The toilet brush enigma

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This is one of the thorniest, orneriest Chinglish puzzles I've ever been confronted with.

Oy vey!

I know what "landing money" should mean:  a toilet brush caddy that sits on the floor, in contrast with one that hangs on the wall.  I can even roughly surmise what the "landing" part of "landing money" comes from, something like luòdì 落地 ("land / fall on the floor / ground") — note that airplanes jiàngluò 降落 ("descend-land", i.e., "land") — but the derivation of the "money" part of "landing money" does not immediately come to mind.  We'll worry about that later.

The problems only multiply when we go online and try to find instructions for this ingenious implement.  The toilet brush Henry Hitchings encountered appears to be the same as this one from AliExpress (run by Alibaba).

Package includes:

Wall hanging:
1x brush
1x base
1x no playing stickers

Landing money:
1x brush
1x base

Now we have to wonder what "no playing stickers" means.  Although, at first glance, the phrase seems completely opaque, since it's for the wall hanging version of the brush, the "stickers" part of "no playing stickers" can be approximately figured out because that's how you would affix the caddy to the wall — stickers, or perhaps not….  One can even suppose that the "no playing" portion signifies that the means whereby the caddy is stuck to the wall will not slip / slide around ("no play", i.e., are fixed securely) or doesn't require a lot of "playing around" (e.g., drilling holes, etc.) to secure the caddy to the wall.  The people who wrote the instructions may have begun with something like wúhén tiē 无痕贴 (stickers that won't leave a mark on the wall.  More on the stickers later.

One possible explanation for why this specimen of Chinglish is more bizarre than the typical run of the mill species (I will make a sampling for comparison in a forthcoming post) is that the original translation was from Chinese to some other language and that the English was translated from that intermediary language.  Thus were there two opportunities for distortion, indeed the possibility for double distortion.

How did the translators end up with "landing money" from what probably started out in their mind as  "floor style"?  Where did that "money" part come from?

Well, the character kuǎn 款 can mean "shape; style; design; fashion; pattern; model" as in the term kuǎnshì 款式, but it can also mean "(a sum of) money; funds; payment; cash", as in kuǎnzi 款子.  So, I hypothesize that they were thinking of luòdì kuǎn 落地款 ("floor model / style") and that got twisted to "landing money".

So much for what can be conjectured about the original thinking / wording of the people who drew up instructions and publicity / advertising, presumably in Chinese.  Now let's see how much of it we can verify by looking for a Chinese version of the product description.

Jinyi Cai was able to achieve that by taking a screenshot of the toilet brush shown on the Alibaba website and searching for an image of the same item on Taobao (Chinese Alibaba).  Here is what she found:

See the picture shown below, the two brushes I circled with red marks: they are luòdì kuǎn 落地款 ("floor model / style"). So the correct way to translate it is: the floor sitting style/ the one that sits on the floor. Guess what happens if you put "落地款" on Baidu translation?! Please refer to the second image shown below. Baidu translation interprets "落地款" as luòdì de kuǎnxiàng 落地的款项, like a "landing payment". I don't think there is a thing called "landing payment" in English, but Baidu translation clearly interprets the "落地款" the wrong way like that. Landing payment isn't exactly the same as "landing money", so I guess the person responsible might have used another translation tool that was about the same as Baidu. (Google translation does a better job as its translation is "floor style".)  Given the context, it sort of made sense since the person might not have access to use Google translation in China. "Landing Money" will do.

The two brushes I underlined with green marks: they are bìguà kuǎn 壁挂款 ("wall hang / mount style"). The correct way to translate it is: the one that could be hang on the wall. The English translation "wall hanging" is pretty accurate.

I agree with you about the "no playing sticker". I couldn't find the original Chinese term for it. The one I found on Taobao says miǎn dǎ kǒng miǎn ānzhuāng 免打孔免安装 (no need to punch holes, no need to install). I guess "no playing" either refers to "non-slippery" or "no need to play around/mess around".

Baidu Translation: 

So it turns out that all of my inferences were correct, as correct as one can be when dealing with Chinglish, particularly Chinglish that may have gone through two layers of dubious translation.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Jinyi Cai, Qingchen Li, Qianheng Jiang, Chenfeng Wang]


  1. Tim Rowe said,

    October 30, 2022 @ 4:42 am

    There might not be such a thing as a landing *payment* in English, but there is such a thing as a landing *fee*, charged by airports.

  2. John Swindle said,

    October 30, 2022 @ 8:27 am

    Also landing charges, either for aircraft or ships or boats or cargo, any of which could could involve (but wouldn’t immediately evoke) toilet brushes.

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