Lost in Translation: The Funniest English Shirts I’ve Seen in China

Lost in Translation: The Funniest English Shirts I’ve Seen in China

While you're out and about today, have a look at how many people are wearing English-language t-shirts. Lots, right? The funny lines and squiggles on these shirts will probably have generic or boring slogans (Broadcast News, the Supreme Court of Justice) or sometimes nonsense (Power Girl Pie) but probably nothing too offensive. Still, I highly recommend that those who can't read English have someone/thing translate the message to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Here are some notable examples that I've seen in Guangzhou:

1) I don't want to be your friend, I want to be your lover 
I saw this on a young woman in a village about 40 minutes from Guangzhou. She looked somewhere between 20 and 25, slim, presentable and probably would have little trouble getting a boyfriend if she tried. Apparently though, she still felt the need to loudly advertise that she was on the market.

2) My Daddy is my Superhero
This looked cute on my son when he was a year old but a little creepy on a grown man I saw wearing this on the street one day.

3) F**k the Power
It's totally a good idea wearing this openly on the street in China, right? Thankfully for this middle-aged man, most of the local chengguan or police probably couldn't read it either.  

4) Disco Girl
One of my old students, a six-year-old boy, wore this to class at least twice. Even if mum or dad couldn't read the words, the liberal use of soft pink colour, the flowers and the fake sparkles on the shirt should have given a pretty big clue that this was meant for a girl.  

Then there are the shirts with band names and logos that are instantly recognised by Westerners but very few Chinese. About 6 months ago, I noticed my teaching assistant wearing an AC/DC 'Back in Black' t-shirt. I was quite impressed that she was a fan of this Australian rock band and asked her how long she'd been listening to their music.

She looked at me blankly and replied that she didn't know it was a band, she just liked the colour and design of the shirt. I told her what it was then showed her an online clip of AC/DC performing live. The look on her face was priceless and it's safe to say she's never looked at that shirt in the same way again.    

I was having a conversation about this topic with a workmate just recently. He told me that one day a girl of about 12-13 wore a Nirvana t-shirt to class. He did the same thing as me—told her who this band was and played one of their songs. Apparently she was not the least bit impressed and he never saw her wearing that shirt again.     

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Keywords: Funny English shirts in China English shirts in China

25 Comments

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1

SenseiSteve
comment|73083|305724

I met a hot girl on the bus once wearing a fake Nike T-Shirt, that read "Just do me." Who would have guessed she was a nymphomaniac?

Sep 09, 2016 13:38 Report Abuse

2

Guest14687032
comment|71307|1631892

One of the funniest t-shirt I ever saw was one in German, it said, "Shut your mouth, fart face."

Jun 01, 2016 10:38 Report Abuse

3

mahanshanghai
comment|71206|1631974

I saw quite a funny one which said literally, "Curiositr killed your virginity"

May 26, 2016 15:48 Report Abuse

4

scericksonchina
comment|71104|1629706

Used to think those tshirts are pretty dumb, then remembered there are thousands of Americans walking around with equally dumb Chinese slogans tattooed on their skin so we can't really judge

May 20, 2016 10:24 Report Abuse

5

ppzechinacity
comment|70894|303812

no pictures, no fun :(

May 11, 2016 15:40 Report Abuse

6

Guest743842
comment|70857|82649

The best one I've seen simply said "WE COPY"

May 10, 2016 13:46 Report Abuse

7

adb2014
comment|70851|287190

I have another one to add: Just this morning I saw a guy in the local metro station wearing a t-shirt that said 'will you marry me?' in huge letters. I know that wives can be hard to find but seriously...

May 09, 2016 22:57 Report Abuse

8

romit.r
comment|70839|77651

In Nanning, Guangxi, mostly worn by college girls - "I'm not easy but we can discuss it"

May 08, 2016 19:53 Report Abuse

9

adb2014
comment|70852|287190

Oh dear. Usually by the time they reach college, they should have learnt enough English to be able to read that. It seems that they might have misinterpreted the meaning.

May 09, 2016 22:59 Report Abuse

10

eve89
comment|70837|269829

My favourites include: "I am not perfeot but I am vmited edition" (sic), "alcoholic" & "lucipher".

May 08, 2016 00:12 Report Abuse

11

Shantytown
comment|70827|270545

At the construction site opposite my apartment one of the construction workers' had on a t-shirt in the exact order saying: "Sh*t:F**k:Life:Love it". It seemed very appropriate as he jumped on laughing onto one of those three wheeler looking small tractors with other workers piled on each other. I have that phrase in my head most of the time when things are going pear shaped I just think of that t-shirt and smile.

May 07, 2016 02:06 Report Abuse

12

Kenobius
comment|70824|1587448

Sick and tired is very popular in Beijing)))

May 06, 2016 17:03 Report Abuse

13

kuntmans
comment|70822|307009

haha, bit like when westerners get tattoos with Chinese characters saying things like 'sweet n sour chicken' or some such nonsense

May 06, 2016 16:47 Report Abuse

14

Lord_hanson
comment|70836|279026

Yup, I never get why someone would get a tattoo in a language they don't understand.

May 07, 2016 19:33 Report Abuse

15

Chaynes
comment|70817|1625834

"Kate Moss and some pizza slices" is a popular one where I live.

May 06, 2016 12:47 Report Abuse

16

Chaynes
comment|70818|1625834

I've also puzzled over, "You are not the person you should be Mr. Rogers you are not the person you should be anymore"

May 06, 2016 12:49 Report Abuse

17

adb2014
comment|70821|287190

Maybe that's a line from a movie?

May 06, 2016 15:06 Report Abuse

18

annce
comment|70834|1627970

I think it's from a tv show actually, "mom" if I recall

May 07, 2016 17:18 Report Abuse

19

seansarto
comment|70807|58486

Wearing the band shirts is just hipster camouflage...

May 05, 2016 17:21 Report Abuse

20

Lord_hanson
comment|70805|279026

I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that said "I don't need a girlfriend, I get f*cked by the government all the time".

May 05, 2016 16:09 Report Abuse

21

annce
comment|70833|1627970

:D :D love it!

May 07, 2016 17:13 Report Abuse

22

Guest388182
comment|70801|43131

How 'bout the signs, like "beware of grass stampede" or "Careful falling into water"...

May 05, 2016 13:33 Report Abuse

23

Guest388182
comment|70800|43131

how 'bout all the people, including moms and dads, wearing shirts with marijuana leafs...

May 05, 2016 13:31 Report Abuse

24

RandomGuy
comment|70802|1589639

Wait! That's not TCM magic tea leaf?!

May 05, 2016 14:15 Report Abuse

25

Guest388182
comment|70799|43131

The Wh Audryphenia

May 05, 2016 13:29 Report Abuse