Literal translation — a word-per-word technique that doesn’t take any context into account — very rarely yields an accurate reading, and sometimes just results in complete nonsense. Nowhere is that principle more obvious than in this hilarious map of the United States, posted by Reddit user hashtagelf, which shows the literal translation of Chinese characters for US state names.
As you can immediately tell, the translations are completely absurd. California means “to add profit and luck to Asian Buddhist nun,” while Massachusetts translates to “horse nirvana reachers various unenlightened.” Some state translations sound a bit more coherent. “This prestigious healthy star” wouldn’t be the worst motto for Wisconsin, and “to attain and gather Buddha homes” might make sense to some people in Florida.
Other names, if analyzed deep enough, might actually make sense. Anyone trying their luck in Las Vegas probably hopes to “attain magnificence inside,” Kentuckians likely agree that they “consent to basic morality,” Arkansas’ “oh, to consent to color” makes sense in a historical context, and Wyoming’s “suddenly bright bosom” is just plain funny.
But we can all agree on “beautiful country,” which is the literal translation of “America” itself.
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