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Created Mar 20, 2013

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{
"id" : "user/08031520133324451689/state/com.google/starred",
"title" : "Avram's starred items in Google Reader",
"author" : "Avram",
"updated" : 1274539669,
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"title" : "Hangzhou Mayor's Aphrodisiac Shop",
"published" : 1274521471,
"updated" : 1274521471,
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"href" : "http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2341",
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"content" : "<p>Hangzhou seems to be blessed with an abundance of droll Chinglish signs, as we've <a href=\"http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2315\">seen</a> <a href=\"http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2295\">recently</a> on Language Log.</p>\n<p>However, if you find yourself in Hangzhou and you keep your eyes open, you'll discover that there are also some unintentionally humorous Chinese signs, such as this one:</p>\n<p><img src=\"http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/pharm.jpeg\" alt=\"\"></p>\n<p><span></span></p>\n<p>The sign reads:</p>\n<p>杭州市长春药店</p>\n<p>That could be romanized as:</p>\n<p>1. Hángzhōu shìzhǎng chūnyào diàn</p>\n<p>2. Hángzhōu shì chángchūn yàodiàn</p>\n<p>3. Hángzhōu shì Chángchūn yàodiàn</p>\n<p>The respective English translations of these three romanized versions are:</p>\n<p>1. Hangzhou Mayor's Aphrodisiac Shop</p>\n<p>2. Hangzhou City Long / Lasting Spring Pharmacy</p>\n<p>3. Hangzhou City Changchun Pharmacy</p>\n<p>Google Translate essentially understood the sign in the same fashion as number 3: <em>Hangzhou Changchun Pharmacies</em>. Changchun is the capital of Jilin Province; it is conceivable that a pharmaceutical firm there might have established an outlet in Hangzhou, so this is a possible reading of the sign.</p>\n<p>Since sinographic writing does not have capitalization, a reader cannot distinguish between \"Changchun\" (city name) and \"changchun\" (long / lasting spring). It is worth noting, however, that during part of the 20th century, Chinese typographers used a combination of straight and wavy underlines to signify italics and capitals for book titles and proper names. Nowadays, such aids to the reader are encountered only rarely.</p>\n<p>The romanization feature of Google Translate rendered the sign exactly as in number 1: Hángzhōu shìzhǎng chūnyào diàn. Evidently a lot of human beings have also read the sign that way, since this string of seven characters has been <a href=\"http://t.sina.com.cn/1742113371/3f4du86vbs\">circulating on Sina's microblog service recently</a> as a topic for amusement among China's netizens.</p>\n<p>Here are some typical comments:</p>\n<p style=\"padding-left:30px\"><span style=\"color:#800000\">I suggest that they set up branch shops in major cities all over the country.<br>\n建议在全国各大城市开连锁店</span></p>\n<p style=\"padding-left:30px\"><span style=\"color:#000080\">In order to ensure the health of mayors, we should promote the Hangzhou experience throughout the whole country.<br>\n为保障市长身体健康, 应将杭州经验全国推广</span></p>\n<p style=\"padding-left:30px\"><span style=\"color:#800000\">There really is such a shop! When I first heard about this from my buddies, I thought that they were joking. Long live the Chinese language! Long live! Long, long live!<br>\n这个店还真的有呀,原来听杭州的同行说,还以为是笑话,中国语言万岁!万岁! 万万岁!</span></p>\n<p style=\"padding-left:30px\"><span style=\"color:#000080\">Hah, hah! It's very important how you divide up a sentence. It's a polysyllabic term we're talking about here. Not everybody has this talent.<br>\n呵呵,断句很重要。还是个多音字儿。 不是谁都有这本领。</span></p>\n<p>Indeed, problematic parsing is one of the many perils that await the unwary reader of Chinese texts. The first reading is not always the best.</p>\n<p>[Thanks to Joel Martinsen for calling the Sina discussion to my attention.]</p>"
},
"author" : "Victor Mair",
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