Live striped bass

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Nathan Hopson spotted these signs in Pittsburgh:

The other translations, though minimal, are not wrong, but the third one from the left picked the incorrect meaning for "bass" in Chinese:

dīyīn 低音 ("low [register male singing] voice; bass")

The fish would be:

or lúyú 鱸魚 ("bass; common perch")

More specifically:

yínhuā lúyú 銀花鱸魚 ("striped bass"; Morone saxatilis)

It's curious that the Chinese font for this poster is different from that of the other five posters.

It's also worth pointing out that the same translation, zhūròu 豬肉, is used both for "pork" and for "pork spare ribs".  That's all right for the former, but the latter should be zhū páigǔ 豬排骨

Robert Wholey & Co. Inc., commonly referred to as Wholey's, is a famous fish market and grocery store in Pittsburgh's historic Strip District neighborhood.

[Thanks to Phil Miraglia]



From Charles Belov (5/23/18):

The photo above is of signs on the side of the building at Robert Wholey & Sons Fish Market at 1711 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. The market is not an Asian market, however, they appear to be taking advantage of the fact that on the other side of the alley, behind me as I took this photo, is an Asian market (Lotus Food at 1649 Penn Avenue).


  1. Rubrick said,

    June 12, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

    Actually, I think it might still be legal to sell members of a barbershop quartet in Pittsburgh.

  2. Bathrobe said,

    June 12, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

    When pointing out that the sign picked "the incorrect meaning for 'bass' in Chinese", it's also worth mentioning that, while "bass" is a single graphic form, it represents not merely two different words but two different pronunciations. The troubled relationship between speech and writing isn't confined to Chinese.

  3. Neil Dolinger said,

    June 12, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

    Even where correct, the translations are , as you say, minimal. I wonder whether in a Chinese setting, the ads would be as expansive as they are in English.

    I am also curious whether in this context (culinary / grocery trade language), Chinese would distinguish between the adult vs. juvenile versions, e.g., duck vs. duckling, beef vs. veal, sheep vs.lamb, etc.

  4. amy said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 5:20 am

    The completely different font makes me suspect the photo's been manipulated, but then again, the rest of the signs seem to vary slightly in their English font too…

    …and I imagine somewhere, there will be a sign advertising "fishy" musical instruments.

  5. F said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 12:06 pm

    It looks just the same (to me) on Google Streetview, though there it's fourth from right.

  6. Guy said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 12:55 pm


    And the pronunciation/spelling correspondence of "bass" (the musical sense) is highly unusual even for English. When "a" represents the /eɪ̯/ phoneme it almost always requires an immediately following orthographic vowel or a single orthographic consonant before the next orthographic vowel (which may be silent, as in "lace", or pronounced, as in "lacing"). Can anyone think of any other word where word-final "-ass" represents /eɪ̯s/? This is made all the more odd by the fact that the musical sense of "bass" is etymologically related to the more orthographically normal "base" and the semantic correspondence is fairly transparent.

  7. Christian Weisgerber said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 3:36 pm


    English <gross> /groʊs/ also has a "long" vowel (now diphthong) despite the -ss.

  8. Chris C. said,

    June 13, 2016 @ 6:11 pm

    I suspect the orthography of the musical "bass" has been influenced by Italian.

  9. cM said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 5:01 am

    It took me an embarrassing number of tries to not read "live stripped" on that sign…

  10. January First-of-May said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    I was sure that "bass" the fish rhymed with "grass" and "pass", and "bass" the voice rhymed with… I don't know, "lass" maybe?… well it had the vowel of "bad".

    Isn't the fish name from earlier "barse" or something like that? I'm pretty sure I've read somewhere that it was affected by the same sound change that led to the split between BE "arse" and AmE "ass".

  11. Chris C. said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 3:47 pm

    @January — I don't know which dialect you speak, but in most American dialects bass (the fish), grass, pass, and lass all have the same vowel as "bad".

    Bass the vocal range, however, is pronounced the same as "base" in all dialects.

  12. January First-of-May said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 3:58 pm

    @Chris – educated Russian. Never heard of "bass" the vocal range being pronounced "base". How do you pronounce "bassoon" then?

    Looking it up on Wikipedia, the sound I was thinking of in the first group is the vowel of "father" (also known as the PALM vowel).

  13. Bathrobe said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

    Fortunately online dictionaries have sound files. Try Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

    Both British and American standards agree that the vocal range is /beɪs/ and the fish is /bæs/.

  14. Ellen K. said,

    June 14, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

    @January First-of-May. Bassoon has a schwa, stress on the 2nd syllable. Though, for whatever it's worth, which isn't much, in my head, bassoon has a /æ/.

  15. Joyce Melton said,

    June 19, 2016 @ 9:18 am

    I believe the pronunciation of the vocal bass is because of its meaning being low as in base. But the spelling has been influenced by Italian musical terminology where that voice is spelled basso.

    There's also the fact that a base voice would have a meaning in English not congruent with bass voice because low itself has two meanings available in minimal contexts. If you spelled it base for the vocal application, you would emphasize and bring forward the wrong meaning.

    This is one of those times when English spelling provides clues to meaning that would be lost by more consistent orthography.

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