Just a quick snake for me, thanks

It seems to be the solemn duty of all native English speakers who spend any time in China to compile a list of Horrid Examples. Well, maybe not so solemn, as it’s usually pretty amusing, and really, we just can’t help ourselves. And I promise my purpose is not to ridicule those who come up with these bizarre linguistic oddities. Given the goofy pseudo-Chinese that comes out of my mouth, I’m sure that native Chinese speakers who know me can compile their own lists of Horrid Examples in the opposite direction.
I believe I’ve mentioned the fact that some restaurants have opened in our building. The most popular one is Dongfangjinghu Chacanting on the first floor. I’m pretty sure chacanting just means café (the first syllable cha means tea), and I’ll have to find out what the first word means. I am absolutely sure that they got the pinyin wrong when they printed the menu. The third character is very clearly listed as jing (not jin) in the character lists and online dictionaries I’ve checked.
I’ve eaten there quite a few times, and most of what I had was pretty decent. However, the menu is a wonderful source of Horrid Examples. I had a chocolate milk shark one day, and it was very tasty. It had no teeth, fins or other fishy features whatsoever.
There’s a lot of snake on the menu – two whole sections, in fact.
I’ve had the “four treasures” balls with seaweed, and it’s actually about the best dish I’ve had there: little wonton wrappers stuffed with shrimp and ground pork in a bowl of broth.

Yes, you’ve probably caught on: snake = snack, spelled in some strange near-phonetic system.
They have an interesting selection of desserts. Sago is almost identical to tapioca, but I’m not sure what to make of the mythic fungus cream.
And moving on to a different establishment… This one is located here in the Seasons Park compound. I am curious to know how they make signboards edible.
And speaking of Seasons Park, this is the plaque at the main gate. I’ll type it in so you know what you’re reading:

Seasons park is a private resience
Any unauthorized person don’t enter
Visitors please regiser in the guard house

I feel so secure.


  1. It's almost my favorite sport to read articles about how a Chinese dish's name is translated. It almost always makes me feel happy and entertained, rather than offended. Thanks for sharing!

    In case that you are interested, below are what I think where some of those creative translations that you saw came from:

    - Many southern chinese find difficult to differentiate *ng from *n

    - "mythic fungus cream": with ingredients including something from turtles (gui1) and China root/smilaz glabra -according to wikipedia-(ling2), probably this "ling2" has mutated into "fungus" at some point during the translation work.

    - "signboards" refers to the chef specialties, which were traditionally advertised on the menu board in an eatery.

  2. Thanks for your observations!

    I've noticed that many Northern Chinese don't always distinguish clearly between -n and -ng. This seems to be a general linguistic trend in Mandarin, that finals are fading. In fact, much of the time, both -n and -ng are effectively present as just nasalization of the preceding vowel. Now if I could just figure out some sort of rule for the added final -r...

    I tried looking up the characters in the signboard dishes, and they clearly are beef, and they all seem to have jian (which my dictionary says is gristle). I have certainly eaten various things like tendon, sinew, and gristle in other dishes. Not my favorites, but not completely inedible. And I suppose it is admirable that if you're going to eat an animal, you shouldn't waste any parts that can be used.

  3. A little further thought tells me part of the meaning of Dongfangjinghu. Dong (east) was one of the first characters I learned, since it's essential for navigation. Fang is a place word, so dongfang basically means The East. This jing seems to have something to do with a view (maybe referring to the windows that surround the place), and my guess is that hu is actually a surname here. So my highly speculative translation is "Hu's Eastern View Cafe."

  4. oh, don't worry about the final -r. It's just the Beijing accent. They like to attach it to the end of a noun to make the object sound endearing, e.g hua-r (flower) However, if the noun already has a "suffix", like zi in zhuo-zi (table), then it shouldn't be added. If this sounds confusing, don't use it at all.

    hmmm, jian seems to me meaning tendon or sinew (I don't know the difference between these two). Gristle is ruan gu, literally "soft bone", which we like to eat too. Yeah, we chinese love animals, and find every part of them is delicious. :)

    Dongfangjinghu You are right that Dongfang means the east, more specifically The Orient. Shanghai is called the Pearl of the Orient, Dongfangzhizhu. Similarly, Xifang means The Occident. Jing, you are right again, meaning view. Hu here is the hu for "lake", noticing that it has the radical meaning "water"? So, this restaurant is "[an eatery by a] scenic lake in the Orient", is it? :)

  5. There is most definitely not a lake within view of this restaurant. The canal is just on the other side of the Second Ring Road, but I don't think that qualifies as "lake" or "scenic"! Maybe from the roof of the building you could see over to Beihai, but I kind of doubt it. It's also possible that someone will create a lake in the spot vacated by the destruction of the hutong next door...

    There are a few words our Chinese teacher said have the -r even outside the Beijing accent, like fanguanr, the first word we learned for restaurant. And I swear taxi drivers do not understand Sanlitun unless you add the -r. But it still sounds funny to me to hear "fuwuyuanr!" in a restaurant.