The other day I stopped by a store in Boston’s Chinatown district to grab some ingredients for a stir-fry dish. I’m not a stickler for authentic Chinese meals, but I am a bargain hunter and this grocery store has excellent prices. It is also located right next to a café that sells bubble tea, for which I have a newfound affection.

Stores like this one are a lot of fun. They have a bunch of interesting foods, like huge chunks of pure sugar cane, or buckets full of slithering yellow eels. For writers and connoisseurs of the English language, they provide another amusement: mistranslated product labels, like this one:

It’s full of hilarity. Most obviously comical is the picture on the front of the package. A school of fish? Do we really want to know what the fish looked like in their natural habitat before they were reduced to seasoning? And what’s that close up in the bottom left corner? Rice? Fish scales? A horde of maggots?  Is that supposed to be the seasoning in question?

Visual entertainment aside, I personally have a lot of fun with the language itself. Fish making delicious seasoning. I love that it’s called “delicious seasoning,” as opposed to the other kinds of disgusting seasoning. I also love that the fish seem to be making the seasoning. If the fish are making it, what’s it made of? The great thing is that there are entire websites dedicated to mistranslations like this, so the entertainment is practically endless.

For aspiring writers, I think there’s a secondary benefit to this packet of seasoning. Since we’re always thinking about language, we know that the reason this label is funny is because they’ve mixed up their subjects. What they meant to say is that the seasoning is made out of fish, not that the fish are hard at work grinding up the dried up bodies of their friends to make a powder we can use in our soups. These fish are just another reminder of how important correct grammar is, and how simple mistakes can devastate the meaning of our words.

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