"Classic Female Poison Earplugs" — Ask Language Log

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Image and query from Hans Oddvar Vannes:

Hans writes:

As a reader of your Language log posts on the many funny misunderstandings that can arise when translating from Chinese to English, I have a problem for you that I hope you can solve. It's about a Chinese company that produces earbuds which they advertise as "Classic Female Poison Earplugs". I have attached (see above) one of the many images they use in their marketing.

Do you have any idea of what they are trying to say here? The model in question, the JCally JC10, is for sale on Aliexpress where you can switch between different languages, including Chinese, but unfortunately the texts on the images are in English, so what Chinese expression they are trying to translate is unknown.

I don't know any Chinese myself, so I hope you could shed some light on this mystery.

My initial thought was that it might have something to do with the non-toxicity of the materials used to make the earplugs, because the matter of the absence of toxic substances in the earplugs was mentioned in some of the advertising copy.

After a bit more research, I found the Chinese equivalent to "Classic Female Poison Earplugs" here.  It is:

That is, jīngdiǎn nǚ dú sāi 經典女毒塞. The first word means "classic", no problem.  The second means "woman" or "female", which is slightly more difficult to understand, but still presents no insurmountable obstacle. The third means "poison" or "toxin", which seems to make no sense when used to modify the final word, which means "plug; stuff; stop(per) / stop up".

Below, I will give a more precise translation of the whole expression that is suitable for the context.  First, though, a few words of explanation.

"Nǚ dú 女毒" (lit., "female toxin / poison") is a term used by audiophiles who are especially enthusiastic about high-quality female vocals when using earbuds, headphones, and other listening devices for playback.  It describes a quality of sound reproduction that can reproduce dulcet female acoustic sounds that are so bewitching they can almost “poison” listeners to be infatuated by what they're hearing. "Nǚ dú sāi 女毒塞" thus refers to earbuds that can play (i.e., are specifically designed to reproduce) this kind of music with good acoustics.

Here and here are online explanations (in Chinese) of these devices and the phenomenon described above.

So, a plausible, though bulky, translation of "jīngdiǎn nǚ dú sāi 經典女毒塞" would be:  "classic earbuds [for reproducing] the intoxicating [sounds / quality] of the female [voice]".

[Thanks to Diana Shuheng Zhang, Yijie Zhang, and Chenfeng Wang]


  1. rpsms said,

    September 16, 2021 @ 4:46 pm

    Or "Diva Style(tm)"

  2. Aardvark Cheeselog said,

    September 17, 2021 @ 3:47 pm

    I get the feeling that "entry-level" "classic female poison" is a bit of an oxymoron in this context. I think I would hold out for the "enthusiast" grade.

  3. Gregory Kusnick said,

    September 17, 2021 @ 5:55 pm

    "Killer treble" perhaps?

  4. Batchman said,

    September 18, 2021 @ 5:30 pm

    Besides, they're not even earplugs, but earbuds. Earplugs would be for suppressing sound, female voices included.

  5. John H said,

    September 19, 2021 @ 8:36 am

    If you go onto the JD (京东) website with Chrome and Chinese-to-English translation on, you'll get a whole plethora of nonsensical translations for audio gear.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    September 19, 2021 @ 11:56 am

    I must agree with Batchman that, generally speaking, ear-plugs are intended to block out sounds rather than to introduce them, but for me "ear buds" are cotton buds specifically intended for cleaning one's ears …

  7. John Rohsenow said,

    September 19, 2021 @ 2:19 pm

    I think a connection between du2 毒 'poison' and yin3 瘾 'addiction' can be made thru' the term du2yin3 毒瘾 'drug addiction'.

  8. Andreas Johansson said,

    September 20, 2021 @ 12:55 am

    Is there a corresponding term in use among anglophone audiophiles? Doesn't sound like too outré a concern.

  9. Erica said,

    September 20, 2021 @ 3:50 am

    Sick earbuds for ladies

  10. Batchman said,

    September 21, 2021 @ 10:37 pm

    The implements for cleaning one's ears are known to me as cotton swabs, or by the (trademarked) name Q-Tips.

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