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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That which is written but not meant to be read

One of the enjoyable aspects of travelling is getting to find ridiculously poor translations. This most often occurs in restaurant menus, but that might just be because those are frequently encountered during travels. In fact, there are entire websites devoted to the documentation of failed attempts at English translations. What often go unnoticed, however, are domestic examples of the utter failure of thought. While these are usually not grammatical mistakes or embarrassing uses of an incorrect word, they still echo with non-thinking ignorance wrapped in a coating of "sciency" sounding words. I can only imagine the job of writing product descriptions for boring and everyday objects is an immensely unfulfilling job, so to a certain extent I can understand giving up and thinking no one will possibly ever read what you are writing, so why bother? There are people like me, however, who compulsively read things (I think I was probably the only student in my residence who read the bulletin boards in the hallway). That is how I discovered this utter failure of basic chemistry on the back of a package of Grand & Toy lead refills:
Leads are a unique compound of graphite and carbon bound together with a special synthetic resin. This creates an extremely strong lead and a smooth, dense black line.
For those who haven't done any (basic) chemistry in a while, graphite is carbon. Specifically, it is the most common carbon allotrope (others being diamond and fullerenes like Buckyballs and carbon nanotubes). There are plenty of other examples of scientific illiteracy or unnecessary flamboyancy on all sorts of products, like the claim I noticed a while ago on some hair conditioner (I forget the brand) that it contained "amino proteins". Since proteins are formed by amino acids, I suppose they can be referred to as "amino proteins", but what is the point? People give science fiction shows a hard time for using jargon innapropriately and poorly, but the sad fact is that it is a much more widespread problem.

Note: As you can see, I seem to have recovered my composure rather quickly and embraced triviality once more. In fact, I think my return to posting actually rests in the fact that I sat down tonight to work on my remaining graduate school applications, an activity that combines immense stress with immense boredom to create what is possibly the most exquisitely unpleasant experience one can have while sitting comfortably at home.


cornucrapia said...

I lol'd at the last line

Anonymous said...

Until I looked it up, I wasn't sure one could have an "exquisitely" unpleasant experience. But, yes one can in the sense of acute or intense.
Lovely line marred by the misspelling of exquisitely.

Mozglubov said...

Well, that's embarrassing... I have corrected the problem.