McDonald’s new billboard written in Hmong. Sort of.

Billboard slogans are usually short and catchy, but a new McDonald’s billboard apparently reads more like a run-on sentence with most of the words mashed together, according to Pioneer Press reporter Frederick Melo.

Here’s what the billboard near the corner of Lexington and University avenues says:

“Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj mus.”

Confused? It’s written in Hmong. Sort of.

Melo tells us:

That loosely translates in Hmong to “Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.”

He adds:

But Hmong residents who have seen the ad say the language is too literal and words have been mashed together. “It sounds weird in Hmong because we don’t really talk like that,” said Bruce Thao, 28, a St. Paul resident and doctoral candidate in social work. Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words.”

Who translates ad slogans for the fast food giant? I left a voicemail for McDonald’s to find out. No word yet.

Of course, a poorly translated billboard might make some Hmong speakers feel slighted. But if the fast food giant’s billboard turns out to be an epic fail, it would join a long list of billboards and other signs with a message lost in translation.

In China, the number of incorrect (and often hilarious) signs led to the creation of a group called the Shanghai Commission for the Management of Language Use.

According to the New York Times:

Fortified by an army of 600 volunteers and a politburo of adroit English speakers, the commission has fixed more than 10,000 public signs (farewell “Teliot” and “urine district”), rewritten English-language historical placards and helped hundreds of restaurants recast offerings.

The paper compiled a photo slideshow of some of the worst offenders.

There’s a white-paper sign that pleads, “Please forgive to be incontinent for interior decoration.” And there’s a yellow sign that looks like it’s meant to warn you of a slippery floor. Instead, it says, “Execution in progress.”

If you’re looking for a good place to waste an hour on the internet (and who isn’t?) check out the Times slideshow of nearly 200 user-submitted photos of similar signs from around the world.

I’d venture to say that being perplexed about the grammar of an ad for a 450-calorie “Sausage McMuffin with Egg” isn’t as bad as being confused about whether a hallway is being mopped or someone is being executed.

  • Brad K.

    Thumbs down for a professional journalist trying to casually slip in a fad phrase like “epic fail.” MPR doesn’t need to try and impress 19-year-old World of Warcraft players to be cool.