"Carefully Fall Into The Cliff"

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It's been a while since we have posted on this sub-genre of Chinglish:

My parents are touring China and spotted this very thoughtful sign… from funny


xiǎoxīn zhuì yá 小心坠崖 ("beware / be careful of falling off the cliff; careful not to fall off the cliff")

Five-ten years ago, machine translators usually mangled such counterintuitive constructions (lit., "be careful to fall off the cliff"), but now they've usually been trained to catch them, e.g.:

xiǎoxīn shuāi dǎo 小心摔倒 ("be careful of falling")

xiǎoxīn pèngtóu 小心碰头 ("careful not to hit your head; watch your head"), but Microsoft Bing messes this one up in another way by rendering it as "be careful of meeting"), which is the wrong choice of the two main translations of pèngtóu 碰头 (lit., "hit / bump / strike / touch head")

The calligraphy is pretty nice.


Selected readings



  1. Guy said,

    December 11, 2021 @ 1:33 pm

    What about the choice of “into”? Is this just a case of prepositions being hard or could the Chinese word translated here as “cliff” be rendered also as something like “gorge” or “drop”? Come to think of it the natural use of “off” or “off of” with “cliff” is a little hard to predict. I normally think of the cliff as primarily being the cliff face, not the edge of the flat ground above it (although I suppose I am conceptualizing it as being included in some vague way).

  2. Ali said,

    December 11, 2021 @ 8:36 pm

    What's up with the way 心 is written there? I can't recognize it, not even really knowing what it's supposed to be. It looks like there's an extra stroke, it this some calligraphy thing?

  3. AntC said,

    December 11, 2021 @ 9:07 pm

    @Guy, I'd most likely use "don't fall over the cliff". But I'd have a hard job explaining to a non-English speaker how that's different to falling over a kerbstone. Or tripping over (up?) a doorstep.

  4. John Swindle said,

    December 12, 2021 @ 6:56 am

    @Ali: Yes, it is some calligraphy thing, and it’s consistent with the way 小 to the left of it is written. It’s not an added stroke; the writer hasn’t picked up the brush fully between a couple of strokes.

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    December 12, 2021 @ 11:17 am

    "fall over the cliff" doesn't work for me — I would express that as "fall off> the cliff".

    Regarding the calligraphy, would others agree that the English text is carved and then painted, while the Chinese text is only painted but the calligrapher has used a darker pigment to create a 3-D effect ?

  6. Anthony said,

    December 12, 2021 @ 12:36 pm

    One goes over a waterfall, which I would consider a type of cliff.

  7. Toby Blyth said,

    December 12, 2021 @ 2:20 pm

    @ali that is a fairly normal way of writing 心 – see the various calligraphy dictionaries. There is no extra stroke, just brush flicks.

  8. Haamu said,

    December 12, 2021 @ 5:05 pm

    @Philip Taylor — No, can’t agree. Zooming in, both look carved.

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