Thursday, January 28, 2016

More happy howlers to brighten up the dull days

Last year I wrote a post about some of the hilarious mistakes our international students have sometimes made when writing assignments for us. We teachers share these around as it gives us some (often) much needed relief from the grind of marking endless assignments on the same topics.

I was reminded of this recently when my publisher, Sunpenny Publishing, shared the post (I guess someone's been reading my blog then...that's nice to know) and I had a good chuckle all over again. So I thought it might be fun to let you see some more of them.

The students generally write a number of assignments during this particular course. The howlers I posted last time were all from job application letters, but they also do reports, proposals, minutes and Executive Summaries. Listed below are a few absolute peaches from each of these (my predicted reaction follows in brackets). I just love them!

I should confess I took them all from a list we collected and put in last year's course Reader as examples of what not to do, so apologies to my colleagues for plagiarising. However, since I helped to compile them, I don't feel all too guilty. So without further ado, here they are, starting with reports:


From a report on sick leave /absenteeism
The year can be divided into four extinct periods.... (Oh my word, did climate change finally get us?)
There were a number of employees missing in action (Come on, the job's not dangerous, is it?)
Employees without presence numbered 45% (Now that will never do...we want all our staff to stand out!)

Describing the trends of the sick leave/absenteeism (I am speechless about these. Still. No comment even possible)
The company experienced dropping sick leaves
There were employees with up and down fluctuations 
In January, there was an increasing amount of sick
Sick employees peeked in December
The number of
diseased personnel plummeted
There was an abrupt
plunge in sick sending numbers of employees plummeting down to ... 
This picture is depicted by the sluggish movement of the graph.....

(See what I mean...there really is NOTHING I can add to those...)

Proposal to senior management:
First of all, a Department of Red Tape should be created...  (Nooooooooo, not that!!!)
You should know better! (Um, I thought this was a proposal? Whatever happened to 'upward' communication. And yes, the student really did write that...)

Minutes of meeting:
The chairman claimed the meeting started at 14:00 (So where's the evidence then?)
No matters were aroused... (Right....erm...next item then. Quickly!!)
Mr T. exposed himself to the team.... (Oh my goodness, was that really necessary, Mr T?)
.....all those at the meeting were
inanimate... (I'm not surprised! They were shaken rigid by Mr T's exposé)

An Executive Summary about starting up a funeral parlour (I mean who would even think up such a business in the first place?)
Being dead is part of life... (No...really?)
We take care of every aspect whilst the deceased bids farewell (So being alive is also part of being dead?)
We need to encourage mouth to mouth advertising (Well, I suppose if you are trying to revive a dead business...)

That's the lot then - until next year maybe, but I'll keep collecting them. They are, after all, part of what makes my job worth doing, if you can believe that.

Do you have any happy howlers that you've come across in your line of work? I'd really enjoy reading them, so all contributions will definitely be welcome - the funnier the better!

20 comments:

  1. That did make me laugh Val. An employer I worked for used to say to us every morning," So who's missing in action today" I kid you not!

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    1. Oh lovely, Anne! That's one you'll never forget :)

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  2. Shaking my head in wonder at this lot. Much amusement in Brisbane this week when a new sign appeared at the Gold Coast: 'Queensland/New South Wales Boarder'. Both the State and Local Governments denied responsibility, but after the media had fun with it all, the sign was quietly replaced (when nobody was looking).

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    1. I can imagine, Patricia. What a slip up to make. I should add here that some of these howlers were made by native speakers as well. It makes them even funnier!

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  3. I know that I too have made glaring errors when using a foreign language and expect that it depended on the humour of the listener as to whether they frowned or laughed ?

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    1. Ah, Mel, so true. We indeed have a good laugh and we share them with the students too, who also laugh with us. As I said to Patricia, some of these were made by native speakers, so it's not only foreign students who get things wrong. I think we are all capable of howlers at times. In fact in the Netherlands, native speakers are foreigners too, but then the British and Americans come here so they can study in their own language at a much lower cost than in the UK.

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  4. Hi Val - those are all 'classic' ... but honestly I do wonder about our future generations ... perhaps we'll be back to living in trees and just grunting, or thumping chests ...

    I do see glaring errors ... laugh and bend my head in horror .. and then move on and forget - there are too many ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I see them everywhere in British publications too, Hilary, so no one can be excluded from such howlers. They are funny though. When we talk about them in class, we all have a good laugh!

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  5. I added my best howler to your last post. But I know I have trouble spotting my own - which is why I love my copy editor!

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    1. Oh Jo, don't talk to me about typos. I'd fill a book with howlers that way - all by myself! Thanks for dropping in from the jungle :)

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  6. The best part of the job, isn't it? One of my lovely 10 year-olds has a habit of just trying to say English words in a French accent in the hopes that the translation is direct and he can just sail by. The English word "plot", when translated directly into the French "plotte", is a very vulgar word in French Canadian urban slang for the female vagina. I spit out my coffee and delicately suggested that no one in the room ever use that word again. And then had to explain why. Laughter and mortified embarrassment ensued...

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    1. Oh Anne-Marie, my father used to do exactly the same thing. He had the French is hoots of laughter...I love this one. Poor kid must have been pink to the tips of his ears. Fabulous!

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  7. Love it. Reading this makes me angry all over again about the quantity/quality of language teaching in England - the vast majority of English kids would not be sufficiently proficient in a foreign language to make mistakes like this.

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    1. You have a point there, Stephanie, although I should say that these students have mostly had an English education at an international school already and some are even native speakers.

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  8. I laughed out loud at the news about the increasing amount of sick in January. What a horrible mental image that calls up!

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    1. That's one that really got us too, Jenny. It's so awful to think of it makes it even funnier!

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  9. My father imported chocolates to this country. He once receive a delivery labelled 'Touchy: chocolates' ..we decided it was a mistranslation of 'fragile'

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    1. I love it, Carol. I can just imagine it. "Please don't touch me, I'm feeling touchy" :)

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  10. Love these! Howlers like these certainly cheer up marking! Xxx

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    1. They do, don't they, Fran? They sort of give the joy back to teaching! xxx

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