New Ireland

When I ride in taxis, the drivers frequently ask me if I’m American. I confirm it, of course. I guess I look very American. The “casual look” and all. When I met Todd here in Shanghai recently, his comment was that I was “even more American than [he] expected.”

Well, I yam what I yam.

The other day I had an audition for a commercial, and I was told to come somewhat dressed up. So I did. The cab driver asked me if I was British.

After learning I was American, he asked me if “New Ireland” was a city or a state. I asked him to repeat the name. Then I realized I had misunderstood. I was having my first Chinese conversation about the tragedy that is New Orleans (新奥尔良). It sure sounded a lot like “New Ireland” the first time I heard it.

Neither of us had much insight to offer.


John Pasden

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


  1. So, what about the commercial? Did you get the part? What was the product? More clothing like in Hangzhou?

  2. Da Xiangchang Says: September 8, 2005 at 10:16 am

    Hopefully, it wasn’t dressing you up in Chinese clothes and having you hawk herbal medicine.

  3. In the news, it seems like New Orleans is being written as 新奥尔良, not 纽奥尔良 (i.e., this news story’s headline).

  4. I bet you figured out that he was talking about New Orleans as soon as he mentioned the American typhoon named katelinna.

  5. John B,

    I got the transcription “纽奥尔良” from a Yahoo News story. (Maybe it was Taiwanese? Come to think of it, it was written in 繁体字.) So I did a Google search:

    • 纽奥尔良: 602 results
    • 新奥尔良: 1,640,000 results

    Yup, that’s a clear winner. I’ll change it. (I don’t remember which the cab driver used….)

  6. They ask me if I’m American all the time. Much to my dismay.

    But I guess I only have myself to blame, being at least 20 kilos overweight 🙁

  7. Gin,

    He didn’t mention the hurricane directly.

  8. Tim P,

    I don’t know if I got it yet. Looks like I probably did. It’s some kind of commercial for DHL.

  9. What exactly would you be doing in this commercial? Milling around in the background, shipping yourself to Taiwan, or maybe portraying the delivery guy?

  10. Oh, so among all my intelligent and witty observations (eg. “Shanghai is very big”), I say one daft thing and get quoted? Hmm, but seriously, having never heard your voice before I guess I just imagined it as accentless.

  11. Todd,

    Haha, I never said your statement was daft. I found it interesting. I was under the impression that it was as much because of my clothes as my accent.

    As long as you’re using your imagination, I’d appreciate it if you could imagine my voice with a Scottish accent. That would be funny.

  12. Matthew,

    If I get it, I’ll be in a scene where I’m clothes shopping with my girlfriend. Then I pick something out and turn to her excitedly, saying, “This is so you!


  13. Isn’t there a new chicken wings with Cajun spices at 肯德基 called 新奥尔良 something-or-other? Maybe that’s what John B was thinking of.

  14. John,

    When I first saw you, I didn’t think American or British…only one word kept running through my brain. Waijiao…….Waijiao……Waijiao……..Waijiao…Waijiao

  15. Micah, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) my knowledge of 肯德基 menu item names is pretty lacking, so it wasn’t from that :). Besides, now that I’ve eaten at the new Burger King by 静安寺 there’s no other fast food in China for me!

  16. There’s a xinaoerliang kao chi at KFC, or there was last year. Niuaoerliang is what my Taiwanese cousins use, but I’ve only ever heard Xinaoerliang in the PRC.

  17. Jacques Aandy Says: September 9, 2005 at 9:33 pm

    Another disaster at New Irland
    The 7.3-magnitude quake hit near the New Ireland region of the country, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and other earthquake monitors said.

  18. what is “Waijiao”?

  19. Amy,

    foreign teacher.”

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