Tuesday 4 May 2010

Sadly, the days of the "Anus Hospital" are behind us....

I first came across the wonder and fun of "Chinglish" when I got to China in the mid-seventies.  The Friendship Store was one of the few places you could get a decent selection of goods in those days, with wonderful products like "Thumbs Up Toilet Paper", "Great Leap Forward Floor Polish", and "Red Flag Sanitary Napkins".
One of my favourite headlines was in the monthly magazine "China Reconstructs"...
... a Life-like magazine with a still a very cultural revolutionary mindset.  They glorified youngsters who had gone into the countryside, to "learn from the peasantry" (民学).  The headline describing one such young student, who had spent years in a village, was "Young girl firmly rooted in the countryside".
And now, sadly, news that the authorities are trying to clean up "Chinglish".

Jeffrey Yao also laments the possible passing of "Chinglish".
"...he has mixed feelings, noting that although some Chinglish phrases sound awkward to Western ears, they can be refreshingly lyrical. “Some of it tends to be expressive, even elegant,” he said, shuffling through an online catalog of signs that were submitted by the volunteers who prowled Shanghai with digital cameras. “They provide a window into how we Chinese think about language.”
He offered the following example: While park signs in the West exhort people to “Keep Off the Grass,” Chinese versions tend to anthropomorphize nature as a way to gently engage the stomping masses. Hence, such admonishments as “The Little Grass Is Sleeping. Please Don’t Disturb It” or “Don’t Hurt Me. I Am Afraid of Pain.”
But not all is lost, I'm sure.  China is such a big country, and people are sure to go on their merry way, blissfully ignorant of the government campaign, no matter how horrid it may be.  Long live Chinglish!

Read the whole article here, and printer friendly here.