No watching and no walking

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Bryan Van Norden sent in this sign that he found here:

zǒulù bù kàn jǐng
kàn jǐng bù zǒulù

走路不看景
看景不走路

"don't look at the scenery when you're walking
don't walk when you're looking at the scenery"

It's sort of like walking and chewing gum at the  same time, except that if you walk while enjoying the scenery or enjoy the scenery while walking, you might fall off the mountain and die.



9 Comments »

  1. Ruth Blau said,

    November 8, 2019 @ 6:42 am

    "WATCHLNG"???

  2. Elizabeth said,

    November 8, 2019 @ 6:46 am

    Reminds me of a slogan in Japanese used to discourage drunk driving:

    飲むなら乗るな
    乗るなら飲むな
    Nomu nara noru na
    Noru nara nomu na

    "Don't drink if you drive.
    Don't drive if you drink."

  3. Rodger C said,

    November 8, 2019 @ 7:39 am

    "If you drink, don't drive. If you drive, don't drink." was a PSA slogan in the US many years ago.

  4. Michael Watts said,

    November 8, 2019 @ 9:34 am

    "WATCHLNG"???

    I assume at some point in the process a capital I was reinterpreted as a lowercase L. That kind of error is fairly common in China.

    走路不看景
    看景不走路

    "don't look at the scenery when you're walking
    don't walk when you're looking at the scenery"

    I find this gloss very interesting in the context of https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=44893 , where we learned that

    "Bù 不" is not a suitable word for negative imperative sentences. To tell someone not to do something, it is more natural to say "bié 别" ("don't") or "jìnzhǐ 禁止" ("it is prohibited / forbidden"). For example, "bié chī 别吃" ("don't eat"), "bié hē 别喝" ("don't drink"), "jìnzhǐ chīhē 禁止吃喝" ("eating and drinking are prohibited").

    Seems that if the Chinese are comfortable using 不 to issue negative commands on signs, it should be fair game for the Japanese to do the same thing in the Chinese translations on their signs. But I'd love to hear more about when this should or shouldn't occur.

  5. rpsms said,

    November 8, 2019 @ 1:33 pm

    It's sort of like walking and chewing gum at the same time, except that if you walk while enjoying the scenery or enjoy the scenery while walking, you might fall off the mountain and die.

    But can we walk and chew the scenery?

  6. John Swindle said,

    November 9, 2019 @ 1:45 am

    @Michael Watts: Excellent point about Chinese 不 bù ("not"). I'm just a long-time slow learner, but I can't see using 不看景 ("not sightseeing") by itself to prohibit sightseeing or 不走路 ("not walking") by itself to prohibit walking, whereas 不 is just right in the sign on the mountain trail: A no B, B no A. Some kind of coordinating thing? I don't know what the rule is.

    Compare also 没有共产党没有新中国 Méiyǒu gòngchǎndǎng méiyǒu xīn zhōngguó ("No Communist Party, no New China") and "Neither Mitt smokes nor Barack smokes."

  7. Michael Watts said,

    November 9, 2019 @ 5:12 am

    I asked a friend about these two signs:

    Friend: 我觉得可以用不字发命令 [I think you can use 不 to give commands]

    Me: 那"在房间里不吃不喝"还有问题吗?[Then are there other problems with 在房间里不吃不喝?]

    Friend: 有啊 [Yes]

    Friend: 这个问题和不字没有关系 [The problem has nothing to do with 不]

    Friend: 而是有一种更好的表达 [It is that there is a better expression]

    Friend: 房间内禁止饮食 ["Within the room, it is forbidden to eat or drink"]

    Friend: 而且不吃不喝,在中文的概念中是主动绝食的一个状态 [And in Chinese, 不吃不喝 refers to a state of actively refusing to eat]

    Friend: 比如,小狗死了,小主人非常难过,不吃不喝 [For example, a puppy died, and the owner's child was very sad, refusing to eat or drink]

  8. Jonathan Smith said,

    November 9, 2019 @ 9:34 am

    While it is true that "to tell someone not to do something," bie2 别 is normal spoken Mandarin, I don't think you will find this colloquial-feeling historical contraction too often in public signage, but rather wenyan wu4 勿 and words like 禁止, 严禁…
    As for 不 in similar contexts, I'm not sure Michael Watts' friend has quite gotten to the heart of it… to me, signs like "不剩饭 不剩菜" "文明用餐 不吸烟 不大声喧哗" "走廊内不奔跑 不追逐不打闹" (and famous "不忘初心"?) seem to convey a familial "we don't / let's don't" as opposed to being commands sensu stricto.

  9. John Swindle said,

    November 9, 2019 @ 9:50 pm

    Michael Watts, I see! So 不吃不喝 bù chī bù hē "neither eating nor drinking" is an idiom of sorts. That's what I missed in the other case. In line with what Jonathan Smith said, though, the sign on the trail isn't exactly a prohibition, and substituting one of the "don't" words would make it sound like a regulation.

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