"Catch and Kill Bill"

27 Oct 2003

I was pretty sleepy in Chinese class today. I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and the teacher’s explanations of the subtle differences between 4 different Chinese words somehow wasn’t jolting me into the desired state of consciousness. I desperately wanted to yawn, but that would be really rude to the teacher if she saw it, so I kept trying to sneak one in when she’d turn to the board to write, but then she would always turn around just a bit too soon, forcing me to clamp my mouth shut and depriving me of full yawn satisfaction at every attempt.

Kill Bill

What did wake me up, though, was the teacher’s explanation of the word (劈), meaning “to chop, to cleave.” Somehow she decided a good point of reference was Tarantino’s new movie Kill Bill, in which someone’s head is cleaved in two with a katana, apparently. I was amazed. “You’ve seen it already?” I asked her, forgetting the whole point of the reference. (This was a woman who loved Taiwan’s sappy Meteor Garden — not someone likely to be into such a violent movie.) No, she hadn’t, but she’d seen ads online, and some head-cleaving image had stuck in her mind. Then we went off on a tangent about whether you could buy a pirated copy on the streets of Hangzhou yet. (We decided you could probably find it, but not better than a camcorder copy.)

I’ve never been a Tarantino fan, but this movie sure is creating a stir. It’s even trickled into my Chinese classroom. I’m intrigued.

The English title “Kill Bill” is translated into Chinese as something like “Catch and Kill Bill.” The Chinese tend to prefer a 4-character name over a 3-character name, and since “Bill” gets transliterated into the 2-character Bi’er, the “kill” part has two characters to play with. The translators decided to add the “pursuit” concept that the plot revolves around to the 1-character “kill” word.

So I’ll be watching the streets to catch that DVD release.

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John Pasden

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

Comments

  1. Gracis

  2. Da Xiangchang Says: November 6, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Kill Bill 1 + 2 suck!

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