Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

explanation of “your TV miraculously fixes itself”

From 7:00 to 7:30 PM, the vast majority of channels nationwide in China broadcast the exact same news program.  The foreigner, not knowing this, assumes his TV is actually not switching channels, but the Chinese neighbor knows this is not the case, and he will once again be able to see a variety of programming come 7:30.


::Your TV miraculously fixes itself::



A foreigner had just moved in next door to this guy.  One night, the foreigner knocked on the guy’s door to ask for help.  He said, “My TV is broken.  I can’t change the channel.”  The guy glanced down at his watch and calmly said, “It’ll be better after 7:30.”


哥们, ge men(r)- a guy

隔壁, ge bi- next door

老外, lao wai- a foreigner

敲门, qiao men- to knock on a door

求助, qiu zhu- to ask for help

换台, huan tai- to change the channel

看一眼, kan yi yan- to glance, to sneak a look

表, biao- watch

镇定, zhen ding- calm

explanation of “peeing in six easy steps”

The only thing to note about this joke is that it’s almost certainly not originally a Chinese joke.  I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered it on the web elsewhere before seeing it on the Chinese internet, and chances are that our protagonist, Little Qiang, was originally Little Johnny or something to that effect.

peeing in six easy steps



Little Qiang’s mother taught him the six steps of how to pee:

1. undo pants

2. pull down pants

3. pull foreskin back

4. urinate

5. pull foreskin forward

6. re-button pants

One day, the mother passed by the bathroom and heard Little Qiang saying, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.”  She thought she’d done a good job of teaching.  The next day, she passed by the bathroom, and heard Little Qiang rapidly shouting, “3-5, 3-5, 3-5…”


撒尿, sa niao- piss, pee

步骤, bu zhuo- step

包皮, bao pi- foreskin

explanation of “A surprise brother”

The joke itself doesn’t need any real explanation, but there are some notes about translation.  First, the Chinese version of the joke consistently refers to the older woman in the story as “the wife” (妻子) whereas in English, it feels awkward to write “the wife said to the daughter,” so we changed it to “mother” in most cases.  The phrase “小女儿的想法更酷” is a little funny too.  We can’t write “The daughter’s ideas were cooler.”  It doesn’t make sense.  This really means, “The daughter had an even better (cooler, more awesome) idea [than what the mother just suggested].”

A surprise brother


While a husband was doing government work overseas, his wife and four-year old daughter stayed at home.  One day, the daughter said to her mother, “I want a little brother.”  Laughing, the mother responded, “Good idea, but don’t you think we should wait for your father to come home?”  The daughter had an even cooler idea. “Why can’t we give him a surprise?”

驻海外, zhu hai wai- living overseas

公办 , gong ban- government work

更酷, geng ku- even cooler

惊喜, jing xi- a (pleasant) surprise

explanation of “the perils of textbook language learning”

The student has studied English language dialogues in textbooks so well that even in a life-or-death situation, the immediate response to “How are you?” is “I’m fine, thank you!” This unfortunate conditioning leads to the student’s demise.

the perils of textbook language learning

中国留学生在国外的高速公路出车祸了,连人带车翻下悬崖,交警赶到后向下喊话:how are you?留学生答:i’m fine,thank you。然后交警走了,留学生就死了.


A Chinese student studying abroad got into an accident on a highway.  The car and those in it fell off a cliff.  A traffic cop arrived as quickly as possible and yelled down “How are you?”  The student replied “I’m fine, thank you.”  Then the traffic cop left and the student died.


车祸, che huo- traffic accident

翻下, fan xia- fall over

悬崖, xuanya- a cliff, an overhang

交警, jiao jing- traffic police


distrupting normal operations

小张乘公共汽车上班时钱包常被偷。一天,上车前他把厚厚的一沓纸折好放进信封,下车后发现又被偷了。   第二天,他刚上车不久,觉得腰间有一硬物,掏出来一看,是昨天的那个信封。信封上写着:“请不要开这样的玩笑,影响正常工作。谢谢!”


Little Zhang often had his wallet stolen while riding the bus to work. Before he got on the bus one day, he put a thick pile of folded papers into an envelope, and after he got off the bus, he discovered it had been stolen.  The next day, soon after he got on the bus, he felt something hard poking his side.  He pulled it out and took a look; it was the envelope from yesterday.  On it was written, “Please don’t play this kind of trick, it disrupts our normal operations.  Thank you!”


被偷, bei tou- to be stolen

一沓纸折, yi ta zhi zhe- a pile of folded papers

硬物, ying wu- a hard object, something hard

掏出, tao chu- to pull out, to dig out

正常工作, zheng chang gong zuo- regular work, normal operations


explanation of “our house’s rat”

This joke doesn’t seem funny in English at all, and after thinking about it for quite a while, I’m not sure there is any way to both properly translate it while keeping it funny.  Translating it any way that allows the reader to quickly understand also cuts down the humor simply because nobody likes having a joke spelled out for them (which is also why our explanatory posts are rarely funny).

Getting back to the joke itself, all you have to keep in mind is that the 药 in 老鼠药, on its own is usually translated as “medicine”.  The child, not knowing that 老鼠药 is actually rat poison, assumes that the mother is trying to cure the rat of some disease by giving it this “medicine”.