Chinese Japanese

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From a Japanese colleague:

"Now the Japanese too can appreciate the linguistic ingenuity of the Chinese!"

As he suggested, on the model of "Chinglish", we'll tentatively refer to this hybrid language as "Chapanese" until someone comes up with a better name for it.

This odd article collects twenty photographs illustrating different products and dishes designated and described with Chapanese wording:

Chūgoku no dasakakkoii hen'na Nihongo 中国のダサカッコイイ変な日本語
"Chinese Dasa cool weird Japanese"

To tell the truth, I don't really know exactly what the katakana word "dasakakkoii ダサカッコイイ" means, other than that it seems to signify some sort of funky fashion or style (for males?).  It appears to be a variant of just the kakkoii part alone which means "attractive; good-looking; stylish; cool; smooth; neat; with-it; groovy".

Of the twenty photographs, I'm particularly interested in the eighteenth, which features two intriguing dishes:

The first item:

(Chinese)
hāyǎxī niúròu fàn 哈雅西牛肉饭
"hashed beef rice"

Note:  "hayaxi" is a lame transcription of "hashed", but it sounds like a combination of Japanese syllables, hayashi, that together could mean two or three dozen different things ("woods; forest; copse; thicket; Japanese band / orchestra / accompaniment; ornament; adornment; decoration; a surname" and, yes, a Japanese transcription of "hash[ed]").  I have seen hāxī 哈希 as a Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) transcription for "hash".

(Japanese)
hayashika gyūniku gohan 哈ヤシカ牛肉ご飯
"bashed beef rice"

Note:  I translated "hayashika 哈ヤシカ" as "bashed" because they made such a hash of the Japanese.  They could have just transcribed "hashed" as "hayashi ハヤシ" or " hasshu ハッシュ" (the latter is, I believe, more frequent for this meaning).  I have no idea why they wrote 哈 for the first syllable, since it is rarely encountered in Japanese, and the addition of ka カ at the end seems to be an oversight prompted by a separate Japanese word (there are many different possibilities) that means something totally irrelevant.

The second item:

(Chinese)
Měiyī tǐng lāmiàn 美一町拉面
"Měiyītǐng ramen"

Note:  There is a chain of sushi restaurants in Guangzhou called Měiyītǐng 美一町, and this ramen is one of their signature dishes.  The name has a very Japanese feel to it because of the 町 (machi / chō ["town; village; block; street"]), which is common in Japanese addresses (see below for explanation). In MSM, 町 may be pronounced either as tǐng or dīng, but the latter is used only in the name of a town in Yunnan and in ancient times as a unit of measure equal to five acres, whereas the former means "small raised pathway between sections of a field", which is closer to the meaning of the character in Japanese.

(Japanese)
machi no rāmen 町のラーメン
"street ramen"

Note:  The Japanese version is a real cop out, since it doesn't even attempt to render the name of the restaurant where this dish is sold!  The English is weak too, inasmuch as it gives a pseudo-MSM pronunciation of the Japanese style restaurant.

For those who are perplexed by the intricacies of Japanese addresses and need a succinct introduction on how to navigate through the streets, blocks, and wards of Japanese cities and towns, I recommend a blog post on gnurou.org ("Just your average bearded geek"): "How to locate a Japanese address on Google Maps". On the terminological complexities of Chinese lāmiàn and Japanese (> English) ramen, see: "Pulled noodles: Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin lāmiàn " (8/8/14).

Since some of the products and dishes also come with Korean labels and explanations, I'll choose just one of them to convey a flavor of the Chorean (if I may, for the nonce), as well as the Chapanese and Chinglish.

In the sixteenth photograph, the English name of the featured dish is written as "Sichuan sweet saliva chicken (hot)", which seems to be quite repulsive, whereas the Chinese says "Chuān xiāng kǒushuǐ jī (rè cài) 川香口水鸡(热菜)".  In the comments to "Great taste" (5/20/14), we discussed the crucial term as follows:

kǒushuǐ 口水
"mouth + water" = "saliva"

liú kǒushuǐ 流口水
"flow + mouth + water" = "slobber; slaver; salivate; drool; dribble; drivel"

kǒushuǐ jī 口水鸡
"mouth + water + chicken" = "steamed chicken with chili sauce"

Thus, the Chinese name for the dish here would be better rendered in English as something like "mouthwatering Sichuan flavor chicken (hot dish)".

The corresponding Japanese is:

Shisenfū rāyu niwatori 四川風ラー油ニワ トリ
"Sichuan style chili oil chicken"

rāyu ラー油 = rāyu 辣油
"chili oil"

Now for the Korean:

sullaisu chwuwi talkkoki 슬라이스 추위 닭고기
lit., "slice, cold (weather) chicken" (Yale Romanization)

How did they get that?  And which of the other three languages were they working from as a base?  Or did they just make it up?

"Watashi wa aisuru 私は愛する" on the backpack of the girl in the last picture is probably an attempt to translate English "I love you", which would be more ordinary for a backpack design, into Japanese.  It is rather strange, however, because there is no object of "aisuru 愛する" here, so the sentence means simply "I love", not "I love you".  Hence, the carrier of the bag is proclaiming that she is just a very loving person (universally).

There are many more delights in this article, but I leave it to Language Log readers who are attracted to this sort of thing to savor the Chapanese for themselves.  Naturally, readers are welcome to share their findings in the comments section, but I ask that they provide romanization for all Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cited in their explanations, plus provide English translations, so that the vast majority of our readers who do not know these languages may join in the fun and enlightenment.

[h.t. Hiroshi Kumamoto; thanks to Cecilia Segawa Seigle and Haewon Cho]



17 Comments

  1. Janne said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 7:39 pm

    ダサイ is "uncool", "stupid", "unrefined" and so on. The opposite of "かっこいい", pretty much.

  2. Gary said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 7:40 pm

    Roy Andrew Miller has some fun with hayashi raisu in "The Japanese Language". I don't have my copy handy, but he says something to the effect of "Thank god the Japanese blame this dish on a Mr. Hayashi, not realizing that both the dish and the name are borrowed."

  3. Janne said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 7:46 pm

    (hit post too early above)

    It seems to be a portmanteau of "ダサイ" (dasai) and "かっこいい" (kakkoii). ダサイ (dasai) is "uncool", "stupid", "unrefined" and so on. One source (my first google hit for etymology) says it comes from "田舎" (inaka) or "rural", which can also be read as "dasha". The meaning is close to the opposite of "かっこいい", pretty much, so the meaning is something like "so uncool it's cool", or possibly "ironically cool".

    The top dish looks to me exactly like "Hayashi rice", the Japanese take on beef Stroganoff. The name looks suspiciously like trying to render that phonetically.

  4. kureshii said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

    Janne seems to have hit it head on. Seconding that meaning is this bag from Aliexpress (http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Dasa-Kakkoii-Not-cool-but-cool-Japan-Cotton-Bag/833956486.html), with dasakakkoii translated as "Not cool, but cool". Possibly meaning "not cool by typical standards, but cool in its own way"?

  5. Chad Nilep said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 9:17 pm

    'They could have just transcribed "hashed" as "hayashi ハヤシ" or "hasshu ハッシュ" (the latter is, I believe, more frequent for this meaning).'

    My non-systematic impression is that 'hasshu' is not particularly prevalent, at least here in Nagoya. Other English loans such as 'furai' (fried) or 'suraisu' (sliced) are common. Even 'guriru' (grilled) occurs, but less frequently, I think, than 焼き 'yaki' with similar meaning. I can't recall off-hand seeing 'hasshu' on a menu or advertisement, though I have heard it on cooking programs.

    On the other hand, ハヤシライス (hayashi raisu, rice with hash) is dead common in restaurants, right up there with カレーライス (karee raisu, rice with curry).

    Also, although I've not heard ダサカッコイイ, Janne's comments fit with what I know (courtesy of undergraduate students) about ダサイ 'dasai' (uncool, lame).

  6. Jason Stokes said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 10:42 pm

    "As he suggested, on the model of "Chinglish", we'll tentatively refer to this hybrid language as "Chapanese" until someone comes up with a better name for it."

    Ni-han go, perhaps?

  7. AP said,

    September 13, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

    These are great! The one that made me laugh out loud was ブリックや (burikku ya) because it's Kansai dialect for "It's a brick"… written on what appears to be a set of nail clippers.

    Can anyone figure out what the first image is trying to say with されたフ (sareta fu), いバブテスト (ibabu tesuto), and/or 圧縮ぽの (asshuku bono)? テスト tesuto "test" and 圧縮 asshuku "compressed/condensed" are words, but I cannot fathom what the intended meaning of any of the quoted strings is.

  8. NV said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 12:38 am

    I loved the GUANJIZIPAI one. It says グルメをおしみください味 (gurume o oshimikudasai aji) at the top, which means something like "a taste that please hold dear the gourmet/the fine food" (it doesn't make sense to put a noun after "kudasai" so I tried to capture that).

    The note on the left is even better. サイトは忘れてサイトは毎日、参照してください。 (saito wa wasurete saito wa mainichi, sanshou shite kudasai) means "forget the site, please refer to the site every day" (modulo the weird grammar and punctuation).

  9. krogerfoot said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 2:20 am

    Agreed with Janne and kureshii about dasakakkoii. I'd translate it as "nerd cool" or "geek cool."

    I haven't run into this phrase in the wild yet, but when I was playing in Japanese bands, hetauma, from 下手 and 上手い, "bad-good," was used to describe a particular kind of indie style, with rudimentary, "naive" playing, singing, and songwriting. Whether this was meant as a compliment or not seemed to depend on the speaker.

    I can't remember the band name now, but one semi-prominent practitioner in this style had a record entitled Poorly Done.

  10. astrange said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 2:56 am

    There's also きもかわいい/kimokawaii "gross-cute", for things that are gross but still weirdly aesthetic, like wearing a medical eyepatch for fashion, or the Teletubbies.

    されたフ is the middle of a sentence, with the last being the next line:
    ィイシャルマスク

    Together: -sareta facial mask / ed facial mask

  11. krogerfoot said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 3:07 am

    At the end of the introduction to the piece, the writer seems to give a description of the concept of ダサカッコイイ :「見つけた変な日本語の中でもダサいけどカッコイイ変な日本語を出していきたい。」"From the weird Japanese I've found, I'd like to point out some dorky-but-cool weird Japanese."

    "How did they get that? And which of the other three languages were they working from as a base?"

    The writer laments that this mangled Japanese will go extinct as OCR scanning technology gets better (I think that's what he's saying). A lot of the nutty character combinations look like the result of scanned Japanese text.

  12. Keith said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 3:15 am

    Getting off topic, here, but the when the post started comparing Korean I was reminded of a sign on a dojo in the New Jersey town where I used to live. This town has a rather high Korean population and a moderately high Japanese population (in the primary schools, 22% of children speak either Korean or Japanese at home).

    From memory, the sign outside was marked "유도", a Korean transcription for what we call Judo (柔道 in kanji and hanja). I was struck by the first syllable as it's what I had become used to seeing marked on bottles of cooking oil in the Korean supermarkets.

    I wonder if Koreans think of Judo as being a "slippery way"…

  13. flow said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

    "In MSM, 町 may be pronounced either as tǐng or dīng, but the latter is used only in the name of a town in Yunnan and in ancient times as a unit of measure equal to five acres"

    …and in 西門町 (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ximending), a neighborhood in 台/臺北(市) Tai(p/b)e(h/i), 台/臺灣/湾(省?). — Nuff of that.

    BTW i find the Yale Romanization really horrible for a number of reasons, the most obvious being the choice of 'u' and 'wu' to write the unrounded and rounded high, back vowels.

  14. Victor Mair said,

    September 14, 2015 @ 1:50 pm

    As soon as I saw the name Xīméndīng 西門町, I thought that it must be a legacy of Japanese colonial times. Sure 'nuff, it goes back to the administrative division Seimon-chō 西門町 under Japanese rule. The "History" section of the Wikipedia article states it succinctly:

    =====

    The use of the character "町" is unusual in a Chinese context: it denotes a chō (a part of a ward) in the Japanese municipality system.

    =====

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ximending#History

  15. Usually Dainichi said,

    September 15, 2015 @ 9:52 am

    "It is rather strange, however, because there is no object of "aisuru 愛する" here"

    Vanilla "I love you" in Japanese is "愛して(い)る", with no object either, but with the progressive aspect.

    " 私は愛する" is weird because of the overt subject (which would not be there except for emphasis or contrast), and the aspect, which is just wrong. The missing object is completely cromulent.

  16. Guy_H said,

    September 15, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

    In Taiwan, the 町 character in 美一町 would most definitely be pronounced ding1, not ting3. The use of the character in Taiwanese place names is due to the Japanese influence (although I couldn't say why the ding1 pronunciation is preferred).

  17. flow said,

    September 18, 2015 @ 8:22 am

    @Victor Mair, @Guy_H

    町 would certainly appear to go back to Japanese colonial times in Taiwan. There's some related stuff on the background of some Taiwanese place names over at http://www.mutantfrog.com/2007/09/24/taiwanese-place-names-and-colonial-japan/ (including the claim that 高雄 should really be read using Japanese kunyomi, i.e. as Takao—not because it is Japanese, but bc it better reflects the native version of that place name).

    My guess at why 町 is read /ding/, not /ting/ in 西門町 is simply that 町 is a rare to obscure character in Chinese, albeit one with a frequent and simple (though not unequivocal) phonophore, 丁, so what you do is you read the character out with the most frequent reading of that phonophore.

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