You are welcome to it

There's an old joke (source: http://treebeard31.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/english-signs-in-foreign-countries/) about a sign on the door of a hotel room in Moscow saying:

Hotel Notice said:
If this is your first visit to the
USSR, you are welcome to it.
I don't know whether such a notice ever existed or someone just made it up, but what interests me is why this is supposed to be funny.

One way you could read is "We welcome you only if this is your first visit, but if it's your 2nd/3rd/xth visit, then we just don't care anymore (about you)" which wouild be similar to the way some companies seem to operate. ;) (those that always have some special offers to the new customers but seem to neglect the cliets who already use their services).

But I guess that's not it and I presume that I'm simply not aware of all the nuances of the adjective "welcome" here :D So I'd appreciate someone who could explain it to me. :)
 
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  • dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi Linguous,

    I'd would read it to mean that when you pay a visit to one of the countrries of the former USSR for the first time, you might have some expectations and think that, after all, it's not such a bad place to live in, thus 'You are welcome'.
    During your stay, though, you come to realise that it's a terrible place to live in, and then it becomes clear that you won't be welcome to it for the second time, because given what you saw, you'll simply not decide to visit the USSR ever again. :D

    That's only my intepretation, and I'm sure there might be more behind the joke.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Who would've thought! It's a wee bit similar to my intepretation -- what they have in common is that the USSR was not a very desirable place to visit. :)
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Linguos. what is the nature of the joke? You said it was a joke, so what was it supposed to mean according to you? Where did you get the joke from? Was it originally in English only? What times is the joke referring to -- before the 1990s, or later?

    The only thing that comes to my mind would be something similar to the sign at the entrance to Hell in Dante's Inferno (If you abandoned all hope -- enter). In this case welcome would be ironic -- meaning you are entering something really bad. We really need more context, though, I think.
     
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    sound shift, can "being welcome to something" imply such meaning that you want to get rid of something and have someone else take it from you in different contexts? Our forum dictionary gives only 4 meanings of welcome and none of them refers to this.

    LilianaB
    , first I found it in my book called Focus On Advanced English - CAE by Sue O'Connell, Longman.

    There's an exercise where the student is asked to identify and correct various mistakes from adverts, posters or notices made by non-natives. But it also appears on many websites with English jokes (like this one for example: http://www.joe-ks.com/Engrish.htm - I can understand most of the jokes from that page, but there are a few which aren't that clear to me; the example from this thread being one of them)

    The joke is definitely referring to the period when the USSR still existed, so before the year 1991. As for your other question (ie. what this joke could mean in my opinion), I think I have already answered it in my OP. ;)

    PS. Since sound shift, being from the UK instantly understood the joke, and LilianaB from the US did not, perhaps there is some BrE/AmE difference here when it comes to the use of tje adjective welcome?
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It does seem to be an idiom in BE.
    I wouldn't describe it as a joke, but rather a misunderstanding of an English phrase, which sounds hilarious to a native speaker (of BE?).
     
    Yes, you're right. It was originally not intended to be a joke (by the Russian translator working for that hotel), but it can appear as such to some native speakers apparently. Or perhaps this time I'm misusing the term joke here :D

    What's interesting, so far the only dictionary that provides a similar usage of welcome seems to be the Online Oxford Dictionary (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/welcome?q=welcome+to#welcome__6) However it doesn't indicate that this peculiar use is reserved only for the UK speakers.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Lingus, after I thought more about it, I think they are basically disjoint clauses. There is no real connection between the first visit and being welcome to something. It may also imply that you are welcome to the visit, not to the USSR, or the hotel.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    As sound shift says in post 3 -- and as I'm confirming is also true for AE speakers -- "You're welcome to it" can mean You can have it -- I don't want it. Take it away with you.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, definitely you are welcome to something is a reply to thank you -- if someone thanks you for something they received (you are welcome -- would be your reply), or something you may say when you want to encourage someone to take something he or she is free to take, eat more of the food offered, or join an activity, but there are also expressions like: You are always welcome here, in our house. To may really make the difference. And you are welcome here, or welcome in it -- would sound right, I think.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes, you're right. It was originally not intended to be a joke (by the Russian translator working for that hotel), but it can appear as such to some native speakers apparently.
    Let's get this straight once and for all. The sentence in question is just a very poor translation, as described by Sound Shift and Copyright, which was later made fun of in your book. People were joking about it.
    Given that, it's not so much a joke to me (because as you have noticed the translator didn't mean it as one), rather it is a funny mistranslation :)
     
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    Well, to me it is a funny mistranslation turned into a joke by the people who wrote the webpages I quoted. :)
    joke [dʒəʊk]n

    1.
    a humorous anecdote
    2. something that is said or done for fun; prank
    3. a ridiculous or humorous circumstance
    4. a person or thing inspiring ridicule or amusement; butt
    5. a matter to be joked about or ignored
    But I agree I shouldn't have used the term "joke" in the OP as it's apparently (for some people) confusing the issue of my main question (regarding the interpetation of being welcome to).
    My bad. ;)
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Let's get this straight once and for all. The sentence in question is just a very poor translation, as described by Sound Shift and Copyright, which was later made fun of in your book. People were joking about it.
    Given that, it's not so much a joke to me (because as you have noticed the translator didn't mean it as one), rather it is a funny mistranslation :)
    There's much more to it than that.

    The BE expression is well established. It's an extension of sour grapes. People might say this

    1. When someone asks if they can take something:

    A. Are you using this pencil? B. No, you're welcome to it. This is the polite use.

    Derived satirically from it is

    2. The impolite use, which I'll illustrate with a quotation from Chapter 20 of David Copperfield:

    'You romantic Daisy!' said Steerforth, laughing still more heartily: 'why should I trouble myself, that a parcel of heavy-headed fellows may gape and hold up their hands? Let them do it at some other man. There's fame for him, and he's welcome to it.'

    There's fame for him, and he's welcome to it means This is what fame amounts to in this case, ie. very little. It's without value and he can have as much of it as he wants because I wouldn't ever want anything so pointless.

    A BE speaker would readily read the sign at the hotel as meaning - if this is your first visit to X, you can come as often as you like because it's perfectly vile and no sane person would want to come. Of course, the BE speaker would also see how the idiom could be misunderstood and the error made, and the vicious pleasure of insider humour adds to the joke.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thomas, that's all very handy to know. Being a non-native speaker of English, I feel somewhat justified for not realising that 'there's much more to it than that'.

    (I must say, I was a bit surprised to see this long-forgotten thread revived.)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think you were entirely justified, my dear Dreamlike. I hope you didn't feel I was criticising you. I just thought there was a need for someone to try to explain why that notice is funny, and it is very funny.
     
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