I was trying to write to someone in Chinese the simple idea of “I miss the ocean,” but it didn’t sound right without the English definite article “the.”
I miss oceans. I miss great oceans. No, I miss the ocean.
I had to resort to using reverse-Chinglish, or Zhonglish, for the time being.
我真怀念 the 海
wǒ zhēn huáiniàn the hǎi
In class today, we covered the word for clothing, 衣 (yī), which brought us to Uniqlo because the Chinese translation is yōu 衣 kù (yōuyīkù).
The name is a great brand translation since the 优 (yōu) means extraordinary. In the traditional style, it’s written as 優. Yōu didn’t always mean extraordinary. On the right side, the top character is page, 頁 (yè), which originally meant face. In the middle is a heart, and below it is the character for walking slowly. Originally, 優 referred to a worrier. Its meaning might have evolved because a worrier, someone who cares a lot, may eventually become someone extraordinary. (And later 優 got simplified to 优 because 尤 has a similar sound and it also meant something that stood out.)
As for kù, at the time we did not know which character was used and thought it was either 裤 (pants), or 酷 (a loanword for “cool”). It turns out Uniqlo uses 库, a warehouse.
Not bad, but 优衣酷, extraordinary clothing cool, would’ve been some awesome Engrish branding on par with Coke’s 可口可乐. And very fitting for a company such as Uniqlo.
Hanging around 外国人 who already speak a 语言 other than 英文 and are here learning Chinese, is making me feel like 我需要再多学一种语言.
In Chinese, there is an archaic character, 囧 (jiong3), which referred to the old ricepaper windows overlaid with wooden patterns. It fell out of use because houses were no longer built with such windows, but in the past decade internet users started to use this character as a emoticon, thus bringing the word back with a new meaning.
我好囧阿! (wǒ hǎo jiǒng a, I’m so embarassed!)
I love how language evolves and that slang usually comes from rebellion. Oppression breeds creativity. In China, internet users circumvent censors by replacing the names of prominent subjects with more benign terms.
Here’s a breakdown for example:
Carrot: 胡萝卜(hu luo bo), a vegetable = 胡锦涛 (hu jin tao), President of China
Teletubby: 天线宝宝 (tian xian bao bao), popular cartoon character = 温家宝 (wen jia bao), Prime Minister of China
Subor study machine: 小霸王学习机 (xiao ba wang xue xi ji), famous brand of children electronics = 习近平 (xi jin ping), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been speculated as China’s next President
Wood son Li: 木子李 (mu zi li) = 李克强 (li ke qiang), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been rumored to be China’s next Prime Minister
Master Kong: 康师傅 (kang shi fu), famous instant noodle brand = 周永康 (zhou yong kang), one of China’s 9-member Politburo and who has been rumored to be a supporter of Bo Xilai
Tomato: 西红柿 (xi hong shi), a vegetable = 薄熙来 (bo xi lai), fallen political star that has been the center of recent political dramas in China
Wonder what the codeword will be for the !tal!an sports car that had an accident on Monday. Fellali -> Fellini? Chinese users should start using more brand names to involve foreign corporations in this language arms race.
(Wonder when they’ll start blocking Tumblr and turn it into the 5th ”T” you can’t speak of. You know your social network has made it when it’s blocked by governments.)
Le français c’est pour s’amuser, le chinois c’est pour travailler.
(French is for fun, Chinese is for work.)