Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Confronting prejudice, via a sheep on Lyndhurst Terrace

I went for a walk at lunchtime today, to get a break from the infernal ennui provoked by database management systems, and as I strolled along Lydnhurst Terrace I walked past a woman bellowing into her phone. And a sheep.

I carried on, then had to stop and walk back to verify this. Yes, I really had seen a sheep.

Well, a fake sheep, designed for use as a seat or an impractical table, I suppose. It was on display in the shop that the bellowing woman was standing by. However, I think she thought that this dishevelled bloke was just eyeing her up and had decided to return for a double helping, so she gave me a dirty look and I trundled away.

My attention was further arrested a little further down the street, by this sign:

A sign, possibly not very well thought out

Now, despite what I might have written before, I don't want to be the sort of person who catalogues all those Amazingly Hilarious And Zany Ways Those Silly Orientals Get English Wrong. There's far too much of that already. There's also one chap in the US who helpfully translates people's Chinese tattoos and tells them what they thought was 'Indomitable Spirit' actually means 'Steamed Pork Buns'. Although that's not really very helpful. If you've gone to the effort of being indelibly scarred with the fifth item on the menu at Mr Wong's All You Can Eat Chinese Wholesale Restaurant in Croydon, it would be a lot more helpful if people told you that meant "Mighty Warrior" or "Mother". Well, helpful for your self-esteem. Less helpful if you really, really like steamed pork buns.1

But look at that sign. This doesn't strike me as a careless translation. It's either revenge by a poorly paid signwriter, or an attempt to acquire customers by mindbending them. I don't see how you can happen upon the name 'Medusa' without discovering anything about Greek myth, vis a vis gorgons.

And given Medusa's hairstyle (as I saw when I was in Taipei the time-before-last) and its effects on onlookers, it doesn't strike me as the best name for a hairdresser. Then again, if you only looked at the stylist via the mirrors, I suppose you'd be ok. Or is it dedicated to managing the coiffures of gorgons? In which case the accompanying picture seems largely unrepresentative, and I don't think it's a good idea to have snake-haired mythical creatures tooling around Central.

Not that I'm prejudiced. I mean, some of my best friends are mythical monsters. (A lesser man would inject a joke here about his mother-in-law being a basilisk, but I'm not married. And basilisks are unlikely to produce suitable spouses for people like me. In the sense that they'll be non-existent. I'm not trying to say that I think I'm too good for the daughter of a basilisk. I'm just saying ... Oh dear. Maybe I do have a prejudice against mythical monsters, and I've been living in denial all this time. Sorry. Still, I'm not the only one judging on surface appearance - just think of the bellowing woman from a few paragraphs earlier. Although maybe I'm unfairly ascribing judgments to her on the basis of her appearance. This is complicated.)

After all that, I found myself rooted to the spot, staring at this sign, like I'd been turned to stone. Irony, eh?

1 I don't have any tattoos, as I pointed out here, four years ago.


Minnie Bus said...

Do you realise that Mr Stopadoddledoo can also be read as Mrs Topadoodledoo?

Mr Cushtie said...

Only on Cross Dressing Thursdays.

Mind you, my funloving parents named my brother with the initials M.R.S., with inevitable hilarity when he first lived away from home and his housemates kept asking why all this mail was appearing, addressed to his (apparently invisible and silent) wife...

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