Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Translation hazard!

Ana, harbinger of destruction, needed a garden swing like a hamster needs a hamster wheel. So I ordered one online without putting much thought into it. Upon arrival I discovered that my hastily-selected swing was an import from Molvania. This was apparent from the safety instructions, clearly a collaboration between Babel Fish and Borat. Here's an excerpt:
Warning! Adult assembly request. Adult supervision required at all limes when using this product. Suitable for children aged. DO NOT loosen the rope, otherwise the seal will fall and cause injury. DO NOT allow children 10 get off the swing when it is stilt moving. This item is for Family donestic use only. Avoid swinging empty swings. Try and orientate swing to avoid swinging directly into sun.
No kidding--printed right there on the box.

Now I'm an imaginative speller and a monoglot, so I can't have too much fun with this--glasspots in kettlehouses shouldn't lob seals, etc. And whereas elfin-safety glop is usually so tedious, I enjoyed this and must salute the person responsible. Humour is the only glue holding the various bits of my sleepy brain together right now. So I wonder, legal disclaimery aside, if there is so little actual information contained in kiddie safety warnings that they can be written in Mad Libs, why not hire comedians for the job? Or if comedians are too expensive and expletive-laden, perhaps the introduction of a standard label would both warn parents and eliminate future translation hazards. I reckon this would cover the bases:
You know this stuff like the back of Junior's cute widdle hand and it's pretty condescending of me, a mere safety label, to regurgitate it back to you in small words, but frankly you're so tired right now that you can't remember your own name, and you're too embarrassed to ask your spouse for clarification, so read on. Your snowflake is currently attempting serious self-injury and permanent world-damage on a vast scale and in five ways that you haven't thought of. So keep your eyes on Bambina until your vision goes all wonky and you get pinging dots across it diagonally (no this is not normal, if you mention it to other people, they will give you spare change for a sandwich). And don't even think about having any hobbies or sitting down because all that nonsense is for grownups, a group from which you are hereby quarantined. If you and Angel survive the first three years it will be a small miracle and you will receive a complimentary Molvanian cake and two free psychotherapy sessions with a seal of your choice. Now go play with this toy and stop reading this rubbish. Your name is Fred.
Silliness aside, I really wasn't sure how to interpret these instructions. So in the interest of elfin-safety, I let Creepy Dog (still surviving) have the first swing. No injuries to note. 'You're funny!' implied approval to my ears. Guinea pig test done, over to Monster Dog.

Here comes the sun dog.
Fearless-pirate Ana and wise-sage Ali both make me wonder what part of childhood is supposed to be healthy or safe. I hate to indulge Ali's paranoia but I'm inclined to agree with her--the tall world handles short people with kid gloves, only to shove them off the deep end and into life one day. Life being that eternally rough thing that adults never get a comfortable grip on.

As I write this, I hear Ana's whoops of delight from the garden as she swings directly into the sun. How it should be. I give the swing three Molvanian thumbs up.


  1. Yes, avoid swinging empty swings....was, I think, one of our Germanic cultural proverbs.

  2. Also, I love love love your translation. Genius.

  3. Also, I love love love your translation. Genius.