Bloomberg’s Warnings Lost in Translation

New York City has had one heck of a week. First, a mild earthquake shook the city. Then, just a few days later, Hurricane Irene blew in from the Caribbean. Luckily, the city dodged a bullet when the storm weakened before it struck land.

As New York breathed a sigh of relief and began to clean up Irene’s mess, one way people coped with the ensuing aggravation was through humor – and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a prime target.

You see, New York is a diverse city, and the two most commonly spoken languages are English and Spanish. To make sure the Spanish-speaking inhabitants were kept informed of the safety measures the city was taking, Mayor Bloomberg summarized them in Spanish. That’s definitely a nice gesture, but as you can see from the video below, young Mr. Bloomberg probably wasn’t the teacher’s pet in Spanish class:

Note the person laughing in the background and the decidedly uncomfortable expressions on the faces of the men behind him in the video.

But wait, it gets better. The Spanish evacuation instructions inspired one Twitter user to create a parody Twitter account, @ElBloombito. The account has become quite popular, gaining 8,419 followers in just a few days. Here are some of our favorite El Bloombito tweets from the past couple of days:

“Stay awayo para los next few days los parks y los trees. Que fall down. El BOOM!”

“Ay Ay Ay todos things are mucho wet!”

“No elevatorador serviso en el high rises por que no electrico para movo y no rescue. el sucko para you.“ #NYC #Irene

“El River de Easto es overflowando. Mucho agua en downtown! Necesito el snorkel!”

It will be interesting to see how long this goes on, now that Irene has passed.

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  1. […] Language Log, Mark Liberman rounded up hurricane variants and origins, while Ben Zimmer – and K International – had fun with the mock Spanglish of […]

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