"Chinglish" thriving at Games, linguists say

BEIJING Sat Aug 2, 2008 5:12am BST

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinglish is alive and well at the Beijing Olympics and its survival is no "cryshame," say linguists who have monitored its quirky progress.

With the eyes of the world on Beijing, Chinese authorities have tried to eradicate from menus and road signs many offbeat and nonsensical translations they fear could offend foreigners.

Gone are exploding shrimp and signposts to the Garden with Curled Poo.

But the Texas-based Global Language Monitor (GLM), which analyses word usage trends, said Beijing was fighting a losing battle and should celebrate "this delightful mixture of Chinese and English."

"Chinglish will persist and even thrive far after the Games have ended," the Austin institute forecast.

English is now widely accepted as the main global language and up to 250 million Chinese currently study English, whose vocabulary is now approaching one million words.

As two vibrant tongues collide, the verbal gymnastics of Chinglish should be celebrated, GLM argued.

It hailed "the astonishing complexity and richness of the Mandarin language" and forecast a rosy future for Chinglish because "Chinese people evidently enjoy wearing Chinglish on their clothing."

Garishly colored and linguistically tortured T-shirts abound in the malls and markets of this sprawling city.

Fashion designer Scarlet Page, who sells T-shirts with deliberate Chinglish on them, said "There is no way the government can police the T-shirts."

The Chinese authorities set up a hotline for the public to report strangled language and have corrected hundreds of road signs including the infamous "Racist Park" signpost for the Ethnic Minorities Park.

"Some of the translations are confusing or even offensive to foreign visitors," explained Chen Lin, a consultant with the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Programme.

The U.S institute said Chinglish was at the epicenter of "cross-pollination between English and Mandarin" and picked some of its own personal favorites to celebrate the inter-mingling:

-- If you are stolen, call the police

-- Airline Pulp (food served aboard airlines)

-- The slippery are very crafty (slippery when wet)

-- Do not climb the rocketry (rock wall)

-- Deformed man toilet (handicapped restroom)

(Additional reporting by Gillian Murdoch)

(Editing by Miles Evans)

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china )

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