I got this "weird names of signs" email forward the other day, and I thought I would include a few highlights while telling you this idea I'm kicking around that could prevent this very issue. Enjoy!
I don't know why, but I'm always coming up with ideas for businesses, some of them completely random and barely feasible. The latest one I have going has several problems, not least of which that it could be interpreted to be slightly weird xenophobic and/ or racist, even though it's totally not. Go with me on this. Did you ever pass by a restaurant or store of some kind, and the name of the establishment clearly indicates that the proprieter is....not a native speaker of English, and maybe wouldn't know if a certain combination of words sounded weird? I'm just saying, I think it would be totally helpful for people if they had someone they could ask. Do you not agree?
I'm talking about restaurants called "Chicken on Fire" and such, as well as this gem, "Chewy Balls." What do they serve there? I'm thinking that these hard working people come to America with a dream, and with just a simple combination of words, they've put themselves at a disadvantage, and I want to help.
I propose a hotline of sorts for non-native English speakers, where they can call to just casually run some names by a person who grew up in America, just so they can check to see if the combination of words ends them up with a food place called "Dung Palace," just because that sounded good in their language and they put the words through Babelfish or something, which gives you a literal translation but lacks the subtle nuances of "um....that doesn't mean what you think it means.".
Of course, the primary function of my service would be to just shoot down people's ideas, but ultimately it would be for the good of the business. The hotline person would have to say some harsh things, like "sir, no-- you cannot name your clothing store "naked man clothes happening.". Ideally this comment would be made by the person who issued the business license, but since that person is a civil servant and has a huge line of business hopefuls to get through, I'm guessing they're not going to take the time to give you the helpful feedback.
That's where my service comes in. Think about it-- one call, THOUSANDS of dollars saved in potential customers who find "Thai Bung Ho" unappetizing, and you don't even know why. Could also be useful for typos, and I mean this for both non-native English speakers AND people who just want to double check to see if "your's" is the right spelling for their advertisment or sign , or if it's going to turn people off that you run a sign-making store AND YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPELL.
What do you think? Obviously, several problems present themselves right off the bat, besides the possible racism inherent in telling people how to "talk good for America.".
For one, how would this service make money? Would advertisers pay for a mention during the phonecall? Or, would it be a website where you could email a live person for an opinion before you pull the trigger?
Also, how are people supposed to find out about this? This brings up the not-insignificant problem of advertising in English to people who don't speak English as their first language, kind of like when you see those billboards that say "learn English now!" and you think to yourself "shouldn't that billboard really be in Spanish or Chinese?"
Big Wong Restaurant? Really? Every single person that restauranteur ran that name by went "Yes. That is a GREAT NAME. Go with that."
How to Market a Book Not ironically, I wrote a book on how to market a book, and called it "How to Market a Book." I wish more writers would take the initiative to get out their on their own behalf, so I wrote up a set of instructions on how to do that.
Robert L. Forbes Website of Robert L. Forbes, children's book author. Check it out!