Friday, July 27, 2007

Spread the word.

My publisher, Gibbs Smith, sent me a bit of merchandising which is now extensively used all over Singapore (thanks for modelling, WR).

Receive your own "Chinglish - Found in Translation" bag for sending in 5 unique Chinglish beauties!
Files have to be >300kb and different from the ones on display. Mail box is at chinglish at Thanks.

Update Aug 16:

Thanks everybody for the overwhelming support and many new Chinglish beauties! All bags are gone.
Please continue to support the cause of!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let's celebrate!

We finally made it. One hundred Chinglish beauties are online.

I raise my glass to all you contributors and commentators out there!

Secondly, I'd like to take this joyous occasion to announce my new book on this matter:

Oliver Radtke
Chinglish -
Found in Translation

Paperback, 85 pages
English introduction
Gibbs Smith Publisher
ISBN: 978-1423603351
available from August 10, 2007

You may pre-order via or

Awww. (countdown - 0!)

Probably the cutest version of "Slippery floor" so far. Found in Xiamen 厦门. Many thanks, Jorg!

From house to man. (countdown - 1!)

This is the Forbidden City, Beijing:

This is all around Singapore:

Which sign makes the trouble/inconvenience more bearable, huh?

Thanks, Martin!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dragonflies? (countdown - 2!)

This is an obvious confusion of peck 啄 and burn 灼 because both words share the same transcription, i.e. zhuo2. The interesting question is, why translating from Hanyu pinyin, the Latin transcription system, and not from the original character, which clearly looks different ...

I'd translate it as:
"Beware of the pecking birds. Keep your distance."

Taken at the Beijing Badaling Safari World 北京八达岭野生动物世界, beside the ostrich tuo2niao3 鸵鸟 cage.

Many thanks, Li Bin!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Its one small step for man ... (countdown - 3!)

Taken at the Emeishan 峨眉山 in Sichuan 四川 Province. Thanks, Thomas!

(I used Photoshop to lighten up the Latin font a bit.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Thank you. (countdown - 4!)

Western toilets rather display something like
"This is a water-free toilet. You may leave after use".

But basically the original is correct and so much more straight to the point.

By the way, in a country with more than 100.000 public toilets and an ever increasing freshwater shortage, watersaving technology like this actually makes a lot of sense.

Found at the Shenyang Botanical Garden 沈阳植物园 in Liaoning 辽宁 Province. Thanks, Ulli!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Let's go back then. (countdown - 5!)

非紧急 - fei1 jin3ji2 - non-critical
情况 - qing2kuang4 - situation
请 - qing3 - please
止步 - zhi3bu4 - to stop

A classic from Beijing Capital International Airport 北京首都国际机场.

It really is just an "Emergency Exit".

By the way, this one will surely be gone for good soon. Can anyone let me know about the change?

Thanks, Hans!

Have a break. (countdown - 6!)

"有狗,请勿靠近" you gou, qing wu kao jin (literally: dog/s in here, please don't come close) is just the good ol' Roman "cave canem" or "Beware of the dog".

Tibetan-speaking reader Francoise comments:
Talking about Tibetan, the Tibetan text in the picture "Have dogs" actually means "Dog owners are not allowed to come/go", which actually is puzzling enough because does it mean owners are not allowed but dogs are?

Note that in Tibetan too there is a mistake, a letter must have have fallen, hence the white space in the middle ...

Taken at the former summer palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet. Thanks, Gregor!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The sea joins. (countdown - 7!)

To backup my little theory in the previous post, I present this little gem which originally intended to inform shoppers about "dried sea fruits".

Taken at a supermarket on the southern Chinese island of Hainan 海南. Many thanks, Asmus!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Leave the peanut alone. (countdown - 8!)

咸 - xian2 - salty
酥 - su1 - crispy
花生 - hua1sheng1 - peanut

Hmm, on a package that says "salty, crispy peanuts", I really don't know where the nutty intercourse is coming from ...

My theory: because mistranslating "dried nuts" (ganguo 干果) as "fuck the fruit" (since 干 can be gan1 dry and gan4 fuck) is very common in the Chinese supermarket scene, this particular company actually took over a common mistranslation that has no reference in the original Chinese product name!

This is sort of wrong twice. Amazing.

Found and eaten in Hangzhou 杭州. Thanks, Stefan!