Wednesday, August 22, 2007

(Several) amusing uses of English. I need to thank Ruth Leckenby for this startling picture from a public toilet near here in Natal. I hope you don't mind me posting it here, Ruth. All credit is yours for finding this use of Engrish. I wonder if Won would let me take a whizz?

But, it's not only Brazilians with amusing uses of English. I had to read a very dry Policies and Procedures document from an American agency who monitor a certain kind of English test. Before this particular English test, candidates have a picture taken of them. There were two pages of detailed description on how to take this picture. A highlight (or, perhaps, lowlight) was this description:

The examinee's nose should point toward the camera and be centered over the breastbone. This aligns the camera and the examinee's head and shoulders to produce the square frontal pose commonly known as a "mug shot". etc. etc.

So, what you're saying is we want a passport-style shot of the person's face. Summon the "Simple English" Police! And then:

Glasses may cause a glare to appear in the picture. If the examinee is uncomfortable without glasses, tilt his/her head down until the reflection of ceiling lights is no longer visible in the lens of the glasses. Then have the examinee raise his/her eyes (not the head) to look into the camera. Note that under certain lighting conitions, no amount of head tilting will completely eliminate reflections of overhead lights.

I'm glad we've cleared that up. Speaking of Simple English I have recently started teaching a group of four Lawyers from the Brazilian MNC Petrobras. One of them is his company's top dog for Tax Law in the Brazlian North East. I can't think of a more boring thing to know a lot about, although it has to be said he drives a very swanky car. Anyway, they want English to help them with Contract and Business Law. They even helpfully brought me a sample of the sort of stuff they need to read. I took one look at it and have decided that I need a crash course in the new language of LawSpeak before I even have a hope of teaching this to somebody else... Any lawyers out there with some Law 101 textbooks you could lend me? I don't yet know my mitigation from my litigation.

Amusing use of names. Brazilians, as has been mentioned before, do have some mighty unusual names. Rachel met a shop assistant with the name Jamaica last week. It turns out her father, a fan of the names of nations, called her siblings Jordan, Libya, Israel and Argentina. (I imagine Argentina's ex-boyfriend singing "Don't cry for me...").

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