This morning I was teaching an English class, and the textbook we were using included a short article explaining how to make a banana split. After the students had read it I asked one of them if she now understood the meaning of banana split, and she said, “Yes, in Chinese we call it ‘banana ship ice cream.'”
This evening, I was chatting with another student (different class, different textbook, different city), and we got to talking about bad machine-translated menus. I mentioned that I’d recently seen “legal toast” on a menu in Taiwan (for “法式吐司”; the first character can mean either “law” or “French”), and she said that in China she’d seen “banana ship” on several menus. “What was it really?” I asked. “A kind of ice cream,” she said.
As I now know, the Chinese for “banana split” is “香蕉船冰淇淋” — literally, “banana boat ice cream” (or “ship”; Chinese doesn’t distinguish between the two). I’d never encountered that expression before, and running into it twice in one day was quite a coincidence.