"No" in Chinese

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A sign warning against uncivilized behavior in the main bazaar in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang region (Bloomberg):

Source:  "China’s Brutal ‘Boarding Schools’:  Beijing’s indoctrination centers for Muslim Uighurs are stark violations of human rights", by the Editorial Board, NYT (3/17/19)

The sign says:

duì bù wénmíng xíngwéi



to uncivilized behavior"

Although it may seem a bit odd to say "[just] say no" in English, it's no more odd to say "[zhǐ] shuō bù [只]说不" ("[just] say no") in Mandarin.



  1. cameron said,

    March 19, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

    Soon to come: TV ads with the tag-line "this is your brain on uncivilized behavior"

  2. mikegrubb said,

    March 20, 2019 @ 8:33 am

    [Following from cameron] "[…] We will not accept any questions."

  3. Tzk said,

    March 21, 2019 @ 5:24 pm

    You do see “shuo bu” a fair amount though. Obviously it sounds sort of unidiomatoc and translationy, but it’s been around for so long (remember 中国可以说不 from way back in the day?) that I feel like it’s sort of becoming it’s own thing now, at least among people of a certain age and socioeconomic situation. E.g. you see stuff like 学会说不 “learn to say no” all the time. Obviously Urumqi is probably not the epicenter of the sort of earnest self-help-inflected language change at play in “shuo bu” – but isn’t it kind of funny that in the midst of this whole big thing about “Sinocizing” Xinjiang they’ve elected to use an English word instead of an actually pretty common Mandarin version?

  4. B.Ma said,

    March 24, 2019 @ 1:10 am

    A government campaign in Hong Kong uses the slogan 向毒品說「不」!

    The meaning is clear even though it is not Cantonese. Replacing 說 with Cantonese 講 and replacing 不 with I'm not sure what, maybe mm要, doesn't quite work to my ear.

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