The car hit cheese bacon mushroom face

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Cheng Fangyi sent in the following priceless photograph from a Chinese menu:

Although overall the translation counts as a colossal fail, it actually only murders the first and last of the five words that constitute the name of dish in question:

chēdǎ 车打 ("cheddar"; the translator has made the mistake of rendering the surface signification of the constituent syllables of the transcription of the English word)

zhīshì 芝士 ("cheese"; if they had mistreated this word the way they did the first word [by rendering the syllables individually instead of as phonetic representations corresponding to parts of the English word], the translator might easily have misconstrued this as "sesame scholar"))

yānròu 腌肉 ("salted meat; bacon")

mógu 蘑菇 ("mushroom")

miàn 面 ("pasta; spaghetti")

The translation of the last word as "face" instead of "pasta" or "spaghetti" is a good example of the type of mischief played by mishandling of simplified characters. The problem arises from the fact that the simplified character miàn 面 has collapsed two traditional characters into one:

miàn 面 ("face; surface")

and

miàn 麵 ("flour; pasta; spaghetti; noodles")

The full form of the Mandarin word for "noodles" is miàntiáo 麵條.

Obviously, there is no Sinitic word for "cheddar", but there is one, actually at least three, for "cheese", namely, nǎilào 奶酪, rǔlào 乳酪, and gānlào 干酪. Nonetheless, contemporary Chinese are very fond of using one of the many possible transcriptions of the English word rather than one of the indigenous Chinese terms.

I'm still in Cardiff, Wales (see "From the British royal big breast secret bookcase"). All this talk of cheddar cheese prompts me to hop across the Bristol Channel and go to the eponymous village of my favorite pressed curd.

While I'm in that Somerset village of southwest England, perhaps I should check out the digs of Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest intact human skeleton, who clocks in at over 9,000 B.P.

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16 Comments »

  1. Bob Violence said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 4:28 am

    Well, it's reasonable to assume they didn't use Google or Baidu Fanyi for this menu. Google gets "cheddar" right and uses a different (but still incorrect) translation for 面 ("Cheddar cheese bacon and mushrooms surface"). Google translates 面 by itself as "surface," so presumably that's the default whenever it encounters the character outside of a recognizable context. But Baidu defaults to "noodles" and thus manages to come up with "Cheddar cheese, bacon mushroom noodles." (I'm puzzled why it only inserted a comma between "cheese" and "bacon.")

  2. The Ridger said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 5:56 am

    I would guess it recognizes "cheddar cheese" as a unit.

  3. Faldone said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    Which still doesn't explain why they didn't put a comma between bacon and mushroom. They might have put one between mushroom and noodles, too, but I can see why they wouldn't.

  4. Frank said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    I am also puzzled that why the google Fanyi put "and" between bacon and mushrooms, and why it didn't insert a comma between cheese and bacon?

  5. RodMcGuire said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

    perhaps I should check out the digs of Cheddar Man, Britain's oldest intact human skeleton who clocks in at over 9,000 B.P.

    While there, maybe you can get access to the skull cup from 14,700 BP to eat your car bacon mushroom noodles from.

  6. Derek said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

    Rendering "cheddar cheese" as "車打芝士" (Jyutping: ce1daa2 zi1si6*2, with 士 undergoing a tone change) is so unmistakably Hong Kong Cantonese to me that I wonder if the picture was taken in a southern city like Shenzhen or Guangzhou, or if the restaurant is run by a Hong Konger.

    In particular, I rarely encounter "打" () in transcriptions of foreign names into Mandarin; "達/达" () seems to be the standard. Indeed, the Chinese Wikipedia, Baidu Baike and Hudong Baike all give "切達/切达" (not sure if it's qiēdá or qièdá) as the Mandarin transcription for "cheddar".

    On the other hand, "打" (daa2) is at least somewhat common for transcription into HK Cantonese. Besides "車打", there's "畢打街" (bat1daa2 gaai1) for Pedder Street, "打比道" (daa2bei2 dou6) for Derby Road, etc.

    But then, bacon is usually known in HK as "煙肉" (JP: jin1juk6 / PY: yānròu) rather than "腌肉" (JP: jim1juk6 / PY: yānròu, same as "煙肉"), so I don't know how valid my guess is.

  7. Leslie said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    Ditto to Derek, "車打" is almost certainly Hong Kong Cantonese. There's also "周打", which means "chowder," also a very common transcription in Hong Kong.

  8. hanmeng said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

    What about 培根 for bacon (not just for Sir Francis)?

  9. Bob Violence said,

    June 3, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

    Foreign chain restaurants (which tend to enter the mainland market via Hong Kong) often retain the Hong Kong-style transcriptions on their menus instead of changing them to reflect normal mainland usage. For example, Google shows that mainland Pizza Huts have or had a dish called 车打芝士香肠意面 (spaghetti with sausage and cheddar cheese sauce), which is presumably an example of this; the menu pictured could be another. While I would expect Western chains to have more coherent English on their menus, this is unfortunately not always the case.

  10. michael farris said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 2:31 am

    What I want to ask about is the Huakoo, not so much the hua which looks like normal pinyin for the character but koo for the second? AFAIK -oo isn't a final in pinyin, is it from ko? kou? an anglification of ku?

    Where did the -oo come from?

  11. Anselm Lingnau said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 2:37 am

    If you did go to Cheddar you'd notice that the place no longer actually takes part in the manufacture of cheese, its main agricultural product these days being strawberries (!). Or at least that was the case when I visited there a few years ago. Global warming?

    But no matter, Cheddar is still »the single most popular cheese in the world«. (According to Monty Python, anyway.)

  12. john said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 5:03 am

    Derek/Leslie: zh.wikipedia agrees with you.

    m.farris: the word is kù 库 from huakoo.com

  13. Just another Peter said,

    June 7, 2012 @ 1:09 am

    Of course, I'd translate that phrase as "Spaghetti carbonara"

  14. Not My Leg said,

    June 7, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    @ Just another Peter

    I don't know what passes for spaghetti carbonara where you are, but I certainly hope it doesn't include cheddar cheese, and that it does include eggs (I would object to the mushrooms as well, but that's not so bad).

    Getting all prescriptivist about pasta up in here!

  15. Just another Peter said,

    June 7, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    I was going at least partly by the picture, which does not look like cheddar cheese.

  16. Michael Rank said,

    June 9, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

    An Englishman writes, "…the translation counts as a colossal fail". Is "fail" a noun in American English these days?

    [(myl) Duh...]

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