The Pharmacy Count

17 Jul 2010

While at the pharmacy the other day with my friend Chris, we came upon what seemed like a typical example of Engrish:

Count

Funny, we thought… “the count” instead of “the counter.”

Only as we were leaving did we notice the guy behind the counter:

The Pharmacy Count


The Sesame Street character “the Count” is known for his rather clever name. Even a kid can get the pun. How does his Chinese name fare in terms of cleverness? Not too well, I’m afraid. According to this site, his Chinese name is simply 伯爵, a translation of only one of the meanings of the Count’s name, meaning “count” or “earl.”

What would a more clever translation of the Count’s name be? All I can think of is maybe something related to 叔叔 (“uncle”) and 数数 (“to count up”), but once you change the tones it doesn’t really work. (Not to mention that he very clearly looks like a count, not an “uncle.”)

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John Pasden

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

Comments

  1. His full name is Count von Count, and according to Wikipedia, his name in other languages is usually a variation on Count plus Count: Comte von Compte, El Conde Contar, Graf Zahl, etc. So maybe, “伯爵冯数”? The 冯 character is used to mean “von” in foreign names. Anyone know why?

    计 is a surname in addition to meaning to count/calculate, so 伯爵冯计 scores a possible extra pun point. Or, you could go for the alliteration with 伯爵冯觉, although 觉 by itself just means perceive, so it’s not a great solution. Or maybe 伯爵冯数觉 (Count von Number-sense), although it’s rather long for a name.

  2. Harland Says: July 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    To understand what a “Count” is requires an understanding of European culture. I mean, just look at the guy, he has a monocle and is from Transylvania. Is China going to be able to understand this? Japan had nobles whose titles translated to “Count” but that wasn’t quite the same thing.

    Seems pretty tame Chinglish, just making the one mistake for “counter”. “On the spot” is a pretty good meaning, and “Thank you for your cooperation” is spot-on.

    • Yeah, I agree. In general, the translation was quite good. But I think that’s what made us notice it even more, which triggered the Sesame Street association…

    • I’m not sure a lot of Westerners fully understand what a “Count” is anymore. I certainly didn’t learn much about them in school in the US, just vaguely it was a title for a nobleman. But I’m sure at least a few Chinese will get the reference to Count Dracula, particularly those Chinese that would be international enough to show their kids Sesame Street.

  3. PS Happy 10th Chinaversary buddy!

  4. I dunno.. there are some pretty weird looking uncles out there 🙂

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