Trump beef noodles

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Photograph of a sign in downtown Taitung, Taiwan:

(Courtesy of Anthony Clayden)

The Chinese characters read:

Chuānpǔ niúròu miàn 川普牛肉麵

I cannot help but simultaneously parse that as "Trump beef noodles" and "Sichuan pidgin beef noodles".  Perhaps that's what the proprietors intended.

Native speakers from the mainland have different reactions to the sign.  Some say it refers to one of those two meanings, some say to the other, and some say to both.  In any event, it leaves most people a bit disoriented.  Here's one response:

I searched this restaurant, and it is not Sichuan style. Its must-have dish is Chuanpu noodle — beef noodle with a special spicy seafood sauce. According to my knowledge, Sichuan people seldom use seafood sauce.

Taiwanese call Trump 川普. And they are very familiar with America. So I guess Chuanpu noodle is simply referring to Trump.

Something else in the photograph catches the eye if one looks long enough, namely the translation on the hotel signboard behind the noodle restaurant sign.  "Home Rest" for Hóngruì 鴻瑞 ("grandly propitious").  Pretty clever!  It makes total sense to native English speakers semantically, and adheres fairly closely to the Chinese name Hóngruì 鴻瑞 ("grandly propitious"), to the extent that one is not even sure which was originally the object of translation.  Next time I go to Taidong I will check out the hotel, and the "Trump beef noodles" / "Sichuan pidgin beef noodles" restaurant too!


[Thanks to Yixue Yang, Qing Liao, Zeyao Wu, and Tao Tang]


  1. AntC said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 10:44 am

    Thank you Victor.

    My informant (who spotted the sign) is puzzled by your "pidgin". Pigeon? Pepper? There's no evident connection to Sichuan.

    Visiting the place might be an (expensive) disappointment. The decor was swanky but the menu unappealing. Better to go for the delicious pork/scallion dumplings with hot-and-sour soup just round the corner.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    December 27, 2018 @ 10:54 am


    Tell your informant to please read the "Readings". The second one explains "Sichuanese pidgin" clearly.

  3. Herman Miller said,

    December 29, 2018 @ 10:41 pm

    This post made me wonder whether the usage in English of the word "trump", as it relates to "superceding, getting the better of, 'finesse-ing'" and its meaning within card games, would be known to the average speaker of Chinese. Since the transliterations of the name seem not to communicate anything along that line, I would be interested to know whether media reports have made it commonly known what Trump's name means in English, because that meaning seems to be somewhat related to his brand's appeal and even to how he presents himself and thinks about conflicts. Since the name seems to be used in the restaurant's branding, I would wonder what associations there are with the Trump name in China and whether those meanings are in any way related to its most notable English homophone.

  4. AntC said,

    December 30, 2018 @ 7:59 am

    Victor: thank you, and I apologise for not studying the "Readings" in more detail.

    I feel bound to report that the (Si)chuānPū(tonghua) explanation isn't getting much credence with my informant (a Taiwanese Putonghua/Hokkien speaker, who can also guess at the Hakka or Cantonese prononciations for cognates).

    They don't get to hear much Sichuanese in Taiwan, so no awareness there would be a "pidgin". Chuanpu is just the conventional transcription for "Trump".

    @Herman, no I don't think there's an awareness of the English word's meaning; it's just a brand. For the meaning to work, I think the name would have to be transcribed with characters that reference that meaning as well as representing the sound — as with 'Home Rest'. Taiwanese/all Chinese are brand-obsessed; all the market stalls have look-alike merchandise of named brands, as Victor has often pointed out.

    It's hard to tell how much parody is going on with the Beef Noodles or 'Make Food Great Again' that Victor also posted: everybody I talk to thinks Trump is a huge joke/"crazy man".

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