Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Chinese Strike Again 

Where I work there is a Chinese woman who I often ask to translate ridiculous phrases. Today I was looking for something that would be hilarious to tattoo onto one's body, but ended up having a small revelation.

I asked her how the phrase "holy crap" would be written in Mandarin. Of course she did not understand the phrase, and I attempted to explain the meaning of holy (pure etc.) and crap (that was a little awkward). Eventually she understood and wrote down the translation. I moved on, asking about "doctor love" which I also had to explain (quite a bit more awkward). Eventually she began showing me that to make one word or phrase in Mandarin one puts two characters together that already have meaning. Here is an example: "doctor love" is made by putting the "flower" (the word for woman appropriately) character together with the "heart" character (this means the same as "lady's man"). Most translations apparently are not direct, and only hold the same idea as the English sentence.

Then I asked her to explain the two characters in "holy crap." The first symbol is the symbol for the word "God." She showed me that the symbol for "people" is just two lines away from being "God." Take the symbol for people, add one line in the middle, and the word "strong" is made. Add another line over the whole symbol, and the word is "God." The way she explained it is perfect.

"People cannot be bigger than God," she said as I rushed around the office trying to control everything and everyone.

There I was in the middle of thinking "I have the power (He-Man style)," and, boom, I'm hit with this. God works in mysterious ways.

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