You’ll always come up with a few odd or possibly hilarious English meanings for Chinese menu items and place names when you plug the characters into China’s search engine, Baidu, for translation. The Beijing subway map got a literal translation, just for fun, by China Real Time on the Wall Street Journal.
A few of our favorite stops: Safe Chastity Gate, Magnetic Implement Intersection, and Car Man Village.
I can imagine the translated conversations: “Oh, you live just off the Cholera Camp stop? I heard that’s a lovely area. I’m in the Mud Depression area.”
Of course, many of the names originate from the old city, like Returning Dragon Temple, Apple Garden, and as one commenter pointed out, Gentleman Street, which used to be called Donkey Market:
“An amusing but less well-known one is Nan Li Shi Lu, which is the south endpoint of Li Shi Lu. It used to be Lü Shi Lu, meaning Donkey Market Street, because it is right outside the city gate where you could get a donkey ride to the hills and temples to the west. Lü Shi (donkey market) later changed to Li Shi (gentleman), as happened to many street names in Beijing to sound/read better (sometimes at the cost of not making sense, e.g. Dong Jiao Min Xiang, the famous Legation Street.) The practice is seldom exercised now, leaving many crude-sounding names on the outskirts.”
Another commenter was reminded of a funny translation he got for his name:
“Once I bought a Chinese name stamp called a “chop” in Shanghai. It had my name in Chinese on it. At least that’s what the seller told me. When I got home and proudly showed it to my Chinese wife, she laughed and told me it was more of a description that a name: It said “Cheap Charlie” in Chinese. I probably should not have haggled so hard on price.”
If you have any funny literal translations or Chinglish menus, signs, or maps—send them our way.