To non-English-speakers, our language must be a constant puzzle. Why are pennies cents and not sense or scents? Why do golfers shout fore and not four or for? Why does a rower use an oar and not an ore or or?
But they soldier on, often with charming results:
— in a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time, we regret that you will be unbearable.
— in a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
— in a Bangkok dry cleaning shop: Drop your trousers here for best results.
— outside a Paris shop: Dresses for street walking.
— on the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
— in the window of a Beijing spa: We Also Do Body Sliming.
— in a Belgrade hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
— on the side of a commercial building in Kano, Nigeria: Warning! This wall has been treated against urinating!
— in a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
— on the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make: limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.
— on a business sign in Abu Dhabi: Abu Marzuk & Sons: Public Relations and Pest Control.
— on the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.
— in an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water.
— from a Japanese hotel’s instructions on using the air-conditioner: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.
— outside a Hong Kong dress shop: Ladies have fits upstairs.
— in a guidebook to Madrid’s Prado Museum: Goya’s paintings are a fine example of atrocious Realism.
— from a flyer for an Italian pensioni: We are not so much in bath, but we are very good in bed.
To be fair, we should have just as much fun with some of the puzzling charmers we too produce, not all of which come from Yogi Berra. I once had a colleague who occasionally wandered into that briar patch:
— at the conclusion of a semester, staff and students sometimes got together for an informal picnic, with drinks. Not everyone was in favor: What’s the point of just sitting around over a bludgeon of wine?! (Flagon?)
— in welcoming remarks at the opening of a new facility: I am sure you will be pleased at the exciting and pretentious program we have planned for today. (Ambitious?)
— and my favorite, after a particularly argumentative and unproductive meeting: I don’t understand why we have to spend so much time shooting up a wild tree! (I’m not sure, but I think it was a mash-up of shooting in the dark; on a wild goose chase; and barking up the wrong tree. Whatever it was, it was a masterpiece of economy, and it got people’s attention!)