Weight Loss Pun

22 Sep 2005

Why are the ads placed on the back of the front seats in Shanghai taxis almost always for breast enlargement or weight loss? I am puzzled.

I recently saw one ad that I liked for a weight loss treatment, though. It used a pun:

> spa瘦身魔法让“想瘦”变成“享受”!

Obviously the pun doesn’t translate, but the literal meaning is:

> Spa figure-slimming magic turns “desire to slim down” into “enjoyment“!

The wordplay is based on the word 享受 which is a verb meaning “enjoy.” Like many Chinese verbs, it can be used as a noun as well. The word means “thin.” Adjectives in Chinese can take on what Westerners consider verb-like qualities (see Wikipedia on Chinese adjectives if you’re a grammar nerd), so combining the verb (“would like to”) with (“thin” or possibly “become thinner”), you can get 想瘦, which means “desiring to become thinner” and has the exact same pronunciation as 享受 (“enjoy” or possibly “enjoyment”).

Sorry, puns aren’t nearly as charming when they’re explained.

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John Pasden

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

Comments

  1. I guess you have to be there —- as well as being literate in Chinese. I would consider it a milestone in learning the language to appreciate puns in that language.

  2. Wait…oh my. Yes…I just got the pun. That’s rich.

  3. this is interesting…
    French has some similarity in using noun as verb, English seems to have less such usage,but there are example like, I work, my work.

  4. fascinating.. nice post.

  5. Hmm… actually I’ve seen the exact same pun in the advertisements for Alexander’s Fitness clubs in Taibei. The difference is in this case, I’ll bet some marketing group got paid big money to come up with the same thing plastered in the backs of cabs all over Shanghai…

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