Scoop the poop

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Photograph of a sign in Taipei, Taiwan sent in by Chuck Cook:

The notice in large characters reads:

liú gǒu xì gǒu liàn, suíshǒu qīng gǒu biàn

遛狗繫狗鍊,隨手清狗便

When you walk your dog, keep it on a leash; clean up the dog do as you go.

The corresponding English on the sign is an example of anti-Chinglish. What we have here is a 10-character rhyming couplet translated perfectly and idiomatically into English, albeit not in rhyme.

This is at a very small park in Tianmu 天母 (google map coordinates are 25.111696, 121.525021). A web search suggests that the Chinese couplet is widely used in Taiwan — it even has its own Facebook page.

Googling the English phrase gives only seven hits, all about Taiwan, so we may infer that the English translation is local.

The bigger picture is that in Taiwan (or perhaps only Taipei?) there have been big improvements in the English in official signage over the past few years, with many examples of competent (the entire Metro system) or even inspired translations (such as this sign).



17 Comments

  1. Tyro said,

    April 15, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

    If 'dog' were to be replaced with ' pup,' then rhyming would be restored, which makes me wonder if 'pup' isn't a common synonym for dog around there?

  2. Jeff W said,

    April 15, 2015 @ 4:56 pm

    idiomatically into English, albeit not in rhyme

    Changing one word—"dog" to "pup"—would make it rhyme but the meaning would be a bit altered (and the meter isn't great).

    The prevailing rhyming couplet in English, not addressing the leashing aspect, appears to be some sort of variation on "poop" and "scoop." Ugh. I think something along the lines of the prosaic "Clean up after your dog" is adequate enough for such circumstances.

  3. Jeff W said,

    April 15, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

    Oops. Great minds—and ours, too.

  4. Vasha said,

    April 15, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

    Yep: "In the park please leash your pup; if nature calls, please scoop it up."

  5. Sean Bentley said,

    April 15, 2015 @ 6:04 pm

    However, in any case, "it" refers back to "nature," does it not? You"d need a really big scoop…

  6. Tetsuo said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 12:24 am

    To say there've been "big improvements" in the quality of English signage around Taipei is a little bit much. For every excellent piece of work like that sign, there's easily two total turds, if not more. We're talking a city that can't even consistently romanize street signs, in a country where translation is routinely farmed out to the lowest bidder.

  7. Chas Belov said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 1:55 am

    I did a double-take at "which makes me wonder if 'pup' isn't a common synonym for dog around there" where I would have expected "which makes me wonder if 'pup' is a common synonym for dog around there" (that is, the usage was in keeping with the literal meaning where I'd expect the usage to be opposite the literal meaning – I'd use isn't if it is common and is if it isn't common)

  8. kevinm said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 9:54 am

    @Sean Bentley:
    Recall the immortal Hyman Kaplan: "If your eye falls on a bargain, pick it up."

  9. Rachel said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 11:06 am

    Tiānmǔ is one of the highest concentrations of foreigners in Táiběi, so If the sign is in Tiānmǔ, then there's a good chance that the translation had foreign help. There's a better chance that the person composing the translation had access to more idiomatic English, in any case.

  10. Jeff said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 1:57 pm

    That specific sign common throughout the city. It is a municipal sign not limited to use in Tianmu.

    @Tetsuo
    Really? I personally consider the romanization of Taipei street signs to be extremely consistent (though this has not always been true). In the few cases it isn't consistent, it is by design and is only meant to preserve important longstanding conventions. Taipei vs. Taibei, Keelung vs. Jilong, Kinmen vs. Jinmen, Tamsui vs. Danshui, etc.

    @Tyro
    Where is "pup" truly a common synonym for "dog" anywhere?

  11. Alyssa said,

    April 16, 2015 @ 2:21 pm

    Is this kind of idiomatic translation actually desirable for signage purposes, though? It nicely captures the charm of the original for a native English speaker, but I'd bet that your average, say, European visitor won't be able to make heads or tails of it. Lots of people use English to get around who might not be comfortable with these kind of idioms.

  12. Xmun said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 1:52 am

    @Jeff
    My son usually calls his 15-year-old dog "Puppy" (though the rest of us call her by her name).

  13. Levantine said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 2:55 am

    Regarding 'pup' for 'dog', my Michigander boyfriend uses the word informally or affectionately in this way (when speaking, for example, of his family dog, who is rather old). I'm a Londoner, and 'pup' is not a word I would use, whether in place of 'dog' or 'puppy' (and the latter to me always means a young dog).

  14. Jeff said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 7:40 am

    "Puppy" is different from "pup." The former specifically refers to an immature dog, while the latter refers to immature members of certain mammal species, seals for example.

    Aside from personal, affectionate names, I can't think of when someone would simply say "pup" as a synonym for "dog." What I am interested in is if there is an English dialect that uses the word generically to mean "dog."

  15. Jeff said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 7:59 am

    @Alyssa
    This is a very good point. I think the sign reflects the chicness of English in Taipei. Or …

    It seems that most idiomatic or slang terms for "feces" are much more common (and therefore more comprehensible to non-native English speakers) than any "formal" words.

    Which raises the question: what word should the sign use to refer to feces? Poo? Poop? Crap? Doo?

  16. Levantine said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 10:52 am

    Jeff, good point regarding the non-canine use of 'pup'. I suppose I've never had occasion to refer to a young animal that would be called by this word.

  17. Jeff W said,

    April 17, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

    @Jeff

    Which raises the question: what word should the sign use to refer to feces? Poo? Poop? Crap? Doo?

    Well, if it does, that is.

    As I said in my comment above, maybe just "Clean up after your dog" pretty much gets the message across. (And the translation supplied by Victor Mair indicates that the Chinese phrase says as much.)

    My own impression is that there's no good register for feces for a sign in a public park. The word itself is too clinical and the alternatives are too puerile (e.g., poo) or too vulgar (e.g., crap)—so maybe the best alternative is to avoid it altogether.

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