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Founded in 1965, "The Brussels Times" is an English-language Belgian daily, news website and magazine, headquartered in Brussels. Aimed at EU officials, researchers, and diplomats, it focuses on Belgian news, EU affairs and opinion pieces. The Brussels Times also issues a bi-monthly print magazine, which is distributed for free in official EU institutions.
This Is Not An Omelet: Belgians Try To Crack Surreal Translation Mystery
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

This Is Not An Omelet: Belgians Try To Crack Surreal Translation Mystery

A road sign for a 'detour' gets lost in translation.

In a country with three official languages, French, Dutch and German, it's inevitable that some translations are going to get scrambled. But in Jette, a small town in Belgium, a recent road sign alerted drivers of an "Omeletje." Yes, that means "omelet" in Dutch, though it seems the translator simply jumbled the Dutch word for detour: "Omleiding."

As the Brussels Times quipped, several passers-by "questioned if the sign was really pointing people towards the well-known egg dish."

Photo: JorisPoschet via Twitter

Flemish news outlet Het Nieuwsblad quoted Bernard Van Nuffel, local chief for Public Works in the town north of Brussels, who said such language mishaps often occur when construction supervisors poach bad translations from the Internet. But right from the start, he said, this story smelled rotten, as the sign also included the French word "omelette" instead of "déviation" for "detour." And Van Nuffel noted, there was no traffic detour in the area.

Is there some creative wordplay being fried up? Van Nuffel suspects the work of a mysterious artist, as a similar sign appeared a few months ago in Laeken, a Brussels suburb.

Indeed, one local commented on Twitter a reminder that the 20th-century master of surrealism René Magritte was also Belgian. What is perhaps his most famous work, The Treachery of Images, features an illustration of a pipe, with the words (in French): This is not a pipe.

So you decide: Is that an omelet or a detour? Or both?

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