Daniel Waugh sent in the following eight photographs taken between 1995 and 2009. Since they are all related to his travels in the Xinjiang region and thence down into India, I have decided to treat them as a set.
The first three are from a men's room at the Gez checkpoint on the Karakorum Highway (KKH) south of Kashgar. Also, for decor above urinals, see the one at the end of the batch (this one at the Ai cave site), with a photograph of Mt. Rainier (but no signs as to where to point what you are doing…). The snake warning sign is along the path above Lake Kanas in the northern tip of Xinjiang. I think its real intent was to keep people from trampling the not so wild (they apparently have been planted) wild flowers. The last couple are not so much for linguistic analysis, though I think the "marriage reassembling" is an interesting concept. That one was taken in Delhi. The "relax" sign is in one of those precipitous stretches of the KKH above the Hunza Valley just before you get to Karimabad (Baltit). I was riding a mountain bike along that stretch of the road.
The Chinese on the first two signs reads:
xiàng qián yī xiǎo bù, wénmíng yī dà bù 向前一小步，文明一大步
("one small step forward; one big step for civilization")
tiējìn wénmíng, kàojìn fāngbiàn 貼近文明， 靠近方便
("stick near to civilization; lean close when relieving yourself")
These exhortations remind us of earlier Language Log posts on related subjects:
- "Linguistic Advice in the Lavatory: Speaking Mandarin is a great convenience for everyone"
- "One small step for…"
- "Remembering Neil Armstrong and his 'one small step'"
- "One small step backwards"
- "Armstrong's abbreviated article: notes from the expert"
Leopold Eisenlohr provides transliteration, translation, and two paragraphs of annotation for the Uyghur versions:
aldigha bir kichik qädäm basqiningiz, mädäniyliktä bir chong qädäm alghiningiz
"Your having stepped one small step forward, [copula] your having taken one big step in civilization"
And the second:
mädäniy bolup, yeqinraq turup taharät qiling
"Being civilized, standing closer do taharät (going to the bathroom)"
The first one does have parallel structure in both halves, but is very long and clunky and unnatural sounding. It seems to me to be secondary to the Chinese. Also, taking a big step IN civilization makes less sense than mädäniylikkä, towards civilization. Mädäniylik is literally "civilizedness." I think a more natural sounding phrasing would have something like basqisingiz, "if you step…" But to my ear this is one of those ideas that would be phrased in completely different ways depending on the language, and it does look like the Uyghur is trying to be a direct translation from the Chinese.
The similarity between mädäniy and 文明 is interesting. The Arabic root connotes urban, urbanized, civilized, polished, refined (and now secular, civil) and is the root of madīnah, city. So the extension of meaning to being cleanly in public is not as distant from its original as that of wenming, the 'brightness of literary culture.' An alternative word to mädäniy doesn't jump out at me, though, and maybe that is the most natural sounding word for the idea of being respectfully cleanly. The second sign doesn't try for symmetry but just gets to the point: be civilized, stand closer, and do your business.
The big sign instructing people how to cross the street reads as follows:
Bānmǎxiàn lǐràng guò rén chē héxié xiàoyán duō
斑马线 礼让过 人车和谐笑颜多
At the zebra crossing cross politely; people and vehicles will be harmonious and there will be lots of smiling faces
"Zebra crossing" may sound strange to American ears; we usually just refer to that area of an intersection as a "pedestrian crossing".
The sign warning against snakes reads:
Wéixiǎn! Xiǎoxīn yǒu shé.
Danger! Be careful of snakes.
The other photographs speak for themselves.