Choke a small chili

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Paul Obrecht called to my attention the fact that the phrase "choke a small chili", which is widely used on Chinese wholesaling websites (especially for jewellery and accessories), gets 1.5 million Google hits (it received 307,000 ghits when I checked at 6:16 p.m. Tuesday evening, but that's still a lot for such an unusual expression).

"Choke a small chili" is an inept translation of "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒", the nom du web of Wei Qing and Wei Dan, a pair of toothsome, trendsetting twins from Chongqing who appear as models in a lot of online sales listings. The sisters are known as MiuMiu and Viviandan in English.

Note that Miu Miu is a brand of women's clothing and accessories from the Prada fashion house and that there are any number of fashion designers named Vivian or Vivienne.

A gallery of pics.

Chinese version of the Olsen Twins?

I mentioned above that "choke a small chili" is an inept translation of "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒".  " Qiāng kǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒" should be understood as "qiāng kǒu de xiǎo làjiāo 呛口的小辣椒", i.e., "a small chili that chokes [you because it is so spicy / hot]".  I would simply translate their model's moniker as "little spicy chilies" or "little hot chilies" because qiāngkǒu 呛口 in this context implies "[so spicy / hot that it makes you] choke".  Since the twins are from Chongqing, which prides itself on having the spiciest / hottest, numbingest hotpot anywhere, "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒" is a fitting name for them.

In addition, I'd wager they were not unaware that "Little Spicy Chilies" evokes the flavor of the British pop group known as the Spice Girls.

[Thanks to Fangyi Cheng, Brendan O'Kane, Jing Wen, and Rebecca Fu]

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10 Comments »

  1. Jon Lennox said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 11:47 am

    Could they be referencing the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well?

  2. Keith M Ellis said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    Okay, so the inept translation of their collective Chinese name on the web into English becomes (somehow) algorithmically associated with the translation of their individual names into their English versions, which in turn causes automatic translation to produce the inept translation when given the Chinese forms of the names of English brands/designers that happen to be the same as their English names?

    That's the closest I can manage to understanding how this comes about. Or am I very confused?

  3. Victor Mair said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

    @Keith M Ellis

    Their collective name in Chinese is "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒". That has been maladroitly translated into English as "choke a small chili", and the latter has stuck. So now "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒" = "choke a small chili". That's about it. Their individual names in Chinese and in English don't matter in this equation regarding their collective name.

  4. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

    I would simply translate their model's moniker as "little spicy chilies" or "little hot chilies"

    Or perhaps "Choking Hot Chilis", which sounds like an artful play on "smoking hot"?

  5. JS said,

    April 30, 2014 @ 9:10 pm

    though Keith is on point in the sense that "choke a small chili" would have originated with machine translation of web texts

    and as of now at least, Google Translate says "viviandan" means "小辣椒"…

  6. Keith M Ellis said,

    May 1, 2014 @ 8:15 am

    That doesn't explain why this translation appears as the text to many thousands of merchandise descriptions, most of which do not have these models in photographs but possibly are for products with those other English names. Even if the models do appear in accompanying product photography, why would their identities be involved at all with a product description?

  7. Bob said,

    May 1, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

    sexy girls = spicy sisters, has been a Taiwanese term for more than 10 years. It appears now, that sexy = spicy has been blown across the strait.

  8. Adrian said,

    May 2, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

    I've trawled through the Google results and found 542 examples, though most of them come from just half a dozen websites, e.g. aliexpress.com. Google's "removing similar results" search yields just 61 ghits.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    May 6, 2014 @ 11:51 pm

    Between 12:30 and 12:40 a.m. on 5/7/14, I did the following searches for "qiāngkǒu xiǎo làjiāo 呛口小辣椒"

    Google Translate "choke a small chili" 308,000 ghits

    Baidu Fanyi "small mouth choking pepper" 207,000 ghits

    Bing Translator "choke a little chilli" 858,000 ghits

    Image searches that are linked to the respective translations:

    Google Translate "choke a small chili"

    Baidu Fanyi "small mouth choking pepper"

    Bing Translator "choke a little chilli"

  10. KaisaK said,

    May 8, 2014 @ 9:12 am

    I guess the sisters are 辣妹子!

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