Writing English with Chinese characters

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Sign on a pet-grooming place in Banqiao, Taiwan (contributed by Mark Swofford):

Dòugé chǒngwù měixuéguǎn 荳格寵物美學館
("Douge / Dog Pet Grooming School")

dòugé 荳格 (lit., "bean / pulse cell / grid") makes no sense in Chinese.  It is the name of the school, but it is meant to evoke the English word "dog".

Which reminds me of this:

"Spelling with Chinese character(istic)s " (11/21/13)

And this:

"To all aspiring pet phoneticians out there " (3/12/15)


  1. Ben Zimmer said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 2:06 pm

    Perhaps the signmaker is a fan of the "doge" meme.

  2. K. Chang said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 2:21 pm

    Reminded me of an old Spanish lesson I had.

    Shrimp, in Spanish, is "langostino"

    My mom told me that she remembered it by the Mandarin "spelling" 狼狗死定諾 (Lang gou si dìng nuo)

    But that sign… makes no sense. In fact, it reminds me of those "why is Pinyin here" names on those Mainland herbal pills… Kinda like this: "Siang Sha Yang Wei Pills" 香砂養胃丸 (Trans: fragrant sand stomach-nourishing pill) Wah?!


  3. Gene Anderson said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

    Love it…the word "dog" is of totally obscure origin–it first appears in an English ms of 1053. It has, however, been borrowed for special meanings into French (bouldogue, bulldog), Spanish (dogal, dog collar), Danish and now Chinese (sort of).
    I remember being confused at something called "sand tea sauce" (sha cha jiang) in Chinese restaurants till I realized it was satay sauce-sha cha being pronounced sa te in Hokkien, the major language of contact with Indonesia and Malaysia.
    Anybody out there know what a coyote is in Chinese? Sometimes shan gou but that is too general a term….

  4. Matt said,

    June 3, 2015 @ 8:37 pm

    I didn't know that the origins of "dog" were so obscure. Let me be the first to venture the theory that it is actually a loan from Mbabaram (M. Night Shyamalan, call me).

  5. K. Chang said,

    June 4, 2015 @ 12:05 pm

    @Gene Anderson — I had to look it up, as Coyote is apparently native to North America. "shan gou" (mountain dog) or "xiao lang" (small wolf) or "cong lan" (group/pack wolf) or even "jiao lang" (countryside wolf).

  6. Rachel said,

    June 4, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

    My favorite sign in Taiwan was a Taiwanese/Mandarin pun. The sign was for a barbecue place; the name was 莫宰羊,'there is no slaughtering of goats'/'do not slaughter ovicaprids'. But anyone who knows Taiwanese will say that the sign was also a good attempt at writing 'don't know' m̄ chai-iáⁿ . I always thought that was pretty brilliant — not sure if the restaurant is still there or not.

  7. John said,

    June 5, 2015 @ 3:01 am

    Rachel: That place is still around, along with its immortal tagline 你來了就宰羊,嘸來還是莫宰羊, as seen in this photo here:


  8. Rachel said,

    June 5, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

    John, excellent! Thank you for that information!

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