From the annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams posted "Patent application of the day: six God toilet water itching" (11/24/15)
This is for Chinese patent application CN301200531 S, filed August 7, 2009 and published May 12, 2010.
The inventors (bless their souls!) are Yú Fāngfāng 于方方 and Shī Yì 施翼.
The original Chinese name of this wondrous product is:
liùshén zhǐyǎng huālùshuǐ 六神止痒花露水 ("Six Spirits itch stopping toilet water")
The translation given above is the same as that provided by Google Translate.
Baidu Fanyi has "Toilet water Liushen itching".
Bing Translator gives "Six itch toilet water".
I find it surpassingly weird that none of the translation software conveyed one of the key componenets of the Chinese, namely, zhǐ 止 ("stop"), which is what the toilet water is supposed to do to the itching (yǎng 痒).
Normally I would not write a post about a simple translation software error unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as that the results are intrinsically whimsical or poetic, or that they lead to other, interesting questions. In this case, the translation itself is funny, and explaining it reveals a number of interesting things about Chinese civilization.
It's strange that this patent was only filed in 2009, since the product was already available for purchase in 1990, after which it quickly became famous throughout China. According to this Baidu article, it is made by a Shanghai company and has captured as much as 70% of the toilet water market in China. Perhaps they retroactively filed the patent in an (undoubtely vain) attempt to ward off imitators and imposters.
The main ingredients are said to be pearl powder and musk (zhēnzhū fěn 珍珠粉 shèxiāng 麝香).
"Toilet water" may sound strange in the context of the mistranslation of the rest of the name, but it's simply the English version of "eau de toilette". If you want to know why it's called that, read this.
The standard Chinese translation for "toilet water" is that given in the name of the product under discussion: huālùshuǐ 花露水 (lit., "flower-dew-water"). Here's the Chinese Wikipedia article on that subject.
It's curious that the English version of Wikipedia takes you to the venerable Florida Water, which is an American version of Eau de Cologne, Kölnisch Wasser, or Cologne (Water).
All right, I've kept you in suspense long enough. What are those "six gods" or "six spirits" all about? In traditional Chinese culture, the concept of liùshén 六神 ("Six Spirits") can refer to several different sets of six supposedly numinous entities. These include these six organs of the body and their presiding spirits:
xīn 心 ("heart")、fèi 肺 ("lungs")、gān 肝 ("liver")、shèn 肾 ("kidneys")、pí 脾 ("spleen")、dǎn 胆 ("gall bladder")
The notion of "Six Spirits" conveys the idea of power and well-being, so they are often employed in the names of various pills and prescriptions.
Suffice it to say for this "Six Spirits itch stopping toilet water", if you're feeling itchy and apply it to your skin, then you're bound to feel good all over because it has "the power".
[h.t. Alex Baumans]