Archive for April 10th, 2008

Small step II

April 10th, 2008 | Category: China,Language

Here’s an update for my “Small step” post below. After studying the phrase a little more and getting clarification from a colleague, I realize that the translator of this phrase got lucky by translating it in the style of the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius. Doesn’t this sound something like, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” to you? But, is “small step makes big success” an accurate translation of the text (“Qian2 jin4 yi1 xiao3 bu4, wen2 ming2 yi1 da4 bu4″).

No!

Here’s a more accurate translation: “Small step closer, big step for civilization.” (I got lucky by discovering the word for “civilization” a few days before (“wen2 ming2″))   And there’s a good reason why it’s in front of the urinal. The intention, according to my colleagues, is “Step closer to the urinal and don’t make such a mess. That small gesture of cleanliness will do wonders for our civilization.” Big let down my first Confucian interpretation, I guess. It reminds me of the 2008 Olympics advertisements running in China. I often see them when riding on the subway. They encourage all sorts of good social behavior like sharing an umbrella, not spitting, and waiting your turn.

(above) I wonder if this was put up by the Beijing Olympic Committee.

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