The Sichuan's hair blood is prosperous

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More shabulengdengde poetry, from the menus of Chinese restaurateurs who put their trust in bad machine translations (as usual, click on the images for larger versions):

After all, who'd want to eat the hair blood of an impoverished person? Or a cowboy bone fried by a merely pentangular germ?

I shouldn't, but here's a couple more:

Though I'm disappointed at not being able to see the Hanzi, I'm already pondering possible recipes for a version of "Three text fish" to be served at my next dinner party.

"Saliva Chicken" might work as a rock band name, but I'm having trouble finding a context for "Husband and Wife Lung Slice". Maybe one of the titles in a series of Hannibal Lecter sequels?

[via Sara Scharf and Box of Badgers' photostream]



31 Comments

  1. Pekka said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    You most certainly should not post anything like this, except perhaps about once a week, or more often if really good ones show up! Though… wouldn't it be fair to occasionally draw the readers' attention to the reverse phenomenon of hanzi and kanji misuse, as discussed in Hanzi Smatter (see blogroll) and other places?

  2. Mark Liberman said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 10:31 am

    Pekka: … wouldn't it be fair to occasionally draw the readers' attention to the reverse phenomenon of hanzi and kanji misuse, as discussed in Hanzi Smatter…?

    Well, I didn't want to repeat myself.

  3. Rob Gunningham said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    'Norway three text fish' may refer to different names for cod in Norwegian dialect.

  4. Elad-vav said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:11 am

    "Husband and Wife Lung Slice" is a well-known Sichuanese dish that consists, if I'm not mistaken, of Ox lung and Beef Tripe in Chili sauce (or maybe it's the other way around). That's the usual name for this dish. And this is not the first time this question came up

  5. jagorev said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:17 am

    I mean, who among us wouldn't do the chicken cartilage, amirite?

  6. MMcM said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:27 am

    I think 三文魚 means 'salmon'.

  7. Ryan Rosso said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:42 am

    I, personally, would like to try "The city sauce tea tree mushroom fries the belly." I mean, I know I like cities, so city sauce must be pretty tasty. I like tea, tree-climbing, and mushrooms, and hopefully "fries the belly" means it is spicy. What a great combo!

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:43 am

    Elad-vav: "Husband and Wife Lung Slice" is a well-known Sichuanese dish.

    Oops, forgot to check.

    There are also some perhaps-revealing recipes on the web for "three text fish" (… "Three text fish the piece put on up the Jiao salt, full-bodied bind face powder behind, go into pan fried roast. Then go out fish bone.The lane is ground.The soil bean goes to a skin lane familiar, cut into slice …").

    But I'm still going to stick with my planned interpretation: grilled trout aside A River Runs Through It, Trout Fishing in America, and Slaughterhouse-Five. (Because broiled whale steaks on a bed of The Book of Jonah, Moby Dick, and Free Willy would be *wrong*.)

  9. MMcM said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 11:54 am

    sanwen. Get it? (Search also finds 三纹鱼.)

  10. Kyungjoon Lee said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    I was thinking that text fish might be 文魚, which is how the Korean word for octopus is written in Hanja.

    It turns out the word for octopus is written differently in Hanzi, and the word 三文魚 means salmon in Chinese. I guess it's a phonetic spelling of the English word "salmon."

  11. Sili said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

    At this rate I'll end up being able to recognise those characters …

    "Fuck" at least is simple.

  12. Matthew Austin said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

    三文魚: The Cantonese pronunciation is much closer to the English: saam-man-yu.

  13. Rob Gunningham said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

    I think fuck means fried.

  14. john riemann soong said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    The problem I think is that the names of Chinese dishes are often poetic, making abundant use of metaphor and idiom. (Where is my Long John Silver Jumps Over the Wall?) The kinds of things that tend to be badly translated.

  15. Ray Girvan said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

    Like Mother and Child Reunion.

    As to Three Text Fish, how about carp served with The Fisherman and the Goldfish, The Goldfish Went on Vacation and … erm .. The World According to Carp?

  16. dr pepper said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 12:39 am

    One Fish
    Two Fish
    Red Fish
    Blue Fish

  17. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 4:47 am

    This just in, from a Reuters article on China's Olympics makeover:

    Exotic names and alarming translations abound in Chinese restaurants which are being given a linguistic makeover, though only in select restaurants.
    Out goes the traditionally named "husband and wife's lung slice" appetizer which is being replaced by the more linguistically correct "beef and ox tripe in chili sauce".

  18. Nanci Yin said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

    u know , chinese english isn't very good , and of course , for what looks like this menu doesn't come from a rich restaurant or anything … , in the menu sounds good for the local people …. the menu doesn't mean any bad –'

  19. Lugubert said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

    For another language recipe experience, after five years I still regret that I didn't buy that Greek cookery book in Swedish.

    It went like, "Take your liver, wash it, and cut it into small pieces".

  20. Richard said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

    Should I be concerned that I may have eaten any number of these things when I was in China a few months ago? I never looked at the menu as my hosts always did the ordering. I never got sick once and returned to Canada a little fatter than when I left.

  21. Kanou said,

    August 1, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

    Does Chinese not use the character 鮭 for salmon?

  22. 28481k said,

    August 2, 2008 @ 10:44 am

    Kanou, yes and no.

    鮭 is the academic name, the official name of salmon but it isn't the common name used by laymen because it sounds unusual. Hence in daily discourse, it is 三文魚.

  23. Janine Libbey said,

    August 2, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    There are some good postings in a New York Times blog about new menu translations for the Olympics issued by the Chinese government.

    http://olympics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/chinese-food-translations-sweet-sour-and-downright-odd/

  24. Joe said,

    August 2, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

    all in all, their English is better then my Chinese

  25. JF said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    MMcM is right. "Norway three text fish" should be "Norwegian salmon" (literally "Norway sanwen-fish"). The characters for "sanwen" are simply a transliteration for "salmon". The mistake made by the translator was to translate "sanwen" character by character (literally, "three text"), instead of treating that as a transliteration for "salmon". Just a case of back translation not working at all. (English "salmon" –> Chinese "sanwen" –> Chinglish "three text")

  26. 液體蛋 (Liquid Egg Product) said,

    August 8, 2008 @ 8:33 am

    [...] foods: The Sichuan's hair blood is prosperous (please note some of the food items have "f***" in the translation. Just in case seeing [...]

  27. tanc(happyhippo) said,

    August 11, 2008 @ 12:34 am

    1. It's not "f** the fragrant chicken cartilage" but "dried fragrant chicken cartilage"

    2. "The Sichuan's hair blood is prosperous" is Sichuan style-flavoured dried blood (sort of) – the words sound really odd – could be a slang for some kind of local food.

    3. "The hexagonal germ fries the cowboy bone" is "Dried mushrooms and steak stir fry"

    4. "The oil fresh water fish f***" is "Fried fresh-water fish bladder"

    5. "Saliva chicken" is "mouth-watering chicken"

    6. "Husband and wife lung slice" means "2 fillets/slices of lung (presumably from pork/duck etc)"

    7. "Sauce cow" is "stir fry beef with soya sauce"

    All those "stab the body" food are referring to sea urchins.

  28. tanc(happyhippo) said,

    August 11, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    I just realised that my translation of

    "4. "The oil fresh water fish f***" is "Fried fresh-water fish bladder"" is likely to be wrong.

    Should be "Fried dried fresh-water fish."

    The problem herein is the mandarin of way of saying dried which is "gan" (干) and sometimes, some people misspell it from (肝) which means liver (but also pronounced in the same way phoenetically ie. sounds the same)

  29. Favorite Chinese Food... - Page 7 - BuckeyePlanet Ohio State Forums said,

    August 15, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

    [...] fresh-water fish [censored]s Language Log ? The Sichuan's hair blood is prosperous [...]

  30. Kevin said,

    October 4, 2008 @ 3:58 am

    @28481k
    @Kanou

    Kanou, yes and no.

    鮭 is the academic name, the official name of salmon but it isn't the common name used by laymen because it sounds unusual. Hence in daily discourse, it is 三文魚.

    AFAIK it's a regional difference, or a 'putonghua' vs 'guoyu' difference. In Taiwan salmon is 鮭魚; I have ordered such at several restaurants, seen it on menus, and discussed it with people. I never saw 三文 there.

    On the mainland, 三文鱼 seems to be the way to go. I've seen it on menus and eaten it at least once, I think.

    The real scandal is how much the restaurant was charging.

  31. Oops, forgot one said,

    March 5, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

    OK, this one is Korean, not Chinese, and the worst of it happens in the English to French part, but I think it's sufficiently awful to merit a link here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mangosteen/3224703477/in/set-72157594454983053/

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