Sanity is the most important

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Sign at the Paris Baguette shop in Zhongguancun, Beijing:

Sanity may not be the most important thing, but it is certainly one of the most important things.

Here's what the sign really says:

wèishēng shì zuì zhòngyào de 卫生是最重要的
("hygiene is the most important")

Compared to "Indicrteurseus", solving this one is as easy as, uh, pie.

From among the usual translations for wèishēng 卫生, namely "health; hygiene; sanitation", the translator took the last one, but garbled it so that it came out as "sanity". Of course, he / she wasn't too far off, because "sanity" and "sanitation" are closely related, both deriving from Latin sanus ("healthy; sane").

Even those readers who don't know Chinese at all probably figured this one out because of the hand under the water that is coming from the faucet.

For those who are curious about the name "Paris Baguette", it was discussed at considerable length in "Les Baguettes à Pékin".

[h.t. to Jerimiah Willhite]


  1. KenM said,

    May 26, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

    It also reminds me of the jurisdictions which still have departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (Maryland and NYC among them), since Mental Hygiene looks like it's normally translated 心理卫生(学). It wouldn't be the shortest way to get from A to weirdly translated B, but this doesn't look like the work of someone who back-translated their target text to make sure they got the right meaning.

  2. BobC said,

    May 26, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    Is that the sanity clause?

  3. Ralph Hickok said,

    May 26, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    Mens sana in corpore sano

  4. Michael C. Dunn said,

    May 27, 2013 @ 1:37 am


    There ain't no sanity clause.

  5. Norval Smith said,

    May 27, 2013 @ 4:16 am

    A notice I saw on a university building in Ghent (Belgium) last year made a similar kind of error. At the entrance to the "Centrum voor Milieusanering" (= centre for environmental redevelopment) it had, under the Dutch name, a "translation" into English as "Centre for Environmental Sanitation".

  6. maidhc said,

    May 27, 2013 @ 5:38 am

    Like the old saying "Clean mind, clean body–take your pick."

  7. Jens Fiederer said,

    May 29, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    This one has been getting a lot of circulation recently….any Language Loggers care to take a crack at it?

    I'm guessing that double-crossed T character (gan?) accounts for the "fuck" again.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

    @Jens Flederer

    I think I wrote about that before, but can't find it right now. For the time being, if you Google on

    Victor Mair fuck the duck


    Victor Mair explode

    (no quotation marks)

    you'll find the explanations you're seeking.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    @Jens Flederer

    Two relevant Language Log posts:

    1. On GAN ("fuck; dry"):

    "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation"

    "Kim Possible Taste"

    2. On BAO ("explode"):

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