Archive for Language and advertising

Both Chinese and Japanese; neither Japanese nor Chinese

An ad for a new product of a Hong Kong cake shop went viral for taking pseudo-Japanese to the extreme:

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Technical Sauna at Buddy Hair

Another intriguing sign from Nagoya, Japan sent in by Nathan Hopson:

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Clogged drains and "Uncle Hanzi"

I spotted this photograph in an article that I'll describe below:

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The mysteries of 13.5

China is in the throes of hammering out its next five-year plan, on the model of the USSR.  For China, the current one they're working on is the thirteenth, so they refer to it as 13.5.  In Mandarin, that would be shísānwǔ 十三五.  Although the Communist bureaucrats think these five-year plans are hugely important, for the common citizen they are dreadfully boring.  For non-Chinese looking on, they are worse than boring, so — in an effort to explain and hype 13.5 to English speakers around the world, the Chinese Communist Party has sponsored the making of a glitzy-cutesy video that enjoins viewers to "pay attention to the shisanwu!"

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Charged with prejudice and paranoia

Peculiar ad for a portable charger from AliExpress:

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Pinyin spam text message

From David Moser:

Just got this spam text, all in pinyin, to avoid spam detectors. The usual spam offering fake certificates and chops, plus their Weixin contact. What's novel is the tone markings, don't see that very often.

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Drunk [on] US dollars

On June 9, 2012, Clement Larrive wrote:

I stumbled upon this sign while on a trip from Wuhan, Hubei to Shanghai.
Do you have any idea about what it really means ?

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This is "Konglish", not "Kongish".  We just finished studying the latter, which is Hong Kong style English, in this post, and surveyed other varieties of Asian English in this post, including Konglish,which is the subject of the present post.

Konglish is Korean-style English, and it seems to be thriving.

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Help wanted in Srinagar

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Bathroom ambiguity

Any self-respecting copywriter has a decent mastery of ambiguity. It’s a staple of advertising, but it takes some skill. It’s not that ambiguous language is difficult to find or construct—on the contrary, it would be no easy task to avoid using language that contains potential ambiguity. The trick is to use ambiguous language in such a way that a) the audience becomes aware of the ambiguity, perhaps at a specific, crucial moment in viewing the ad, and b) the two meanings rub against each other in a stimulating manner.

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Where's the bull?

There's quite a fuss in China these days over a product that is called niúròu sōng miànbāo 牛肉松面包 ("beef floss bread").  The problem is that there is no beef floss in the bread.  Even the ingredients state that whatever meat is in the bread is chicken.

For reports and photographs, see here and here.

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"Horse of Cart"

Tom Mazanec has been seeing a series of strange ads all over the Shanghai subway.  They're for a company that does one-on-one oral English practice over Skype, called

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"Purple mist coming from the east" cake

Here is an interesting picture that Francois Dube took today in a cakeshop in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui (Muslim) Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China:

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