Koopa in China?

27 Jul 2003

I think we’ve all had incidents of misheard song lyrics. You think you hear one thing in the song, but the actual lyrics are very different. I’ve had a bit of that in China.

My first main incident with this phenomenon in China was with the song Nanren Ku ba bu shi Zui * (“Man, go ahead and cry, it’s no crime”). In the song, Andy Lau repeats “ku ba” over and over in Chinese, which basically means “go ahead and cry.” The thing is, it sounds exactly like the way Cuba is pronounced in Spanish. Weird. I know I’m listening to Chinese, but every time it gets to that refrain, I hear Spanish. (Well, they are comrade nations, I suppose….)

koopa troopa

The other incident is for another Chinese song by a male singer. I don’t know the singer or the song, and I don’t particularly like the song. I just know that I keep hearing him sing “Koopa Troopa.” Now, anyone who dutifully played Super Mario Brothers 1 on NES back in the day knows that Koopa Troopas are little turtles that oppose Mario and Luigi on their righteous quest to save the princess (if she’d only stay in one damn castle!). But those wily koopa are making a comeback in Chinese pop. (OK, does anyone know what Chinese song I’m talking about here?!)

* Warning: This Flash “video” is horribly cheesey. But hey, you can hear the song without downloading the MP3. Also, I apologize for my crappy translation of the song title, but, you know… it’s a dumb song anyway.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

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