French seafood shucking soon

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Jeroen van de Weijer writes, "This morning I came across two signs in my street, Mengzi Lu in Shanghai":

The Chinese announcement says:

Fǎshì hǎixiān jíjiāng kāiyè 法式海鲜即将开业 ("French seafood opening soon")

Why in the world did someone decide to replace the easy "opening" by "shucking"?

The Chinese equivalent for "shuck" (as of clams or oysters) is bōké 剥壳. We can't get from that to kāiyè 开业 ("opening"). However, shucking oysters and clams is also regularly and legitimately referred to as "opening" oysters and clams. I suppose that someone correctly translated jíjiāng kāiyè 将开业 as "opening soon", but that the owner or another person connected to the restaurant thought that was too prosaic and wanted something that sounded more seafoody, so they asked for another word meaning "opening" and got back "shucking". The fact that they chose "seafood bistro" over the more direct and literal "French seafood" for Fǎshì hǎixiān 法式海鲜 shows their willingness to reach for something more picturesque and uncommon.


  1. Neil Dolinger said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    "Shucking soon" might be an overreach if the owner meant "opening soon". but I have to give them points for cleverness. Points off, however, for runningthewordstogether.

  2. Morgan J said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    Were this a sign from the US, I would not have given it a second thought. If shucking oysters is one of the main occupations of a "Seafood Bistro", then the sign could easily mean "we will be in business soon (and shucking lots of fresh oysters when we are.)"
    I was reminded of a chain of fish sandwich shops in Louisville KY which was famous locally for a neon sign saying "Now Frying". This inspired several copycat slogans–"Now Brewing" in coffee shops and a few others which escape me at the moment.
    Is it possible that someone on Mengzi lu was fluent in American Commercial English (ACE)?

  3. amandachen said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

    I think it's a shucking wonderful translation.

  4. Craig said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

    Yeah this sounds like a pretty good tag for a new seafood restaurant anywhere. Maybe it's my simple midwestern mind, but I could imagine "Shucking soon" being a hip way someone decided to tag their under-construction bistro. The more vulgar advertisement might include a fake job wanter poster: "Help Wanted: Who's down to Shuck?"

  5. Colin Fine said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Hm. This side of the Atlantic, that meaning of "shuck" was completely unknown to me so nothing but context would let me make any sense at all of the sign. . I know the word as a rather rare alternative to "shed", and as something Americans do to corn.
    It is quite common here for chippies (fish and chip shops) to display "frying times" rather than "opening times".

  6. Bobbie said,

    November 1, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

    @Colin Fine, To open an oyster, one uses a special knife and wedges it into the side of the oyster until the shell opens. Here in the States, this is known as "shucking an oyster." A perfectly acceptable term.

  7. Morgan J said,

    November 2, 2013 @ 3:32 am

    Are waves of fortune seeking Westerners now heading to China to open neighbourhood restaurants? Will Coquille St Jacques be the Chinese Moo Goo Gai Pan?

    As my grandmother would have said in a case of such role reversal: 'the devil turns the barrel over' (an expression I've never encountered anywhere else. Anyone?)

  8. Victor Mair said,

    November 2, 2013 @ 7:11 am

    @Morgan J

    Was your mother a native speaker of English? If not, or if she grew up in a family that spoke another language, perhaps this unusual expression comes from that language.

  9. Morgan J said,

    November 2, 2013 @ 4:50 pm


    My grandmother was born in the US, but her mother was a native speaker of Swedish. She (grandma) used to say she wasn't allowed to speak Swedish at home, but I've wondered too whether the expression might have come from Sweden.

  10. millou said,

    November 2, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

    "coquille", in french, doesn't only mean "seashell". It is also typesetters' slang for "typo", i.e. typing mistake.

    a famous joke among journalists is the word "couille" – slang for "testicle", also used to mean "something amiss, something wrong" – being itself a typo of the word "coquille": it's missing the "q".

  11. Victor Mair said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

    @Morgan J

    I ask several Swedish friends, but none of them could think of such a saying.

  12. Victor Mair said,

    November 3, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    I just thought of the quaint expression, "warm the cockles of your heart", and realized that "cockles" means the same thing as "coquilles", but that still doesn't help me understand why the saying means what it does.

  13. Chris Waters said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    Actually, "cockle", in English, is more specific: it's a type of clam. However, the phrase "cockles of your heart" is a bit more mysterious. There are several different theories of its derivation, but no consensus.

  14. richardelguru said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 7:06 am

    Surely 'warm the mussels of you heart' would be appropriate too?

  15. BobW said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

    Maybe in Mussel Shoals, richardguru ;/

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