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May 31, 2006

We contribute to a Chinese business sign

Have you looked at our Photo Gallery, linked to this Weblog? Terry has filled an album ("Say What?") with photos of Chinese signs with English translations that might sound odd to the ears of native English speakers.

Well, this past weekend, we gained some sympathy for the composers of these would-be bilingual signs. We dropped in on our friendly neighborhood pharmacist, Ms. Shen, to get a refill on Terry's traditional Chinese herbal concoction for lowering blood pressure. (Terry has been neglecting her weblog responsbilities, but the short story is that this medicine tastes terrible but works great, to her pleasant surprise.) Ms. Shen and her son, Ji Yang, showed us a drawing of their planned new business sign. The Chinese characters were written boldly across the top, followed by slightly smaller pinyin (characters in phonetic form) text below. Ms. Shen proudly crossed out the pinyin and told me she wants to replace it with an English name for her pharmacy. The only problem was that she didn't know what English words to use; nor did Ji Yang, even though his English is at least as good as my Chinese. So, they asked Terry and me to provide the best translation we could. Hmmmm. The last two characters were no problem -- yaofang is one of several names (depending on size, I think) for a pharmacy. I was not familiar, however, with the first two characters -- xiang3 and shou4 (that's "xiang" with a third tone and "shou" with a fourth tone). One of the problems with written Chinese is that there are no firm guides as to which characters go together to form 2- or 3-characters words. In this case, for example, the two characters CAN be construed as one word -- but the dictionary meaning is "at the age of." So, we split the characters and came up with "enjoy" + "longevity." Terry and I discussed the options and finally settled on a recommedation of "Enjoy Long Life Pharmacy." Ms. Shen and her son seemed quite pleased. We are looking forward to taking a photo, as soon as the sign is finished and installed. -- Norty

Posted by now at May 31, 2006 02:44 PM