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Amusingly Mistranslated Signs From Around the World

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If you've ever been to a restaurant in Greece, chances are you've seen lamp on the menu. The spelling mistake is about as ubiquitous as nude sunbathers on the beach in Mykonos. It's less likely, however, that you've seen my favorite mistranslated sign at Delphi, which reads: "No introducing animals and food on the path." (Banana, meet my daschund Petey. Petey, this is banana"¦)

I've had the good fortune of capturing some great mistranslations over the years as I've traveled, and the even greater fortune of unearthing even more gems on Flickr. Enjoy.

Jesus is said to have walked on water at this, the Sea of Galilee. I guess that was before the municipality of Tiberias erected this sign.

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If you crack the code, and open the hidden safe, you don't even want to know what's in store! (via Ben Beiske)

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Rumor is, triping will be a new category in the next Olympics. Part drunken stupor, part obstacle course, the new sport is already very popular in small villages in China. (via brytness)
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When in Ethiopia, probably best to avoid this restaurant... (via joshua tuggle)
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On the other hand, I bet using this bathroom in Deqin, Yunnan, China is a unique experience. (via Timmok)
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Never understood what this Jerusalem church has against married folk, but you have to love the photo for the mistranslation, AND the spelling mistake, AND the grammar, AND the artwork.

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This one speaks for itself... from a small hotel in Israel.
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And just to come full-circle, here's a variation of the Delphi sign found at the Acropolis. Not as amusing, but still cute.

What's your favorite mistranslated sign? In what part of the world did you find it?

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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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Big Questions
Why Does Japan Have Blue Traffic Lights Instead of Green?
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ANTTI T. NISSINEN, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In Japan, a game of Red Light, Green Light might be more like Red Light, Blue Light. Because of a linguistic quirk of Japanese, some of the country’s street lights feature "go" signals that are distinctly more blue than green, as Atlas Obscura alerts us, making the country an outlier in international road design.

Different languages refer to colors very differently. For instance, some languages, like Russian and Japanese, have different words for light blue and dark blue, treating them as two distinct colors. And some languages lump colors English speakers see as distinct together under the same umbrella, using the same word for green and blue, for instance. Again, Japanese is one of those languages. While there are now separate terms for blue and green, in Old Japanese, the word ao was used for both colors—what English-speaking scholars label grue.

In modern Japanese, ao refers to blue, while the word midori means green, but you can see the overlap culturally, including at traffic intersections. Officially, the “go” color in traffic lights is called ao, even though traffic lights used to be a regular green, Reader’s Digest says. This posed a linguistic conundrum: How can bureaucrats call the lights ao in official literature if they're really midori?

Since it was written in 1968, dozens of countries around the world have signed the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, an international treaty aimed at standardizing traffic signals. Japan hasn’t signed (neither has the U.S.), but the country has nevertheless moved toward more internationalized signals.

They ended up splitting the difference between international law and linguists' outcry. Since 1973, the Japanese government has decreed that traffic lights should be green—but that they be the bluest shade of green. They can still qualify as ao, but they're also green enough to mean go to foreigners. But, as Atlas Obscura points out, when drivers take their licensing test, they have to go through a vision test that includes the ability to distinguish between red, yellow, and blue—not green.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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language
Using Words Like 'Really' A Lot Could Mean You're Really Stressed
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iStock

Are you feeling really exhausted? Or have you noticed that it's incredibly hot out today?

If you recognize the adverbs above as appearing frequently in your own speech, it could be a sign that you're stressed. At least, those are the findings in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As Nature reports, researchers found that peppering our speech with "function words" is a pretty accurate indicator of our anxiety levels.

Function words differ from verbs and nouns in that they don't mean much on their own and mostly serve to clarify the words around them. Included in this group are pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. A team of American researchers suspected that people use these words more frequently when they're stressed, so to test their hypothesis, they hooked up recording devices to 143 volunteers.

After transcribing and analyzing audio clips recorded periodically over the course of two days, the researchers compared subjects' speech patterns to the gene expressions of certain white blood cells in their bodies that are susceptible to stress. They found that people exhibiting the biological symptoms of stress talked less overall, but when they did speak up they were more likely to use words like really and incredibly.

They also preferred the pronouns me and mine over them and their, possibly indicating their self-absorbed world view when under pressure. The appearance of these trends predicted stress in the volunteers' genes more accurately than their own self-assessments. As study co-author Matthias Mehl told Nature, this could be a reason for doctors to "listen beyond the content" of the symptoms their patients report and pay greater attention "to the way it is expressed" in the future.

One reason function words are such a great indicator of stress is that we often insert them into our sentences unconsciously, while our choice of words like nouns and verbs is more deliberate. Anxiety isn't the only thing that influences our speech without us realizing it. Hearing ideas we agree with also has a way of shaping our syntax.

[h/t Nature]

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