Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Delusions - when roadsigns become Chinese characters!

Learning Chinese will re-wire your brain. 

OK, this isn't a scientific study I'm referring to - it's only my own experience. But check whether you would pass or fail ...

I was walking through London's St Katherine Docks recently, and there was a little pedestrian bridge near Dicken's Inn. I saw this little sign at the one end ... which basically means that mothers should look after their kids. I guess.

But that's not what I read. Nope.  What did you think when you saw the sign (pictured to the right)?

Yeah, me too.  I immediately thought about the character for "good" in Mandarin - 好 (hǎo​). This is made up of 女 (woman) and 子 (child).

So I was chuckling at myself, taking this picture ... and all the people walking past looked at me really strangely!

(Now would probably be the right time to read a previous post on How to end with 'hǎo'.)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

OK, let's now have some fun ... what other signs make you think of Chinese characters?

  • For example, this character would probably be "train". Below I see "fire" and "car". The Chinese word for train is: 火车 (huǒ​chē​,  i.e. fire car)

  • What could the following signs be? Leave your ideas as a comment below ...


  1. LOLZ wooow Greg. As much as I love and understand Chinese I never think that much about pictures. There are very few that make me think about other objects:

    囧 a shocked face
    冏 a crying face

    And a few others :)

    However, 1. looks like 摩托车 (motorcycle, obviously from the picture xD)

    2. I don't know . . . 连 makes sense though :)

    As for 3. 从 also does make sense, but I was thinking about the original character for 人, where it shows a person, and eventually as time went on it was made to look like run (the people who were drawn get taller or shorter, and wider to have the spread 'legs' that 人 has.

    Good job with learning the new 178 (I think?) characters by the way!! :)


  2. Dear CL & Kara. I love the ideas you've suggested - really good! Am curious to see what others people come up with. Surely there are more suggestions?

  3. Hehe, Actually I learnt my traffic rules as thinking of thems "combined 汉字". But reading this post was so funny, because I first saw the picture before reading the text and I instantly thought of 好. And that's from a guy who is learning Mandarin for a shorter period than you are Greg.

    Just keep up the good work with the site and all, which I have been following from the beginning.

  4. I have to admit thinking the exact same thing when I saw that picture. :D

  5. You said Chinese is rewiring your brain...? I think it's melting YOUR brain!

  6. Taming, thanks for following along for so long.

    And to you and Charlie - you've both made me feel better - glad I wasn't the only one who has been rewired!

    Magnus, I think you're right. I bought a beer tonight in a London pub, and thanked the (English) barman by saying "xie xie". It took me a moment to work out why he looked so confused!

  7. The third sort of reminds me of 朋 from 朋友. The old man and woman are friends. ^_^

    Also the first one reminds me of 骑 as in to ride.

  8. Comments posted below on behalf of XY, who is currently unable to post on Blogger from China:

    Greg, I've used my brain trying to figure out what the three pictures stand for.

    Graph No.1:
    Guess 1: motorcycle and car 摩托车
    Guess 2: 轰(in the Chinese way of thinking,,两辆车)

    Graph No.2:
    Guess 1: slippery and car (I really don't how to put together these two) 滑车 (Physics term).
    Guess 2: Could it be 连?

    Graph No.3:
    Guess 1: two people 从.
    Guess 2: It could also be 好, since that is a lady on the lefthand side and a man on the righthand side(女子,where 子 is honorific for man in acient China).
    Guess 3: 耄耋 (Which might be a bit advanced for you).

  9. Thanks to both Niel & XY - that's a bunch of great guesses. I'm really starting to look at hanzi in a new way! (And XY, you're right ... '耄耋' is definitely waaaaay ahead of me right now! :-)