Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tiny grass is dreaming >>Language Log

Language Log » Tiny grass is dreaming:
 "The real problems of this sign are not with the English, but with the Chinese, which reads: Xiǎocǎo xiūhù, qǐng wù kángjiǎo 小草休扈,请勿扛搅. I should note that the Chinese may not be the original after all. Instead, the person who made the sign may have started with the English (which is widespread in China [see below]) and attempted to back-translate into Chinese, with disastrous results. 
 The Chinese sign is untranslatable, because neither *xiūhù 休扈 nor *kángjiǎo 扛搅 mean anything, at least they are not intelligible in the context of the sign, and they certainly do not mean "dream", which is the most conspicuous element of the English: *xiūhù 休扈 ("rest-retinue") *kángjiǎo 扛搅 ("shoulder[vb.]-stir/disturb/annoy") F
or the first error, I suspect that the sign-writer was somehow confused by the homophonous expression xiūhù 修护 ("under repair / maintenance"). It would have been more natural to say that the tiny grass is xiūxī 休息 ("resting") or, to match English "dream" in what I suspect might have been the impetus for the wording, zuòmèng 做梦 ("is dreaming"), mèngxiǎng 梦想 ("dream"), or some other poetic expression for "dream" containing mèng 梦. 
 The second error is probably orthographic, since it would be perfectly acceptable to write dǎjiǎo 打搅 ("disturb") in that position. When written hurriedly and sloppily, dǎ 打 and káng 扛 resemble each other. It would also be perfectly acceptable to write dǎrǎo 打扰 ("disturb"). The fact that dǎrǎo 打扰 ("disturb") and dǎjiǎo 打搅 ("disturb") are synonyms and sound similar may also have contributed to the confusion."

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