Emoji in Chinese music video lyric

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From Charles Belov:

I thought I was going to be sending you a case of Google Translate munging a song lyric when translating it from Chinese to English. Instead, I'm sending you a case of a Chinese music video making use of an emoji in the song lyrics.

The song in question is gǎibiàn 改變 (Changes) by Taiwan rocker Zhāng Zhènyuè 張震嶽 A-Yue. If I copy the lyrics from Rock Records' posting on YouTube, Google Translate translates the line in question "Wǒ xiǎng dàbiàn 我想大便" as "I want to have a bowel movement." Now I am familiar with the term dai bihn (in Cantonese) as to defecate and I (mistakenly) guessed the phrase must mean something else as well and that Google Translate chose the wrong meaning.

But, as I re-watched the video, I noticed that at 1:57 they gave the lyric as "我想💩" that is, using the emoji at U+1F4A9, pile of poop. So no mis-translation at all, only a mismatch in register.

For those who are interested, the lyrics are available on the YouTube site for the song, and if you want to know what they mean, you can copy and paste them into Google Translate, which gives a pretty good English rendering of them.

A point worth noting is that the title and theme of the song, gǎibiàn 改變 ("change"), is the disyllabic form of biàn 變 ("change; transform"), which is homophonous with the "biàn 便" ("convenience") of "dàbiàn 大便 ("greater convenience" [#2]) and "xiǎobiàn 小便" ("lesser convenience" [#1]).  For the ultimate Buddhist derivation of the latter expressions, see the Selected readings.

Selected readings

"Linguistic advice in the lavatory: speaking Mandarin is a great convenience for everyone" (9/11/07)

"Just the Queen invites irrigation" (4/8/08)

"Chinese lesson for today" (8/29/10)

"Next day's Chinese lesson" (8/31/10)

"It is forbidden to urinate here. The penalty is bang." (9/2/10)

"Urination is inhuman " (2/6/11)

"Don't pee on this teapot " (3/28/13)

"Greater and lesser conveniences" (6/25/14)

"Sino-Sanskritic 'devil'" (12/11/18)

"Toilet Revolution!!" (11/26/17) — see particularly the last comment for numerous articles on this subject in the Chinese press

"Toilet revolution!, part 2" (11/22/18)

"Toilet revolution, an unfinished business: beware!" (5/25/19)

"Civilized urinating" (10/31/17)

"Just the Queen invites irrigation" (4/8/08)

"Chinese lesson for today" (8/29/10)

"Next day's Chinese lesson" (8/31/10)

"Urination is inhuman" (2/6/11)

"Signs from Kashgar to Delhi" (10/11/13)

"Please pee in the pool" (8/4/14)

"'Please enter your cock after urinating'" (4/9/16)

"Bovine / friggin' toilet" (9/6/18)

1 Comment

  1. Chas Belov said,

    June 19, 2019 @ 11:50 am

    I forgot to mention use of the pile of poop as a single character for a two-syllable expression.

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