Pet Peeves of the Addis Spelling genre – Why?! Just why?!

Disclaimer – this entry would make sense if – only if – you can read and speak Amharic – at least the basics.

Am I the only one who is noticing that Addis Ababa’s shops are increasingly adopting English for their outdoor signage? This is nothing new. In fact, this issue has been the subject of many newspaper articles and radio/TV programs. Personally, I don’t care what language they use as long as it was properly written and made some sense – in terms of relevance. Recently, however, I have changed my stance on this. Now, I believe I preferred it when they simply had Amharic letters on their signage – not because I have anything against the English language. In fact, one of the reasons for this blog entry is the fact that I like all languages – as long as they are properly used. The other – more selfish one- is purely about the image this is giving us, as a city – and by extension – as a country. 

Take, for example, these examples taken straight from outdoor signage in various parts of our city – Adu-Genet. Spelling kept as original to make my point.

“Marry Fresh Fish and Chiken” – written on a wall on the way to CMC

Ok… why would I want to “marry” fresh fish AND – no, it’s not or – it’s AND chicken ( I have to “marry” them BOTH?!) . I’m guessing the owner is a lady called “Mary” or they want to refer to their leadership position in sales of Fish and/or chicken( which is the literal meaning of the word “ meri” in Amharic). There…if they used only Amharic, this wouldn’t have happened. Hear me out. If” Mary” is indeed the owner, I really would like her to think about changing her name to something she can spell. If that is not the case and they wanted to refer to themselves as the premier supplier of aforementioned fish and /chicken, maybe they should stick to “selling “and forget about using cheap contractors to paint their signage.

“Mobil sels ,mentenance & acesoriis “ – sign above a hole- in- the- wall- mobile phone shop in front Goulagol ( Is that how they spell this building, anyway?)

‘nuff said. I’m not buying ANYTHING in this place. I just don’t think they know what they are doing. Why? Because they spelled every SINGLE word wrong, that’s why! Ok, they got the “&” part correct but you can’t buy “&”…now; can you?

And what’s up with “xyz’s house” or “Shiro house”, “Whisky house”?

If I want to refer to the proprietor –or use anyone’s name- to mean the place is a popular joint to hang out at …just call it, for example ” Haimi’s”… not “ Haimi’s house” …that’s where she lives – not where business is conducted…please don’t ask what kind of business. I don’t want to go down another rabbit hole. 

If the house specialty is the extraordinary “Shiro” or the best of brown liquor… then please spare me the “ house” and just call it “ Maria’s Shiro“ or “Bobo’s Whisky”…by the same token – stop translating directly from Amharic – you will save yourself a lot of heartache. Don’t even get me started on what “couple’s house” is.

Let’s move on… aside from outdoor signage, menus and fliers also have embarrassing errors such as “ Paper stek” and “Kerten wolls” – in case you are wondering they meant – it’s “ Pepper Steak” and Curtain Walls”.

I understand that English is our second – and in some cases third- language. There is no need to massacre it like this, though. As a patron, I don’t care if the service/product provider doesn’t have his/her signage in English. I only care that they carry a reasonably priced, quality product. So, please spare me the sloppy translation and sloppier spelling. End of rant. For now:)

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