Bilingual wordplay on a Taipei sign

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From Tom Mazanac:

I came across this sign on the subway recently:

Tom explains:

It's an ad for the waterpark (which my children love), but what struck me most was the bilingual wordplay in the middle: 夏天Want to 水, above which is written "1 2 3", which I think is supposed to sound like "want to shuǐ" in a Taiwanese accent without 捲舌.


xiàtiān 夏天 ("summer")

shuǐ 水 ("water")

juǎnshé 捲舌 ("retroflex") — it's interesting that all the half a dozen or so online translators and dictionaries that I checked defined this term as "roll / curl the tongue" or some such

Children like to play in the water; Taipei people (Táiběi rén 臺北人) like to play with words.

Selected readings


  1. Wanttojut said,

    August 15, 2023 @ 7:32 pm

    The man in charge of this water event demonstrates how to say the slogan from his own mouth in a radio program:

  2. John Swindle said,

    August 16, 2023 @ 12:15 am

    "Want to 水 suǐ," "one, two, three," like "1, 2, 3, go!," the guy explains, and goes on to discuss events and 玩水 wán suǐ 'water play.'

    Which would be "1, 3" if I'm not mistaken, but I don't hear him go there.

  3. Jonathan Smith said,

    August 16, 2023 @ 10:19 pm

    ^ He explains "one two tsuí" feeling that the pun works better with the Taiwanese word for 'water'. To me it's a wash…

  4. Tom said,

    August 17, 2023 @ 10:57 am

    Cool, thanks for the link, @Wanttojut! Gives more context to the sign I just randomly saw.

  5. Hsiao-wen Cheng said,

    August 17, 2023 @ 1:01 pm

    水 here is supposed to be pronounced in two ways, both in Taiwanese, not Taiwanese accented Mandarin. 1) tsui 水 (water), 2) sui 媠 (often written as 水 in everyday communication; meaning beautiful, pretty, or just cool)

  6. Hsiao-wen Cheng said,

    August 17, 2023 @ 1:20 pm

    A common misunderstanding of Taiwanese accented Mandarin is that it doesn't distinguish retroflex and non-retroflex consonants. That is not entirely true. Most people in Taiwan don't pronounce "sh" (ʂ) as retroflexy as people in Beijing do, but there is definitely a distinction between "sh" (ʂ) and "s." The most obvious distinction is that "sh" is close to palatal and "s" is interdental/alveolar.

  7. Sanchuan said,

    September 9, 2023 @ 12:00 am

    So, to refer back to an earlier post here, it looks like the guys behind the sign would definitely agree with young Londoners that "one" should rhyme with "wan(t)" or "con" (as opposed to "won" or "fun").

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