Tuesday, March 30, 2010

War on Chinglish (15)

join hands

Whenever there is an announcement of an overseas company embarking on a new collaborative project with some Chinese enterprise, you will always encounter these words. I assume it is a set phrase in Chinese that is just being translated literally. As I've complained before, if the Chinese read more authentic English, and read it more attentively, they ought to develop a better awareness of the contexts in which phrases like this are used - and thus of why it sounds so wrong here.

AA members join hands to show solidarity with each other at the end of their meetings.

Eco-protesters join hands to form a protective human chain around a threatened tree or duckpond.

Bible-lovin' American families join hands before a meal to channel the power of prayer.

Maria and the Von Trapp children join hands to go gambolling across Alpine meadows.

International businesses do not join hands.

They partner with

or cooperate with

or establish a joint venture with.

Surely this is simple enough? Only people can join hands, not institutions. And mostly only very touchy-feely people.

So, please, if you are writing legal English or business English or academic English or even plain old journalism, ditch all this happy-clappy drippy hippy tree-hugging crap about joining hands.

[This is, in fact, just one instance of a much wider problem that Chinese writers of English are usually oblivious to different registers of language, and are far too prone to wanting to use language that is inappropriately emotive, metaphorical, colourful, or colloquial.]


The Weeble said...

It's a direct translation of the Chinese 联手, which, literal meaning aside, simply means "to partner with."

Froog said...

Ah, literal translations - dontcha hate 'em?