Not permission, to violate to punish

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Photograph of a sign in Taiwan from Jason Cox, whose friend posted it on Facebook:

Americans who see this sign are apt to be thrown for a loop, not just because of the language, but also because of the cultural background.

I don't need to explain the "four no's" at the bottom of the sign individually, because they are all of the same pattern (jìnzhǐ 禁止 X ["X is forbidden"]), except to mention that huǒzhòng 火種 means "live cinders / coals (kept for starting a new fire); kindling; tinder", and betel nuts are as common in Taiwan as cigarettes are in China (at least they were so when I first went to Taiwan in 1970 and, seeing betel juice spit all over the ground, thought it was blood [I don't know what the situation is like now]).

At first glance, the four injunctions at the top seem like rambling grumblings, but they are actually a string of connected warnings that read thus:

Sīrén qǐyè 私人企業
private enterprise

Fēi jīng xǔkě 非經許可
without permission

Yánjìn shàn rù 嚴禁擅入
it is strictly forbidden to trespass

Wéi zhě fǎbàn 違者法辦
violators will be prosecuted according to the law

Properly translated, the four phrases at the top of the sign don't sound strange at all.


  1. Dick Margulis said,

    May 9, 2014 @ 4:46 am

    "seeing betel juice spit all over the ground, thought it was blood"

    At last I understand the lyric from South Pacific ("Bloody Mary's chewing betel nuts"). I imagine that a good portion of the original Broadway audience, having spent time in or knowing people who spent time in the Pacific Theater, would have gotten the reference instantly, but I admit I was clueless until this moment.

  2. Sili said,

    May 9, 2014 @ 6:43 am

    but also because of the cultural background.


  3. julie lee said,

    May 10, 2014 @ 1:04 am

    Grown-ups in my Chinese family used to tell us children that when people had TB (tuberculosis) they spat blood. So when I first arrived in Calcutta as a child, I thought the people spitting betel juice on the pavement had TB, and marveled at the number of Indians who had TB.
    In those faraway days, a lot of people in China had TB ("feibing" in Mandarin).

  4. chris y said,

    May 10, 2014 @ 8:44 am

    Disappointed. I had hoped that it was interdicting the use of an app to pick up passing strangers.

  5. Andrew Bay said,

    May 13, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

    I have no idea what Betel Nuts are. That sign looks weird to me due to that.

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