Zhongguancun 1st Bridge versus Zhongguancun Bridge 1

Beijing is redoing all road signs. In one of its best moves, it dumped the “MS imperialist” Arial font and opted for national font neutrality — it stuck with Switzerland’s Frutiger, and his Univers font.

Along with the font change, however, also comes the re-emergence of officially approved Chinglish. Zhongguancun, in particular, is being hard hit. All bridges are being Chinglishified as 中关村一桥 becomes “Zhongguancun Bridge 1″.

That’s weird already. They should change it to “Zhongguancun 1st Bridge”. (I emailed the “guys in charge” and my email remains unanswered. What else do I expect…)

Here’s why:

Question 1: Is this the first bridge in the series in the Zhongguancun region?
Answer 1: Yes.
Next Steps: Rename it “Zhongguancun 1st Bridge”. Next sign, please…

5th Avenue, Zhonghua 1st Road… Something xth something-or-other isn’t all that weird. (And our “Taiwanese compatriots” use it for Zhonghua 1st Road in Taipei, by the way, so it’s all supposed to be “real local”.)

The upshot:

Wrong: Zhongguancun Bridge 1
Right: Zhongguancun 1st Bridge

When Cars Run Into Each Other

If you’ve been around the nation long enough, you will notice a yellow triangular sign with the picture of a car running into a truck. (I did it once and it felt downright horrible… no injuries, though…) This sign is supposed to warn you of a so-called “accident black spot”.

Except for that nobody in the western world really calls it an “accident black spot”. I was in touch with folks on the wrong end of the Pacific, and they said that they call that kind of road either a “hazardous road” or a “treacherous road”.

“Dangerous road” or “dangerous section” might also do well. Of course, that’s referring to the Chinese term 事故多发 — or “accidents happen often” (verbatim translation).

So — drive carefully!

Don’t say “f**k” or “sh*t”

The Chinglish I’ve posted on To Take Notice of Safe.com are all “civilized Chinglish”. Out on the Web, however, you can find mangled Chinglish which even have the dreaded F-word and S-word in them, like F**k the certain price of goods or Electrical toilet, please do not s**t.

Apparently, Chinglish, too, is an obnoxious “language” so-called.

How Not to “F**k”

The dreaded F-word in Chinese is (WARNING: Coarse language!) 肏, but is often remixed as 操, especially in North China. This has the intercourse-ish meaning and is also used when you’re in a Vesuvian temper. However, the Chinese also use the characters 日 and, in particular, 干.

The trouble with all this, of course, is the character 干. Far from just being a swear-ish-character, this also means “dry”, especially in simplified Chinese. (In traditional Chinese — this gets better — you want to avoid 幹, which is the curseword, and 乾, which means “dry”.) Some foods just aren’t all that wet, so to speak, so we have “dry foods”, which is 干食. Unfortunately, this easily translates into “F**k Foods”.

But why pick f**k” for the character 干? Some writers of Chinglish want their signs to have more character, or appear more humanized (“keep out”, as opposed to “inhibition astraddle transgress”, so to speak). So they turn to imported “slang US English dictionaries” (and there are plenty of them) and their ilk. Unfortunately, they take the off-colour words (like “f**k” for 干) as “standard” and write them out for the world to see — in Chinglish.

Fortunately, I have yet to see a single Chinglish sign with my very own eyes bearing the F-word on them…

How Not to “Sh*t”

Some of us never left a farm, and as a result, appear a bit less “civilized” than others. Others just don’t give all that much and forget to dump their bad habits. I’ve seen about a couple dozen gents in Audis who decided to “water the grass” on the freeway (they must have been like me, guzzling way too much mineral water). Some of us, too, can’t hold it when nature makes a call, and dump it just about anywhere.

The problem is more pointed in China, where, unfortunately, we have the odd guy letting it out outside of the public conveniences. As a result, there is more than one park that has apparently had enough and, as a result, posted a signpost telling people “禁止大便” (don’t drop your droppings here). Unfortunately, that sign sometimes gets translated, word-by-word (sans the politesse filter) to “No Sh*tting”. (Its minor sibling, “禁止小便” or “禁止便溺”, is sometimes referred to as “No Urinating” instead of “No P*ssing”).

Probably the best thing to do is just to dump these signs, especially in big cities where there are a lot of expats. Most of us know that to dump it all out in the dead centre of a park is not a good idea.

100 Chinglish Pics and Counting…

Whew. It wasn’t all that easy collecting a hundred Chinglish-laden pics (given that I’ve my 1998 – 2005 photo collection on my Mac mini — my files are all over the place), but here they are: 100 Chinglish pics, and counting…

Some of the funniest pics:

* To put off Xuanda Expressway. To put in Jingzhang Expressway. (Xuanda Freeway, Hebei)
* You have got into TONGZHOU. You have got into SHUNYI. (Shunyi-Baimiao Highway, Shunyi/Tongzhou, Beijing)
* Walk the Street. (Ying County, Shanxi)
* Please Take Saft Belt. (Beijing)
* Pestrooms-Men. (Baodi Wenquancheng Service Area, Jinji Freeway, Tianjin)

…and a lot more, both here and coming…