Malformed English in Guiyang delights online commenters


The sun’s expensive in Guiyang

This entertaining sign was posted by the Guiyang Passenger Railway Branch and was recently discovered by the Chengdu Business News.

Although the English translation of the first line, “The expensive sun multiplies by a duty a police to pay a brigade,” is completely incomprehensible, there’s no mystery as to how it occurred: it’s basically a character-by-character translation of 贵阳乘警支队:

The expensive () sun () multiplies () by a duty (??) a police () to pay () a brigade ().

What it should be: Guiyang (贵阳) Rail Police (乘警) Detachment (支队). Whoever reviewed the translation didn’t even notice that it should have contained the name of the city.

The second line is more confusing. It’s actually a hotline for reporting police behavior (警风) and road conditions (路风), where , “breeze,” also carries the meaning “style” or “behavior” (as in the jargon term 党风, “working style of the party”). So that explains the first three words of the translation.

But the next few words make no sense at all. How did “the hurl” and “tell” come out of 监督, “to supervise”? Even when broken into individual characters, the meaning’s just not there. Fortunately, the final word, 电话, “telephone,” is rendered correctly.

Chengdu Business News spoke to an expert who said that even a middle school student wouldn’t have come up with such an absurd translation. He speculated that the translator must have used the most primitive version of Chinese-English translation software available.

Commenters posting on Netease had a field day with the article. The current top comment offers other creative translations for Chinese cities (there are many more here:

北京——North Capital

武汉——Fight Man

青岛——Green Island

四川——Four Mountains

宝鸡——Expensive Chicken

天津——Sky Ferry

海口——Sea Mouth

长沙——Long Sand

上海——Above Sea

长春——Long Spring

兰州——Blue State

The Guiyang Rail Passenger Branch, which falls under the authority of the Chengdu Railway Bureau, has promised to fix the sign as soon as possible.

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