Restaurant of first accusation

When I was learning English back in Greece, we were once taught how to apply common sense in writing signs. At this lesson, we were also given examples of signs in Greece, in which obviously something had gone wrong. The sign “Restaurant of first accusation” seen in a Greek island restaurant is just one example.

The sudden surge of foreign tourists in the 70s and 80s necessitated a change of Greek tourist business. Obviously, the least Greeks could do was to offer their services in the English language. The only problem was that not many people knew English at that time. To translate your menu in English, you would either have to rely to your English speaking friends, a professional translating service, or -a low cost solution – to your trusty dictionary. The owner of the first accusation restaurant probably found refuge to the dictionary to produce that sign.

To the Englishman, the “Restaurant of first accusation” does not really make sense. If, however, you show the sentence to an English-speaking Greek, they will probably realise what is happening. The restaurant owner just wanted to point out that his restaurant is first class. (Evidently, you start having doubts even for that if you feel that the owner needs to boast). In Greek, you would go about branding your restaurant as “Restaurant of first category” or better “Εστιατόριο πρώτης κατηγορίας”. The only problem is that “κατηγορία” does not only mean class but accusation. The restauranteur probably opened a dictionary, saw that “category” was “accusation” and wrote in their sign that the restaurant was of “of first accusation”.


Since then, I think that the Greeks have gone a long way. They are regularly learning English at school or in private schools and those signs are a thing of the past. Or are they not? I was surprised to see some problems still remain when it comes to translating signs. But this time, it was not in restaurant in a remote island, but it was in Athens, and, in particular, in one of the Athens Metro signs. If you take a look at the right sign above, you will notice that the greek sentence is unusually long, whereas the English translation is curiously short. There is no problem with wrong translation here, but there is a problem with no translation.

The Greek sentence says “Mind the doors. They close inwards” but the English translation has been stripped of details just to say “Be careful”. I guess that English people are not as dumb as the Greeks that need to be told the doors close towards the inside. They can figure it out on their own.


P.S.: How your seen recently any incomprehensible English signs?

(picture ©  LambdaPhage)


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