Archive for Language and advertising

"Revlon" in Chinese

We've been through a lot of atrocious Chinglish (check the archives under "Lost in translation"), so we should acknowledge, and even revel in, translational equivalents that are outstandingly good.

It suddenly occurs to me that the Chinese translation of the American cosmetic brand Revlon is so beautiful that it deserves to be highlighted here:

lù huá nóng 露華濃 ("dew [that is] splendid [and] dense")

On the one hand, "Luhuanong" serves as a sound transcription of "Revlon".  On the other hand, the translation of these three syllables provides an apt meaning for the brand name.

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Durian pizza

Last month we had "Explosion Cheese Durian Pie" (9/23/19).  Now we have durian pizza, courtesy of Jeffrey L. Schwartz, who posted this photo of an advertisement for Mi Tea on Bell Blvd. in Bayside, Queens…  Wash your durian pizza down with some salted cheese tea!

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One dyadic station shopping head elects

Somebody sent me this sign from a supermarket in China:

Yí zhàn shì gòuwù de shǒuxuǎn

一站式购物的首选

One dyadic station shopping head elects

This is one of the most bizarre specimens of Chinglish I've ever encountered.

If we omit "dyadic", the rest of it is easy to figure out (it should be "First choice for one-stop shopping" — no sweat).  Usually, even when a translation is incredibly peculiar, it doesn't take me long to figure out where the translator (whether human or machine) went wrong.  In this case, "dyadic" is so unusual, yet so specific, that I figured it must have had some basis, otherwise the translator would not have gone to the trouble of inserting it out of thin air (pingkong 凭空).

I was hooked.  I had to figure out where "dyadic" came from.

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Breath Ass Method

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Nicknames for foreign cars in China

"Porsche and BMW are known as 'broken shoes' and 'don't touch me' in China", by Echo Huang

Many of these names are off-color and some even quite vulgar, but they are all affectionate:

Audi's RS series:  xīzhuāng bàotú 西装暴徒 ("a gangster in a suit"), inspired by the car's smooth look and impressive horsepower (some links in Chinese).

Bugatti's Veyron: féi lóng 肥龙 ("fat dragon").  The French car manufacturer's high-performance Veyron sports car earned the moniker for its round-front face design, and because "ron" in Veyron sounds like "lóng" ("dragon"), just as "Vey" sounds like féi ("fat").

BMW: bié mō wǒ 别摸我 ("don't touch / rub me").  The German acronym for Bayerische Motoren Werke forms the basis to create a Mandarin phrase that expresses how precious people consider the car to be.

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Restaurant logo with a dingus

Klaus Nuber writes: "Sometime ago I saw the sign of this 'Asia Palast' with the logo consisting of the two chairs and the round dingus between. Is this logo just cute or has it a hanzi background?"

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Ruby phonetic annotation for Cantonese

Jenny Chu sent in this photograph of an ad on a Hong Kong subway car:

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Plant-based "milk"

The company Oatly claims to have created a new Chinese word for plant-based milk by placing the grass radical above the character for milk:

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Cantonese and Mandarin are two different languages, part 2

From Guy Freeman:

These advertisements on a Hong Kong bus (plastered on the back of every seat on the upper deck) use Cantonese so unashamedly, at least in their main type, that I just had to pass them on.  Clearly advertisers still appreciate that written Cantonese is the best way to connect to the Cantonese-speaking masses.

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Trump beef noodles

Photograph of a sign in downtown Taitung, Taiwan:

(Courtesy of Anthony Clayden)

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Radical emphasis

Tong Wang spotted this poster in a Beijing elevator:

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Onigiri > Onigilly

Brand-name transliteration (in Embarcadero Center, San Francisco), courtesy of Nancy Friedman:

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Home party

Recently, Tong Wang's husband told her that he would not be home for dinner because he was going out with friends to this place:

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