Handy Nasty

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From Perry Link, who recently delivered a lecture entitled "How Important is Internet Satire in China?" (October 29, 2013 [see below for abstract]) at Penn:

A note for the true-story joke section of your language log: My son and daughter-in-law were invited to my after-talk dinner at the Han Dynasty restaurant there on Market St.  They googled the place for directions, not using spaces, and then thought: "Hey, wait a minute!  Why are we going to a restaurant named the Handy Nasty?

Curious to discover whether the same hilarious miswriting had occurred elsewhere, I came upon this article, "Handy Nasty:  Chinese-izing American Food" at Phoodie.info.

Since it is language-related, for those who are interested, here is a summary of Perry's lecture:

Beginning in the late 1950s, the harshness of late Maoism brought to Chinese society a bifurcation of language — clearer and sharper than it is in most other societies — between official and unofficial language. People spoke one way at home and among friends, and another way in public contexts. Public language, right to its grammar, fit with the political interests of the ruling authority.  The Internet, though, breaks this pattern.  It is the first medium in PRC history in which unofficial talk is put in public and can survive there, despite efforts at repression.  This important fact has implications for how people organize, how they bring pressure, and even how they conceive what it means to be a Chinese person.

A couple of relevant Language Log posts:

"Blocked on Weibo"
"Perry Link on Chinese 'rhythm, metaphor, politics'"


  1. Matt McIrvin said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 11:22 am

    Haverhill, Massachusetts has a shortage of good Chinese restaurants, but the one that rises to the level of acceptability by my standards is a restaurant/sports bar that used to be right down the street from us, and was called Han Garden. A few years ago, it moved downtown to a much busier location and renamed itself Hans Garden, as if (plus or minus an apostrophe) Han were a person who owned the garden.

    I've wondered occasionally about that change, and whether they decided to make it just because that was what people called it anyway.

  2. Rod Johnson said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    Ann Arbor used to have a Chinese restaurant with the too-clever-by-half name "Dinersty," which of course was parsed as "diner sty" more often than not.

  3. Duncan said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    The most unfortunately memorable name spacing collision I'm familiar with was the site formerly selling pens, etc, pen-island dot com (without the dash!). I guess someone offered them more money than they could turn down for the name for its more obvious purpose, however, as. when I looked it up just now the front page is now an 18+ warning.

    Kinda hard to forget where you bought that pen, tho, for sure! =:^)

  4.   said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    There's still penisland.net, which uses the domain name to its full potential.

    Q: Can I provide my own wood?
    A: In most cases we can handle your wood. We do require all shipments to be clean, free of parasites and pass all standard customs inspections.

  5. Jason said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 2:48 pm


    Penisland however, was always intended as a joke. You couldn't even order a pen from them. I guess they tired of the joke and decided to monetarize it.

  6. David Morris said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    Over breakfast and with my wife still upstairs I took my research of pen(no space)island.com one click further. (Just one click, I swear!) Let's say that it specialises in pink pens.

  7. Theophylact said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    I love redivisible words like man's/laughter, wee/knights, Superb/owl and Hippo/crates — and so do crossword setters at, say, the Guardian.

  8. Rod Johnson said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

    "Cow orker" is another common one, though "orker," of course is kind of a nonsense cranberry morph.

  9. Eric P Smith said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

    I'm always amazed how many concerns call themselves Eurinvest.

  10. KCIvey said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

    I'm not sure whether expertsexchange.com knew what they were doing when they got the domain, but they have switched to the hyphenated version now.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    November 4, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    Bad words


    From Francis Miller:

    Here is a list of words analyzed by Jason Ng and featured on boingboing, a group blog that happens to be vocally opposed to censorship. The list of words is taken from code from Lianwo, a mobile chat app (LINE) in English, and prompts a message that notifies the message sender that their content is not appropriate and may contain sensitive material. Anyways, the blog post has 24 of the terms and a brief definition for each.

    VHM: Click on the red Chinese characters for each of the 24 "bad words" entries to obtain an analytical description and explanation of the offending terms.


    Jason is the author of Blocked on Weibo.

    "Blocked on Weibo"


  12. Rodger C said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    I believe it was Dave Barry who pointed out that the Lake Tahoe tourist bureau goes under the domain name gotahoe. I just confirmed this.

  13. AJD said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    I'm surprised you haven't encountered "Handy Nasty" before, Mark. I'm told it's a common joke around the LDC.

    The other canonical example of this kind of thing, alongside Pen Island and Experts Exchange, is (the possibly apocryphal?) Powergen Italia.

  14. OrenWithAnE said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    I think Mole Station Nursery takes the cake, although they are now renamed to Mole Station Native Plant Nursery[1].

    [1] http://www.molerivernursery.com/

  15. Jon said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

    One that is still trading is therapist.com. Checking on that, I found that there is another one, burntherapist.com.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 3:27 pm


    Were you addressing Mark Liberman? I didn't notice that he is part of this conversation.

  17. AJD said,

    November 5, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

    As you say! Sorry, I thought he was.

  18. Ted said,

    November 6, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

    Meanwhile, in response to Prof. Link's son's original question: Clearly, the fact that it was handy outweighed the fact that it was nasty.

  19. Anthony said,

    November 6, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

    AJD – Powergen Italia was a real company, selling batteries and chargers, not related to the UK company called Powergen. The company now uses batterychargerpowergen.it for its website.

  20. Martha said,

    November 6, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

    I'm not on Twitter, but I seem to remember hearing that Donald Glover needed to stop using @donglover because of how people were reading it.

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