The big deal

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The following signs are posted in the rest room of a cafe in the fashionable Houhai district of Beijing:

The large lettering in pink at the top decalres:

Jìnzhǐ dàbiàn 禁止大便 ("Defecation [the greater convenience] Forbidden")

The first line in Chinese of the sign in orange lettering below, though cutesy, is fairly straightforward:

Zhǐ kěyǐ xūxū ó
只可以嘘嘘哦
"Yo!  All you can do here is take a pee."

The second line of Chinese on the bottom sign is a bit more challenging to read:

Guǎndào jiào xì, qǐng liàngjiě
管道较细,请谅解
"The pipeline is a bit small; please understand."

What's curious is that the English translation of the second line given on the bottom sign ("I'm not available to accept the big deal……") is not at all a direct translation of the Chinese, but rather an independent paraphrase that playfully personifies the toilet.

This is a definite improvement over some of the other "greater / lesser convenience" signs we've examined in the past:

"Linguistic Advice in the Lavatory: Speaking Mandarin is a great convenience for everyone". 9/11/2007
"Urination is inhuman", 2/6/2011

[A tip of the hat to Maddie Wilcox and Sijie Ren]

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10 Comments »

  1. dom said,

    September 20, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

    doesn't that say 可以, not 可小?
    —————————————————————–
    VHM: Dom, you're probably right, so I've corrected it now.

    I originally had:

    Zhǐ kě xiǎo xūxū ó
    只可小嘘嘘哦
    "Yo! All you can do here is take a small pee."

    And that is how some of my Chinese friends read it (probably in a hurry!).

  2. Robert said,

    September 20, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    I think the normal turn of phrase for this is "No solids". I wonder how that would end up if translated directly.

  3. Chris said,

    September 20, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    Alas, if I were relying on the English alone (as I would have to, not knowing any Chinese), I wouldn't get that all defecation was prohibited. Instead, I'd interpret this sign as an instruction to flush multiple times throughout the course of my business if I were, ahem, depositing a large load.

  4. KAMiKZ said,

    September 20, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    Well, if one can't do the big deal here, that certainly makes his pipes a bit awkward…

    I think the "deal" part came about because they wanted to substitute the usually wording with something that also comes in pairs and one being the greater, the other the lesser.

  5. maidhc said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 4:36 am

    I guess I would miss the point here, as I'm more used to requests not to flush tampons and other non-human-waste items.

  6. Mark F. said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

    One novel trait about this sign, as compared to other Chinese/English signs that show up here, is that the person who made it obviously knows English.

  7. Belial said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

    "Here you have your own WC."

    "…into which we do not pass solids."

  8. Pekka said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

    Can I ask for a post about these English-Cantonese(?) signs please?

    A photo of some signs

  9. Xmun said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    Thank you, Pekka, for the laugh. I (and others, no doubt) await enlightenment.

  10. Jerome Chiu said,

    September 21, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

    @Pekka

    The result of some Hongkongers' self-mocking humour.

    Remember that phrases like "people mountain people sea" or "Where are you?" are other famous examples, the hilarity of which are of course limited by the very fact that it's produced by design.

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