Recently, Magazine Man wrote about his propensity for making errors when typing at great speed. Reading some of his classic errors brought to mind the unintentially hilarious stuff we used to get at my old office. I worked on a program that brought businesspeople, scientists, kiss-ass bureaucrats, dairy farmers, and all sorts of management-level folks from Eurasia (aka, the former Soviet Union) to the United States for training. Some came in delegations of 18 or so, for a month of intensive training (and shopping on USG per diem) while traveling to various spots around the country, and others were invited for 3-6 months of training with one company.
All the candidates for these programs are required to submit an internship application in English. And, while most of those I read were written in straightforward, if stilted, English (it helps to be a Russian speaker to understand the English sentence structure they use), some took deviations on the path to understanding.
There was, for instance, the oil company manager who was eager to see off-shore drilling rigs. He enthusiastically declared that he wanted "to be the master of (his) own erection." Good for you, sir! I'm sure that would be a proud moment, indeed.
Then, there was the doctor who was so excited to tell us about the new technology at his hospital. I'm assuming he was trying to describe ventilators or oxygen tents when he wrote of the great "blow jobs" available at his clinic. He even invited us to come see him if we ever needed a blow job. Generous offer, Gospodin Doktor. But I think I'll pass.
For some reason, our application asked for the candidate's hobbies, as if we were interviewing Miss America contestants. One man wrote that he enjoyed "taking the long walks on the water" as well as "the sport of displaying the muscles." Duuudes! Jesus is Russian and he likes to pump iron!
This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many stories. One that had no linguistic problem -but lots of social ones - was from a young male airline manager who wrote that women were irritating and annoying to deal with. He wanted to come on the program to see how American managers dealt with their bothersome female workplace antics and kept the ladies in line. (He did not make the program.)
All this reminds me of a story told to me by a friend of mine who is an interpreter. He worked on a program with one Russian participant who was a pain in the ass. My friend and one of his colleagues took the troublesome gent to lunch at a Black Angus steakhouse and gave him the skinny: either shape up or be shipped out, back to Moscow, asap. The guy cleaned up his act and stayed for the whole program. On the last day, the chastened and reformed gent got up in front of the group and all the American hosts and thanked my friend for taking him to "tasty black anus" and for showing him how he should behave...
I'm sure these stories continue on at my old workplace. Of course, since I was removed for being a Potential Axe-Wielding Murderous Menace®, I will never know. C'est la vie. And keep up the good work, oh torturers of the English tongue, wherever you are! A hearty belly laugh is a Good Thing.