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July 14, 2008



I'm a little sad about the linguistic scrubfest. First, oh how I love messed up English. We are still laughing hysterically about the button on our AC control in Vietnam labeled "Mightiness." (Cracking up while typing. Really)

And also, there's the idea that you have to find out what, oh, I dunno, Blazing Sunset Next to a Still Pond IS before you order it and that leads to conversation. I like that.

Off to read the links you've posted...

Ally B

Thanks for posting pam! Isn't it sad to think we might never have mighty AC again? And apparently the menu items were one of the first things to go... The trend usually goes that a language is officially declared detrimental, and then years later, as it's becoming extinct, entire restoration efforts are launched to preserve the identities, culture, and world-view that are dying along with the language. It may be hard to claim that the English in Beijing is it's own language, but in a way it has its own character and structure and is part of the natural evolution of language in a global context.

If you want to see something I think is slightly absurd, take a look at a classic lesson from Singapore's Speak Good English Movement:

Wrong: Die, Die must finish. (Singlish)
Right: We must finish this by hook or by crook. (English?)

Now, call me American, but I don't have a clue what EITHER of those phrases mean. At least with the Singlish phrase one can make a pretty confident guess! Why would Singlish grammar be bad, but British colloquialisms be good? If Singaporeans are made to say British phrases, should they also throw away their Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian recipes in favor of living off a British diet? Surely if they served only Anglicized food the tourists would be more comfortable, which is a main goal of the SPEM. I'm all for education, but I think the education that's most needed now does not involve teaching people who speak "wrong" to speak "right", but instead involves teaching those who think they speak "right" that there is no "wrong" or "right".

I'd love to hear other opinions, or stories from those who have visited Beijing!


@Ally B: I'm British, and I've never heard "by hook or by crook" either. I looked up what it means: "by any means possible".

Tim D

This is my favorite one I've seen so far:


the idea that a computer glitch would actually make it onto a sign makes my heart filled with laughter. It's like David Sedaris says in his last book: wouldn't someone in the conference room be like, "Hey, before we make this the name of our business, I've got a cousin in America -- why don't we run it by her first?"

Marilyn Terrell

@Tim D: that sign is hilarious! I hope the authorities don't remove it.

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