Pixie shoes

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A stylish clothing company comes up with sexy new shoes worthy of an elf or a pixie, and look at their ad:

Fair enough, but a Chinese speaker is likely to interpret "pixie" as signifying "píxié 皮鞋" ("[leather] shoes").

It's a similar sort of faux ami as this one, which might mean "SCHOOL GO" (xíng 行 ["go"]) to a Chinese.


[h.t. Perry Link]


  1. jin defang said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 1:23 pm

    reminds me of my first time in California what I saw "ped xing" on a street corner. Xing obviously was 行, but "ped"?

    and then there's Dixie highway, major route through Miami and in fact the entire east coast US. "Di" must be 地, but what about the xie? 地寫. Ah, now I get it!

  2. John Rohsenow said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 3:03 pm

    I also long ago felt the same way about PED XING (probably wouldn't
    if it have been written PED X-ING), but gave up pronouncing Damen
    Ave here in Chicago as DA MEN when I was speaking Chinese, as it
    just caused confusion.

  3. David Marjanović said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 6:11 pm

    Damen Ave here in Chicago

    Well, is there a big gate at the end of it? Inquiring minds want to know!

  4. Victor Mair said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 9:54 pm

    I just passed by a PED XING sign painted on the pavement 15 minutes ago on my way home from the airport this evening.

  5. Viseguy said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 10:07 pm

    My wife and I, both Sinitic-illiterate, always intone "ped shing" whenever we encounter one of those crossings in CA. Nice to know that the meaning fits.

  6. cameron said,

    September 8, 2019 @ 10:44 pm

    I remember, about 25 years ago, joking with one of my friends that when archaeologists in future centuries were excavating the college campus where we were both undergraduates at the time, that they would interpret the campus as a grandiose temple complex dedicated to the gods STOP and PED-XING.

  7. Daniel Barkalow said,

    September 9, 2019 @ 2:26 am

    Near where I live, there's a bike path which occasionally has painted on it "HWY XING". When I see it, I pronounce it like 回行 (in some sort of Welsh Pinyin), but you can actually use a crosswalk and keep going the same direction on the other side of the street.

  8. Leo said,

    September 9, 2019 @ 2:52 am

    "Colours" in an American advert? Golly!

  9. Thomas Rees said,

    September 9, 2019 @ 3:34 am

    It's a UK company: Beaconsfield Footwear Ltd (doing business as Hotter Shoes) of 2 Peel Road, West Pimbo, Skelmersdale, WN8 9PT. But of course US ad copy sometimes uses international spelling for snob appeal.

  10. pooru said,

    September 9, 2019 @ 8:34 am

    I've seen those signs in the once-great republic to our south. Always pronounced the second element ZING, as the peds were liable to get zinged.

  11. Jim D said,

    September 10, 2019 @ 4:47 pm

    Ped Xing was also a character on Max Headroom way back when.

  12. Philip Anderson said,

    September 11, 2019 @ 6:56 am

    My understanding was that a ‘faux ami’ was a related word that has a different meaning in two languages? Surely no Chinese speaker would interpret a word in an English advert as pinyin (except in jest)?

  13. B.Ma said,

    September 11, 2019 @ 8:05 am

    @Philip Anderson

    I can certainly see how someone who reads a lot of Pinyin might initially parse PIXIE as píxié when there is a big picture of a shoe nearby.

  14. Philip Andersons said,

    September 11, 2019 @ 4:28 pm

    Philip Anderson, I'd say yes, but that the extent probably depends on the person's English ability. I find that lower-level learners will often assume that a word that looks like one in their first language *is* that word, i.e., someone doesn't know the English word "pixie" and therefore assumes the Chinese word has been borrowed into English, which would be a reasonable assumption here given that it's supported by the context. (To be honest, the Chinese meaning makes more sense here.) I'd say an intermediate-level speaker might think of their L1 word first, then realize it must not be that (presumably aided by the L1 word not making sense in context).

    (Of course, some learners go the other way and don't recognize seemingly obvious cognates.)

    Given that the the Chinese word here does make sense in context and the English pixie is a low-enough frequency word that a lot of NNES may not have encountered it, it totally makes sense to me.

    I knew a girl in college whose German grandfather thought that Pizza Hut had a German name, and the roof depicted in the logo was a brimmed hat. (German "Hut" = English "hat")

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