Good Job, Good Boy

24 Aug 2008

ChinesePod and Shanghaiist just kicked off a collaborative podcast called Chinese Soundbites. The first one is about China’s star track athlete Liu Xiang (刘翔). On the show Jenny and Amber talk about current events in China, and give a few relevant Chinese vocabulary words.

One of the phrases in the first episode is 好样的. It’s kind of hard to translate because literally it means something like “good appearance” or “good form.” But it’s used a lot like “good job” is in English (which, conversely, cannot be directly translated as 好工作 into Chinese!).

In the podcast Jenny uses 好样的 to voice her support for Liu Xiang. It’s kind of funny, because lately my strongest association with the phrase is my wife’s use of it. We’re house-training our puppy, and every time he successfully does his business outside, my wife praises him with a “好样的!” (“good boy!“).

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John Pasden

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

Comments

  1. My wife praises me with the same thing…

  2. I wonder if they used that to subtitle “Good form! Bravo!” in Hook (but no way am I watching that movie again to find out).

  3. zhwj,

    Heh, that’s just the kind of weird personal association I was trying to highlight with this post.

    Which is worse: Hook or potty time for puppy? Not sure…

  4. I never really thought it’d be a good thing to say “好工作,” but now I know what to say instead! I wonder how many people think this means “good appearance” and that “加油” means “to lubricate.” Translating literally, you could be really confused in the Olympics!

  5. John-

    I just realized that I think you went through the entire Olympics without mentioning the Olympics at all. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with covering them (I have mentioned it a ton on my own blog), but I have to hand it to you for taking an event which is already totally over-covered in both Western and Chinese media, and ignoring it completely.

  6. 好样的 almost sounds like the Britishism “good show”

  7. To me, 好样的 has always been, “looking good!”

  8. Ben,

    Heh… Well, I cover what interests me. Sometimes it’s what everyone else is also blogging about, but most of the time it isn’t.

  9. Mike,

    Hey, nice! I don’t think it’s as broadly applicable as “good job,” but still definitely a good translation to keep in mind.

  10. Oooh, now I want to check the Chinese subtitles on Hancock – when they teach him to say “good job” to the responding police officers!

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