Radical emphasis

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Tong Wang spotted this poster in a Beijing elevator:

The characters say:

dǎ diànhuà 打电话 ("make a telephone call")

The hand radical of the first character is repeated to emphasize the verb:  "mmmmmake a telephone call".

I think that I've seen katakana repetition in manga for emphasis and prolongation of an exclamation, but I don't recall ever having seen the splitting up of a kanji / hanzi for emphasis like this.



  1. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    December 22, 2018 @ 6:22 am

    How would this phenomenon translate into pinyin?
    How would the corresponding syllable, dǎ, end up?
    Repeating is phonetically inappropriate for a voiceless plosive cannot be prolonged.
    If we were to repeat the vocal, which form would it take, dǎaaa or daaaǎ?

  2. Steve Jones said,

    December 22, 2018 @ 6:36 am

    Ha, I often wondered how to represent a speech impediment in written Chinese. Many posts on stammering here https://stephenjones.blog/tag/stammering/, some relevant to Chinese, like https://stephenjones.blog/2018/11/20/confucius/ best, SSSteve

  3. unekdoud said,

    December 22, 2018 @ 8:30 am

    This is pretty much just a compact/ineffective version of the billboards from "Don't forget to pay pay pay pay pay the rent", maybe with the opposite meaning.

  4. krogerfoot said,

    December 22, 2018 @ 8:38 pm

    I don't think the original post's rendering of the tagline as "mmmmake a call" was meant to recall a stammer. I also don't think Chinese readers would necessarily "read" or pronounce the repeated radical. The visual flair just draws attention to the copy, like naming your Web business "The @pp store" or something. (Of course, you could protest that you can't stop yourself from reading that as "atpp," and maybe some Chinese readers would feel compelled to read the radical as 手 shǒu, but I kind of doubt that, since the radical doesn't look much like the original "hand" character.

    Not sure what's so "ineffective" about the ad copy, but I am not a marketing genius.

  5. Jay Sekora said,

    December 22, 2018 @ 9:22 pm

    The form of 讠 (the 言 radical) in 话 is also a little odd, with a curved vertical and no hook at the end. Is that a common form in display fonts, or is it another bit of playfulness specific to this poster? (I wonder if it might be intended to evoke a telephone headset.)

  6. NBL said,

    December 23, 2018 @ 12:41 am

    @Steve Jones

    There is a stuttering character called Deng Ai in Romance of the Three Kingdoms who stutters. The first couple of times his speech is indicated by repeated characters. After that (since it doesn't really contribute to the story) it's just written as normal speech.

    VHM update (1/6/19):

    "Some great Chinese stammerers", Stephen Jones: a blog (1/6/19)


  7. Michael Watts said,

    December 23, 2018 @ 3:08 am

    For what it's worth, I would never interpret "mmmmmake a call" as indicating a stammer, because stammering is already conventionalized and would be written with hyphens, as "m-m-m-make a call". I'd just envision a very long /m/ sound; /m/ is easy to prolong.

    I did ask a Chinese person once about indicating vowel elongation in a written word. The impression I got was that this isn't done except for the single case of elongating 啊 ("a") by repetition — 啊啊啊啊 ("aaaa"). I'm not even sure whether this works for contracted forms of 啊, like a hypothetical 哒啊啊啊啊, but for 啊 itself elongation is very common.

  8. Steve Jones said,

    December 23, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

    Thanks, guys!

    1) Sure, it may only evoke an impediment for sufferers—of whom there are many, not that I'm one for PC, as you can see from https://stephenjones.blog/2017/04/12/we-have-ways-of-making-you-talk/

    2) Gosh, will check out Deng Ai!

  9. Philip Lawton said,

    December 26, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

    Is it me, or is the slightly unnatural hand position of the model also supposed to resemble that radical?

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