The rice is prosperous

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Here follows an egregious example of bad machine translation without human intervention to correct or improve it.  This is a listing for a book in Chinese on Amazon.

Pinyin as given in the listing:  dao sheng he fu de jing ying zhi hui [ fu zeng / xue xi shou ce qi che ban lv ]

Chinese characters as given in the listing:  稻盛和夫 经营智慧  [附赠]学习手册 汽车伴侣 (click on the small image of the cover ["See this image"] to embiggen)

English translation as given in the listing:  The rice is prosperous and the management intelligence of the man [present|the study manual car companion ] (this is obviously errant nonsense and of no use to anyone who might want to buy the book)

The listing states that the book is by "unknown (Author)".

Since this specimen of Chinglish is so awful, it will not be necessary to expend a lot of effort to explicate how it happened.  Instead, I will mainly show what the correct interpretation should be.

Orthographically better pinyin:  Dàoshèng Héfū, Jīngyíng zhìhuì.  Fùzèng:  xuéxí shǒucè qìchē bànlǚ.  The pinyin transcription given in the Amazon listing is that specified by the Library of Congress, which I have fought against for years and of which I strongly disapprove, since it is so singularly unhelpful for readers.  Note that, when correctly parsed, all eighteen characters divide up into nine disyllabic words, whereas when read as single syllables they amount to little more than gibberish (which is one reason the translation comes out that way as well; computers do much better with properly parsed text too!).  Treating Chinese languages as monosyllabic is linguistically unsound and culturally demeaning.

Dàoshèng Héfū is the Mandarin pronunciation of 稻盛和夫, the characters used to write the name of the Japanese author of the book, Inamori Kazuo.  This is specified in furigana (ruby) — いなもりかずお — right above the four large characters for the author's name at the top of the cover.

Inamori is the founder of Kyocera, the multinational electronics and ceramics manufacturer. He has literally hundreds of books to his name, mostly ghost written or compiled by editors from interviews.

jīngyíng zhìhuì 经营智慧 ("business intelligence") is actually the title of the book.

fùzèng 附赠 ("bonus")

xuéxí shǒucè 学习手册 ("study / learning manual")

qìchē bànlǚ 汽车伴侣 ("automobile companion")

Amazon should not be so trusting of the translators that it apparently hires to translate Chinese into English, but who let machines do the work for them.

[Thanks to Nathan Hopson]


  1. Jim Breen said,

    July 15, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

    Inamori Kazuo is more usually written 稲盛和夫 in Japan. You can find examples of 稻 being used instead of 稲, but 99+% of the time it's 稲盛.

  2. cameron said,

    July 15, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

    "errant nonsense" is a classic eggcorn

  3. Matt said,

    July 15, 2014 @ 7:47 pm

    Is it normal to include the furigana for a Japanese author on the cover of a work that's been localized into Chinese? I thought maybe the design had just been repurposed from some Japanese original, but (a) I can't find such an original (so presumably this is a repackaging of for the Chinese market), and (b) the bottom half of the cover is obviously in Chinese, so clearly they could have deleted the furigana if they'd wanted to.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    July 15, 2014 @ 7:58 pm


    It's not that simple.

    See William Safire, "Arrant Nonsense"


    If you Google errant, you get nearly three million citations, their sense "roving, straying, sometimes from high standards"; arrant gets only one-tenth as many. But if you enter the phrase "arrant nonsense," you get 35,000 to a mere 772 for "errant nonsense." People know the word with the a means "utter, thoroughgoing, complete," usually carrying the connotation of disapproval. Arrant, the former variant, is now out on its own, its meaning independent of the wandering errant. Let the dictionaries catch up with the living language.


    That was in 2006. If you do the Googling now, you get:

    "errant nonsense" 38,800 ghits

    "arrant nonsense" 76,300 ghits

    So, for better or worse, "errant nonsense" is clearly gaining on "arrant nonsense" — and fast. It looks as though the living language is actually not going in the direction Safire expected, but back toward what the dictionaries allow.

    When I was in high school and college, I would have used "arrant nonsense", but for some reason usage is shifting dramatically, and I allowed myself to go with "errant nonsense" this time.

    Sticking to the prescribed form "arrant nonsense", but allowing for "errant nonsense" in special circumstances:

    "Errant Nonsense/Arrant Nonsense/Nonsense (3 cents)"

    From a journalist (Jack Smith of the LA Times) who used "errant nonsense" instead of "arrant nonsense":

    "He Went Astray When He Used Errant Instead of Arrant"


    In fact, a case can be made for errant. American Heritage notes that arrant is "a variant of errant." It also defines errant as meaning "wandering outside the established limits." I myself think of arrant as meaning arrogant, which Churchill indeed might have meant.

    Frank H. Ruffa of Torrance says what Churchill wrote was: "This is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put," using neither arrant nor errant. "This has been documented," he adds, but he does not give the source. I'd like to see it.

    That was way back in 1993. If it were today, Smith might be emboldened to defend himself more vigorously.

  5. Monoglot said,

    July 15, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

    I never even knew this was an eggcorn; this is the first time I've ever seen it as "arrant nonsense". I (and probably a number of other people) always made the association with "err", "error", etc., probably because of the similar meaning "wrong, incorrect".

  6. Ethan said,

    July 16, 2014 @ 12:43 am

    $382 for a paperback?

  7. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2014 @ 7:06 am


    Well, it comes with a training manual and 6 DVDs. But wait! Those are a bonus.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    July 16, 2014 @ 7:17 am


    I too felt that it was odd for them to include the furigana, since the number of people in China who know how to read furigana must be extremely small. Furthermore, as we've sometimes pointed out on Language Log, the Chinese make no attempt to pronounce Japanese names in the Japanese way, but read off the kanji as though the name were Chinese (which means I never know who they're talking about unless it's somebody who is extremely famous in China and the Chinese pronunciation of his / her name is well known there).

    I suspect that the furigana was placed on this Chinese cover as a design element and to make it look Japanesey.

  9. Robert Coren said,

    July 16, 2014 @ 9:15 am

    "…an egregious example of bad machine translation without human intervention to correct or improve it."

    For the readers of this forum, such things are of possible interest, and perhaps entertaining, but when this technique is used to produce the instructions that are sent with commercial products, it's incredibly frustrating. My husband recently ordered a stand for his iPad, and the instructions go past "arrant nonsense" into "complete gibberish". Here's the beginning of the actual instructions:

    "1. Will be flat tray number (B) the screw twist, mount number (C) the Angle, attention pinches claws toward a protective pad inside, the screw twist on the plate complete tray back"

    The illustrations, which are sometimes helpful when language fails, aren't much help in this instance, being too small to see crucial details.

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