China Unicom has teamed up with Samsung and hired the athletic Li brothers, 李大双 and 李小双, for this Shanghai subway ad.
双 means “double” or “pair.” If you were to translate the names of these two directly into English, you’d come up with “Big Pair” and “Little Pair.” Good to know they’ve both got a pair, but if I were named “Little Pair” I think I’d feel I got the short end of the stick.
There’s not much to do while waiting for the subway other than look at the ads (and also wonder if a crazy person might ever push someone else onto the track in front of an oncoming train). Here’s the worst one I’ve ever seen:
Just looking at it makes my intellect hurt. Never mind that I’m not the target audience… this is simply horrific.
I’ve written about this before. I like creative ways of writing of Chinese characters. Here’s a simple one by 工商银行 (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China):
The characters read 融汇贯通, a kind of financial service the bank offers. The red part in 融 is the bank’s logo. The red part in 汇 looks similar to the bank’s logo, but actually more closely resembles half of an old-style Chinese coin, with the square hole in the middle. (The character 汇 refers to “currency.”)
I remember not long ago I was wondering how Toys “Я” Us would write their name in Chinese. I recently got my answer in an ad at People’s Square subway station:
So the obvious parallel is instead of the “R” being represented as the cutesy “Я”, the character 反 is written upside down. This makes sense because 反 means “to turn over.”
What was not so clear to me was the meaning of 反斗. The Chinese name for Toys “Я” Us is 玩具反斗城, which partially translates to “Toy 反斗 City.” What is this 反斗, which doesn’t turn up in any of my dictionaries? I Googled it, and I got a rather lengthy explanation of the term in Chinese:
Ever since I started doing my Chinese pun posts, I’ve been deluged with requests for more*. So today I am finally getting around to posting one that I’ve been seeing for something like a year in an ad on the subway:
> Only good ingredients can make good medicine.
The pun is with the words 药 (medicine), 才 (an adverb meaning something like “only if”), and 药材 (medicinal ingredients). You have two three-character phrases with exactly the same character pronunciation, but the difference of one character in the two phrases (材 and 才, both read “cái”) gives the sentence clear meaning.
The two parts can’t be said to be entirely identical, because read naturally, there would definitely be different pauses in the first part and the second part. Still, the identical pronunciations still make it kind of charming.
There are so many ads for cosmetic surgery in Shanghai taxis these days. Ken reports this grim discovery:
> Now, it can be annoying when you’re sitting in a taxi and you cannot turn off the TV screen 18 inches from your face, but I can live with it. However, what I saw in the taxi today today was perhaps a new low. There was a print ad, mounted on the back of the head rest in front of me, advertising a plastic surgery clinic that obviously churns out operations. Part of the ad was a reflective plastic thing (it looked like tin foil) in the shape of a mirror that invited you to look into it and consider if you didn’t need to do something about your looks. (I answered in the affirmative.)
> So there you are stuck in traffic, on a Monday morning for an hour and all you see is your own, crumpled, ugly mug looking back at you with, a doctor holding a scalpel smiling at you. (I wept profusely.) I almost told the taxi driver to head over to the clinic and get it done before lunch.
When I went to Japan in 1997 to study for a year, it was my first time out of the United States. I knew Japan would be different, but I had very few expectations. I went out there with a year’s worth of Japanese, eyes wide open, and a brain ready to soak it all up. Of the many, many cultural peculiarities I noticed in Japan, one of the most convenient was the tissue pack advertising.
It’s a simple method. Someone goes to a crowded metropolitan area with a box of small packs of tissues. On the tissue packs’ plastic wrappers is advertising. People are quite often willing to accept free tissues, and happily carry the advertising with them wherever they go. Everyone wins.
When I first arrived in China, I discovered how important tissues are here. You use them as napkins, you use them as paper towels, you use them as toilet paper. You really shouldn’t go anywhere without a small personal tissue supply. I found myself really wishing that the Chinese would adopt the tissue pack advertising method.
Here in Shanghai the primary method of street advertising is handing out business card-sized ads in and around the subway stations. I imagine it doesn’t work well at all. The workers handing out the cards are extremely annoying, and no one wants the cards. Subway sanitation workers are always sweeping them up. It seems like the tissue pack advertising method would be perfect for China.
I have actually seen the method used here in Shanghai at least twice. I got a free pack of ad-swaddled tissues outside of the South Huangpi Road (黄陂南路) subway station just last week, and I saw it once before, a long time ago. This really needs to catch on.
I was equally surprised, then, to discover fortune cookies in Shanghai recently. Some company was offering free fortune cookies at Zentral (a yuppie restuarant). The catch, of course, is that there’s advertising on one side of the fortune slips.
On a side note, one thing that really annoys me about fortune cookies is when my fortune is not even a fortune. Take these fortunes for example. “Home is where the heart is” is not a fortune! You get fortunes like these all the time. I don’t want some cute motto, I want a fortune. I want to know what my future holds. The more specific, the better. For example, “you have only three days to live” would be an awesome fortune to get. It doesn’t have to be true; in fact, I rarely make my major life decisions based on fortune cookie fortunes. (Take note, fortune cookie makers.)
I had my third Critical Discourse Analysis (批评性话语分析 or CDA) class today. I was really starting to wonder what was up with that class, but I finally got it straight. You see, having no prior significant exposure to the field, I had this simple understanding of “discourse analysis” as basically “analyzing discourse.” It goes a bit beyond that. But CDA is even further removed:
Critical discourse analysis has made the study of language into an interdisciplinary tool and can be used by scholars with various backgrounds, including media criticism. Most significantly, it offers the opportunity to adopt a social perspective in the cross-cultural study of media texts. As Gunter Kress points out, CDA has an “overtly political agenda,” which “serves to set CDA off…from other kinds of discourse analysis” and text linguistics, “as well as pragmatics and sociolinguistics.” While most forms of discourse analysis “aim to provide a better understanding of socio-cultural aspects of texts,” CDA “aims to provide accounts of the production, internal structure, and overall organization of texts.” One crucial difference is that CDA “aims to provide a critical dimension in its theoretical and descriptive accounts of texts.” [source]
Hmmm, so that explains why the first two weeks we kept talking about ideology (意识形态) rather than discourse itself. The key theorists we have examined already are:
Can you see why the Chinese might be into this stuff? They even have a great word for it: 西马. That means something like “modern Western Marxist theory.” I get a kick out of that term. It seems like such a simple word, made up of two very basic characters, but it represents such a complex body of theory.
My current teacher has a philosophical crush on Foucault just like my first semester teacher had a philosophical crush on Wittgenstein. (In my personal experience, all female Chinese professors have a thing for brilliant gay philosophers.)
Before today’s class I had to read Althusser’s Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (意识形态与意识形态国家机器). These days I’m kinda short on time, though, so I had a littlehelp. I don’t feel guilty… I think by “cheating” I understood the content better than my classmates, whose comments on the text mostly amounted to, “it was confusing.”
I’m not the kind of person that gets off on this kind of philosophical stuff. Sometimes I feel like an anti-intellectual (or maybe I’m just simple-minded?). To tell the truth, I’m rather disappointed with this semester’s classes. My major is “applied linguistics,” and I really am looking for material with application. I’m no longer a wide-eyed student eager to soak up any and all knowledge; I readily discard the information I feel I have no use for, and I don’t have a high tolerance for material I find overly theoretical with little practical value.
Today, though, CDA got a little more interesting. We starting actually applying the ideological framework we’d been discussing. It looks like we’re going to be looking at a lot of advertisements and analyzing them in the contexts of gender roles, social values, consumerism, etc. I was a little disappointed that our scope was going to be so focused, but I’ll certainly take analysis of ads over analysis of things like “the reproduction of the conditions of production” (Althusser) any day.
I suggested that we analyze TV commercials from past American presidential campaigns, and my teacher liked the idea, but she asked me to find them. Does anyone know where I can get that kind of video? I need the actual files, not just YouTube links (and the classroom computer is not going to support weird .flv files). Thanks!
I found this 8-page Carrefour ad in my mailbox the other day, and I thought I’d scan it and share it. For those of you not in the know, Carrefour is a French supermarket chain that is super popular here in the PRC. It just recently opened at its new Zhongshan Park location in Shanghai. Anyway, I would think that this these pages might be very interesting for anyone interested in China, Chinese, or Shanghai.
– Page 3: find out once and for all what the price of eggs in China is.
– Page 4: the chicken’s not fresh unless the head is still attached.
– Page 5: the electric bug swatter is one of the coolest things you can buy in China, period.
– Page 8: maps and bus schedules! (Micah is loving this page even if no one else is.)
I have added a few of my own comments on the individual pages on Flickr. Note that on the individual pages for each scan on Flickr you can click on the “all sizes” button to see a much larger version of each image. You may just want to go to the Flickr Shanghai Carrefour Ad set page.
If you do search for Zhang Ziyi on Youtube, you’ll find quite a few commercials. As I see it, this is good for Ziyi fans as well as those interested in either learning Chinese or seeing Chinese commercials. (Unfortunately, some have no audio.)
Here are some of the commercials featuring Zhang Ziyi to be found on Youtube:
I noticed this one a while ago (sometime after Weight Loss Pun #1), once again on the back of the passenger seat in a taxi:
It’s an ad for “double layer” “tight skin” liposuction, which is supposed to meet your “little waist requirement.” (Yes, it’s a horrible translation, I know, but it’s a pun, so I don’t really see how I can do a good job.)
So the pun is on the words 小要求 (“little demand”) and 小腰 (“little waist”).
At least for these two cases of weight loss treatments, the puns are terribly obvious because the punned characters are in quotation marks each time. Would too many people not get them otherwise? Oh well… it helps us foreigners get them a little more easily, at least.
Recently I set up the little artificial Christmas tree my girlfriend bought for my last year. When I went to put the Christmas lights on it, I found that one of the wires had come disconnected from the switchbox. I probably wouldn’t be able to fix it without a soldering iron. Since I didn’t have time to get new Christmas lights, I just left the tree plain.
The next day my ayi came over and I pointed out the Christmas tree to her. I thought maybe she hadn’t seen a Christmas tree in someone’s home before. She proceeded to good-naturedly advise me that it was too bare, and I should get more ornaments and lights to decorate it properly. I just smiled and agreed with her.
On Wednesday I went to a party for the Chinese department teachers of ECNU. (I’ve been teaching them English at their request, and it seemed like a good excuse for a party). The party was held in the nice home of one of the teachers. She had a real Christmas tree! It was the planted kind, and it was decorated in a simple but nice European style.
I had wanted to buy eggnog to share at the party, and I was pretty sure it could be bought at City Supermarket, but it turned out that City Supermarket had no holiday foods at all. Same goes for 久光, the supermarket near Jing’an Temple that carries mostly Japanese imports. Both supermarkets were fully decked out in Christmas decorations, but neither contained a single Christmas-themed food or drink item. Even Starbucks, with its overpriced (158 RMB, I think?) gingerbread house had more to offer. So instead of eggnog I took a bottle of Bailey’s I had been saving for a special occasion.
The party was briefly educational because I brought the mini Nativity scene that my parents gave me about two years ago. I explained who each figure was, and they all got a kick out of the cute little figurines.
It seems like the department stores in Shanghai are getting more and more lavish in their Christmas decorations with each passing year. The things are really getting huge. Plaza 66 (a mall on Nanjing Road) has even set up a Christmas ferris wheel. Each “seat” is a case holding some overpriced bag or other item, and the whole things slowly turns, showing off the mall’s expensive offerings.
I guess maybe it’s because of all the over-the-top decorations everywhere that I am very content this year with an under-decorated tree and a very simple Christmas celebration.
Since Google launched the Google Ads program, website design has been seriously affected. The question of “where will I put the Google Ads in my layout?” has become an important one. I’ll admit that I, too, made this a significant factor in my own redesign of this blog.
There has been a buzz for a while about Baidu starting an ad program similar to Google’s. What I’ve noticed in the past few weeks is not directly related, though… it’s the 990 pixel wide by 60 pixel high Flash ads that appear on Baidu News. There are currently no ads on the Google News front page. (The Baidu News ad is positioned at the bottom of the screenshot below.)
As I see it, these ads represent a clear departure from Google’s strategy. The ads are so large that they span the entire width of the screen, but they resize smoothly (using the fluid flash technique?) to fit 800 by 600 monitor resolution. Google’s ads are simply small (and sized absolutely), so they work at any resolution. Furthermore, Baidu’s ads are Flash, the antithesis of Google’s largely text-based ads.
It’s interesting to see Baidu leaving Google’s well-worn path occasionally and charting some new territory.
P.S. The ad is for 蒙牛 milk, which is the same company that sponsored the “Supergirl” show.
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:
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 瘦 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 想 (“would like to”) with 瘦 (“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.
This morning when surfing CNN.com I ran across this ad for travel to Malaysia:
Truly Asia, eh? The implication there is that there are some “so-called Asia” nations that are actually no more than a bunch of posers. Which nations are the posers, I wonder? Anyone care to speculate?
I also began to wonder: does China have any similar tourism slogans, or is it too busy scaring off the rest of the world to bother? What slogans might China use if given the chance?
Here are a few suggestions:
– Asia-er than you.
– More Asia than you can handle.
– The only source of Asian culture.
– The real Asia. (don’t be fooled by imitators)
– Not as communist as you think.