Archive for Language and advertising

Coloring the United States to suffocation

The Zeesea cosmetics company, based in China, is advertising three new sets of products "X the British Museum", in a relationship that they call a "partnership" and a "cobranding  product line": "Mysterious Egypt", "Alice in Wonderland", and "Angel Cupid".

I'm guessing that the British Museum's role in the partnership did not extend to input on the English names of the products. For example, the Alice in Wonderland Mascara collection includes ten colors, one of which is "Rust Red", advertised with the tag line "After coloring the United States to suffocation can be sweet super A strawberry jam":

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Exotic letter in Taipei

Paul M. sent in this photograph of the front of a fashion shop on Yongkang Street, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan:

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Agu hair bian

Here I am standing in front of a hair salon near the south gate of Kansai University in Osaka, Japan two days ago:

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Tibet water

Ben Zimmer was just passing through Hong Kong Airport, where he got a bottle of Tibet 5100 spring water, complete with Tibetan script:

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Eraser from Muji

From Anne Henochowicz:

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"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


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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