your life and work.'
I brought a mid-morning snack out for my language informant. When he saw the garlic-roasted peanuts, he exclaimed, 'Very handsome!' At the sight of the fruit punch that I set before him, he added, 'Very fantastic!'
And some more priceless specimens from around the world:
In the window of an Istanbul souvenir shop: Sorry, we are open.
In a Taiwanese hotel room: Please beware of strangers dangling in the lobby.
Name of a store in China: Warm and Fragrant Bird
On an Indonesian Menu: Amiable and Sour Pork
In the window of a laundromat in Thailand: For best results, drop pants here.
In a Mexican brochure: Come to Juan's Jewelry Shop. We won't screw you too much.
In a German hotel: Serve You Right
In the washroom of a German train: To obtain water, move the handle to the left or to the right, indifferently.
On a Chinese train: Please do not throw yourself out the window.
In a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
Doorway signs in the Nigerian National Theater: "In Entrance," "Out Entrance"
Notice in a public bathroom in Italy: This WC is Goof for Everyone. Would You Like to Come Back Using It? Collaborate with Education. Don't Throw Bodies Solid into Toilettes!