Friday, February 15, 2008

Two Women Under One Roof

A few days ago reader Glenn emailed me a clip of NBC's television series, Life. The episode's title is "Farthingale".


In this clip, Detective Crews (Damian Lewis) is telling his partner that "the Chinese symbol for 'war' is two women under one roof".

This absolutely incorrect & there is no such character in Chinese dictionaries.

Matter of fact, this somewhat sexist proverb originated from English in 1417. The original quote in Old English was:
Two wymen in one howse,
Two cattes and one mowce,
Two dogges and one bone,
Maye never accorde in one.

Western Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Apr., 1957), pp. 121-124, doi:10.2307/1497029

In the book titled "A Short History of the Chinese People" by L. Carrington Goodrich (ISBN 1406769762), it has stated that "there is no such character exist in Chinese dictionaries".

As Dr. Kelley L. Ross (interesting trivia: Dr. Ross is the nephew of R. L. Les Kelley, the founder of Kelley Blue Book) pointed out on his website:
It is sometimes said that the Chinese character for "trouble" shows two women under one roof. Such a character is possible, and would look like this , but there actually is no such Chinese character, though I understand that the myth lives on the internet.
The way I suspect how this hoax spread so rapidly is because the Chinese character for peace & tranquil is , which illustrates a woman 女 under the roof.

However, someone has decided to piece two cultural & linguistic references together to make a joke:
"You know the Chinese character for peaceful or tranquil is , one woman under a roof. Do you know what the character for war is?"

"Two women under one roof?"


All right people, let's put an end to this urban myth!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Continental Airline's Ad with Chinese

I was in George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) last Friday & saw this advertisement for Continental Airlines.

The translation for Chinese is not exactly correct, or incorrect.

This is because 我的头发冷 can be read in two ways:

1. 我的头发+冷 means "my hair is cold", which is not "my head is cold".

2. 我的头+发冷 means "my head is getting cold".

Whether this was done intentionally or not, it is indeed clever.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Like Father, Like Son

Over three years ago, my friend John Pasden sent me a tattoo photo he took of an Australian acquaintance. The tattoo was "Death before Dishonor" in Chinese, however the orientation of characters was reversed, therefore the youngman is proudly displaying "[I] rather to be a coward than die honorably" on his forearm.

A few days ago, I took a peek at BMEzine's tattoo gallery and saw this:

is a Chinese idiom which means "like father, like son". Once again, the orientation of characters are reversed & the phrase is now gibberish.

His father must be really proud of his idiot son.