Pork floss Beckham

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That's the name of a delectable Chinese nosh made famous by this pastry shop.  The name of the snack in Chinese is "ròusōng xiǎobèi 肉鬆小貝" ("pork floss little cowry / cowrie"), after its shape and the main ingredient of the covering in which it is encased.

If you look up the English name in this encyclopedia entry, it gives "Pork floss Beckham".  What?  How did that happen?

In Chinese, the full name of the great soccer star, David Beckham, is Dàwèi·Bèikèhànmǔ 大卫·贝克汉姆 (so many successive 4th tones!) or Dàiwéi·Bèikèhànmǔ 戴维·贝克汉姆.  As is the custom with polysyllabic transcriptions of foreign names, his surname is reduced from Bèikèhànmǔ 贝克汉姆 to just Bèi 贝.  To this solitary syllable is added the affectionate prefix "xiǎo 小", hence "xiǎo Bèi 小貝" ("Little Beckham").

The term "Pork Floss" may strike many readers as strange, but it's a real thing, and we've discussed it on Language Log before (see the "Selected readings", also here).


Selected readings


[Thanks to Zihan Guo]


  1. Alvin said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 7:32 am

    That name wouldn't make sense to Hongkongers too, because we call him 碧咸 (bik1 haam4) over here.

  2. DJL said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 9:08 am

    GREAT soccer star? Shurely shome mishtake

  3. Bloix said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 9:20 am

    Bèi meaning cowry and also treasure was discussed here in the context of the name of a baby panda at the Washington National Zoo-

    Is the treasure meaning part of the reason that Beckham's name is reduced to bèi?

  4. Chas Belov said,

    August 10, 2021 @ 2:25 pm

    I find it odd that in the encyclopedia entry, "English name" is rendered as 外文名 instead of 英文名.

  5. /df said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 5:03 am

    So "xiǎo Bèi" is the equivalent of "Becks", as in "Posh and Becks" (Mrs and Mr David Beckham, she being "Posh Spice" of the eponymous Girls), whose Hertfordshire mansion was of course "Beckingham Palace".

  6. John Swindle said,

    August 11, 2021 @ 7:43 am

    @Chris Belov: "Pork floss Beckham" is the dish's "foreign name" ( 外文名 ) because that's what it's called in some relevant, non-Chinese language. Probably its original name. Not that that makes sense in this case.

  7. Miles B said,

    August 12, 2021 @ 4:04 am

    @DJL – reading the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry for David Beckham, I'm wondering why you think he falls short of qualifying as a great soccer star? The observation that he "was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players" by itself seems enough to make the case!

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