Fractured English is the name of the game. It's fun to play, and the rules are simple. All you have to do is be in Europe with pad and pen at the ready. When you spot a syntax sinner, copy it down. For starters:
"Eggs With Viennese Dogs."
Get the idea? The Queen's lingo sometimes can turn into Le Joke Hilarious when it comes from those not born to it, such as those in the tourism business who try to master a little English in order to cater to the annual flood of English-speaking travelers.
And doubtless some of those tourists who are pouring into the United States are collecting say, the fractured German produced by some Texas motel operator trying to provide laundromat instructions.
While the Europeans, Japanese, and others are searching out the unintentionally funny signs in the United States, here's a further sampling from my collection, beginning with a notice in a Zurich hotel:
"Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose."
Or the Rome hotel signs regarding fire regulations:
"Fire! It is what can doing we hope. No fear. Not ourselves. Say quietly to all people coming up down everywhere a prayer. Always is a clerk. He is assured of safety of expert men who are in the bar for telephone for the fighters of the fire come out."
That flip of the tongue is reminiscent of the Italian doctor up the block with his sign proclaiming him a "Specialist in Women and Other Diseases."
Even the British, who are sometimes known to speak English themselves, muff one occasionally, as withness a hospital sign in London that reads: "Visitors. Two to a Bed and Half-an-Hour Only." Or this linguistic lapse: "Our Establishment Serves Tea in a Bag Like Mother."
One hotel in Francea, seeking to discourage Americans from wearing slacks in its plush dining room, informs men that "A sports jacket may be worn to dinner but no trousers." That same hotel lists an egg on its menu as "extract of fowl." You are also informed that it can be served "peached or sunside up."
Discovered in a small Ionian Sea hotel: "To all hotel assistants, in order to prevent shoes from misleying, please don't corridor them. The Management of this hotel cannot be held. He is responsible for articles deposit-to the office against receipt."
Then there is the dentist in Istanbul whose doorway proclaims; American Dentist, 2th Floor - Teeth Extracted By Latest Methodists." At least he picked the right floor.
Breathes there a visitor to the Eternal Cith who never to himself hath giggled over attempts by Italians to hurdle the language barrier.
From a newspaper ad: "During the working process, the quality of our products undergoes compromises never."
From a shop window: "Dresses for Street Walking."
From another clothing-store window. "Come Inside and Have a Fit."
Italy has contributed heavily to my collection. Here's a dilly framed on the back of a hotel room door.
"Offering my honored guests delicious meals as well as selected beverages, served by well-trained waiters, is my endeavor. Every readiness and efficiency to obtain this target is essential. Kind assist me in this task by taking at least one meal a day at my place."
One well-meaning restaurateur provides his American clientele with the following explanation as to how Italy's gift to the alimentary canal should be eaten.
"Dear Foreigner. The spaghetti are not to be cut for making them shorter, nor with the fork - so much the less - with the knife. You ought not to help yourself with the spoon for better rollin them up. The secret in succeeding is to plunge the fork only a little into the spaghetti mass, remembering that they are very long. It is sufficient to seize with the point of the fork, supported by the plate's cavity, they will - for their length - for a bite just right to be introduced into your lightly open mouth."
The slickest store sign in Rome is on the city's fashionable Via Condotti, not far from the Spanish Steps. In boldface letters it reads: "Our Dresses Avertise in Harp's Bazar. When apprised of the fluff, the store owner smiled, mudged me with his elbow, and said.
"Amico, that sign brings in business. Every day a dozen women come in to tell me about the mistake. And you know what? About half of them end up buying one of my dresses."
The how-to-say-it-in-English problem extends to Communist nations that set out welcome mats for American tourists. In Belgrade's new state-owned skyscaper hotel, the Slavija, the elevator instructions say.
"1. To move the cabin push button of wishing floor. 2. If the cabin should enter more person, each one should press number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetical by natural order. 3. Button retaining pressed position shows received command for visiting station."
Posted on the door of my room in the same Yugoslav hotel was this notice: "Let Us Know About Any Unficiency As Well As Leaking On The Service. Our Utmost Will Improve."
This piece of prose is to be found in the office of Cedok, Czechoslovakia's state tourist agency: "Take One Of Our Horse-Driven City Tours - We Guarantee No Miscarriages."
While aboard a Soviet ship in the Black Sea, I found the following life-saving instructions on my cabin door: "Help savering apparata in emergings behold many whistles! Associate the stringing apparata about the bosoms and meet behind. Flee then to the indifferent lifesaving shippen obediencing the instructs of the vessel chef."
On the wrappers of some gummy but yummy Russian ice-cream cones, one is advised: "Do not taste our Ice Cream when it is too hard. Please continue your conversation until the Ice Cream grows into a softer. By adhering this advisement you will fully appreciate the wonderful Soviet Ice Cream."
On a highway in Poland there's a sign that tells foreign motorists to "go soothingly in the snow, as there lurk the ski demons." Another Polish traffic sign advises: "Right Turn Toward Immediate Outside."
Strolling in the heart of downtown Warsaw, you can buy "U.S. Ham Burgers." And for the Britons there's a cafe that serves "Five O'Clock Tea At All Hours." The theater program for a performance of "Rigoletto" in Warsaw's impressive opera house said: "The act ends with the rape of Gilda, organized by the knight Marullo, which is convinced doing so, to play a vindictive joke to the buffoon of whom the young lady is considered lover."
And on the elevator door in a Rumanian hotel lobby, is my all-time favorite: The lift is being fixed for the next days during that time we regret that you will be unbearable.