Water between

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This photograph was taken at the northern train station in Changchun, China:

The sign reads: kāishuǐ jiān 开水间 ("water between").

We recently encountered similar signs in "Opens the waterhouse; open water rooms", where the same kāishuǐ jiān 开水间 as here was translated as "open water rooms". Since we've already fully dissected that mistranslation and explained the cultural background behind the Chinese fondness for hot water, we know that the correct translation for kāishuǐ jiān 开水间 is something like "room for boiling water".

There's not much to add on this occasion, except to say that we see increasing evidence that, as the level of English overall rises, China's netizens themselves point out such errors and make suggestions for improvement, as here, where they offer as alternatives to "water between" the following: Water Heater Room、Boiler Room、Hot Water Room.

As to how "water between" came about in the first place, the translator simply paid no attention to kāi 开 ("open; boil; start", and many other diverse meanings), while they chose the wrong meaning of jiān 間 ("between; among; within a certain space; room; separate; divide").

[Hat tip to Cheng Fangyi]


  1. hanmeng said,

    March 15, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

    Or the translator thought of "开水" as potable water, so "water" was good enough for that phrase.

  2. Anton Sherwood said,

    March 16, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    The "water" character is clearly between two other characters, so what's the big deal?

  3. Daniel Barkalow said,

    March 22, 2013 @ 10:34 am

    Translating the sign as "Boiler Room" or "Water Heater Room" makes it sound (to an American, at least, and probably someone from most other English-speaking countries) as if the room contains an appliance for making non-potable hot water or for making steam used to heat the building, and, in any case, operated only by authorized personnel. On the other hand, there is an English term for an appliance that provides hot potable water on demand. So the sign could use this term in a helpful (if not expected) translation: "Water Cooler Room".

  4. Chandra said,

    March 25, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    ? I'm Canadian and wouldn't think of a water cooler as an appliance which provides hot potable water.

  5. Kelly said,

    April 3, 2013 @ 6:15 am

    What about "kettle room"? The device employed is probably not actually a kettle, but the word implies all the important information (hot, potable, for general use) without being confused with another concept like "boiler room" would.

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