Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

our house’s rat



Child: Mommy, what is that?

Mother: That’s rat poison.

Child: Mommy, is our house’s rat sick?


老鼠药, lao shu yao- rat poison

生病, sheng bing- to get sick


explanation of “How much for the whole night?”

Creative solutions to common problems.  Though this joke might at first glance seem to be about prostitutes, it’s really about how much trouble Chinese people sometimes go through to buy train tickets. Waiting outside a train station overnight to buy tickets is by no means unheard of.

Train tickets are usually only released for sale to the public between 10 and 20 days before their departure date.  Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that many tour companies are given access to these tickets first, and sometimes buy up multiple train cars.  Likewise, 票贩子, ticket scalpers, often try to purchase the more desirable tickets for high-demand trains.

Especially around major holiday periods like Spring Festival, train tickets are sought after like new iPhones in the US.  People form lines that snake around entire city blocks just to get their hands on one. Even doing so, they may find the train sold out before they reach the ticket window, or otherwise, there might only be left 站票, standing tickets.  The unfortunate folks who purchase standing tickets may end up without a seat (usually sitting on their own luggage) for 10, 20, even 40 hours on a long-distance train.


票贩子, piao fanzi- ticket scalper

站票, zhan piao- standing ticket

How much for the whole night?


A man asked a street hooker, “How much for the night?”  She answered, “200 yuan.”  He responded, “Can we do anything I want?” to which she said, “yes!”  The man happily said, “Go to the train station for me tonight and standing in line to buy tickets!”

街边小姐, jiebian xiaojie- street hooker (literally, street-side lady)

包夜, baoye- whole night, all night (in this case, “the night”)

Money money money



A kid asked a rich man, “Uncle, why are you so rich?”

The rich man rubbed the kid’s head and said, “When I was young, my dad gave me an apple.  I sold it and got two apples.  After that, I got four apples.”  Pensively, the kid said, “Oh, uncle, I think I understand.”  The rich man replied, “Huh, what do you understand!?  After that, my dad died and I inherited his property…”


英语老师为了强调词汇积累的重要性,说:“一个单词用10遍,这个词就会跟随你一辈子。”教室最后一排的女孩闻听忽然念叨起来:“money, money, money…”


To stress the importance of accumulating vocabulary, an English teacher said, “Use a word ten times, and it will be with you for life.”  A girl in the back row of the classroom heard this, and suddenly started saying, “Money, money, money…”


小朋友, xiao pengyou- child, kid

富翁, fuweng- rich person

若有所思, ruo you suo si- pensive

你 懂你妹, ni dong ni mei- “What do you understand?”/”You don’t understand at all.” (colloquial, somewhat rude) literally, “You understand your sister.”

继承, ji cheng- inherit

词汇积累, ci hui ji lei- vocabulary accumulation

一辈子, yi beizi- for a lifetime

losing your stuffing

有一只肉包子, 有一天它去喝。它喝醉了, 于是它一边走一边扶着电线杆吐,吐着吐着,它变成了馒头。

One day, a meat-stuffed bun went out drinking.  He got so drunk that he was walking along propping himself up on electric poles, puking.  He puked and puked until he turned into a steamed bun.

肉包子, rou baozi- meat-stuffed steamed bun

喝醉了, he zui le- drunk, drink to excess

于是, yu shi- so, (in this case “so… that”)

电线杆, dian xian gan(r)- electric pole

吐, tu- spit, puke

馒头, man tou- steamed bun (no stuffing!)

explanation of “losing your stuffing”

There’s one thing to keep in mind while reading this joke.  Baozi (meat-stuffed buns) have filling, and mantou (steamed buns) don’t.  That is, mantou are basically baozi without the stuffing.  Illustrations below!







explanation of “Intel inside (probably 宅男 outside) “

First things first, I’m complicating stuff by putting some  untranslated Chinese in the title of the post.  So I’ll start there.  That 宅男 (zhai nan) stuff just refers to a very bookish boy.  nciku defines it as otaku… I’m no expert there (unfortunately!), so I’ll just point it out and let others figure out whether it’s accurate.  Anyway, zhainan is apt here, since this is a very nerdy joke.

So, if you’re fairly nerdy, or if you pay attention to advertising, you might know that Intel has used a particular jingle for years and years.  It’s a series of atmospheric melodic dinging sounds.  Here’s a youtube video of it in all its glory:

Now that you’ve got that in mind, let’s think about what the Chinese for “The light! Wait for the light! Wait for the light!” sounds like.  It’s literally,  “Deng! Dengdeng, dengdeng.”  With tones (deng1 deng3deng1 deng3deng1), it could seriously start to sound like the Intel jingle. The 1 tone is flat and slightly above natural register, and the 3 tone is a kind of froggy low tone that’s much lower than the 1 tone.

Finally, I should mention that I’ve taken some license in translating the friend’s response to the “dengdeng.”  Even though “就你有英特尔啊” should be something like “It’s you who have Intel!”, I’ve decided to go with the well-known Intel slogan, “Intel inside,” since it’s clearly supposed to refer to some such phrase.  Anyway, I’m interested if anyone knows whether this is actually a common advertising slogan for Intel in the China market.

Intel inside (probably 宅男 outside)


A friend and I came to a red light while crossing the street.  He wanted to go ahead, and I yelled out to him, “The light!  Wait for the light! Wait for the light!”  My friend looked back at me and disdainfully and said, “You’ve got Intel inside?”

等灯, deng deng- Wait for the light

鄙视, bi shi- despise, disdain

英特尔, ying te er- Intel (company name)

explanation of “so lucky you could die”

Just like in the US, many brands hold promotional contests to win free products, among other amazing prizes.  Probably best known for doing this are producers of bottled soft drinks like coke, sprite, iced green tea, and iced black (or lemon) tea.  Some producers use the tag line “zai lai yi ping” to announce the promotion, which is also the phrase they print on the inside of bottle caps to indicate that the bottle is a winner.

so lucky you could die


Two lovers were going to commit suicide together, but they only had enough money on them to buy one bottle of pesticide, and one bottle would only be enough to kill one person.  However, in the end, they both died.  How was this?

Answer: They purchased the bottle of pesticide and opened it up.  Inside the cap was written “receive one free bottle!”

一对情侣, yi dui(r) qinglv- a couple of lovers

殉情, xun qing- to die for love, ( in this case, “commit suicide together”)

农药, nong yao- fertilizer

瓶盖, ping gai(r)- bottle cap

再来一瓶, zai lai yi ping-  literally, “get another bottle” (in this case, “receive one free bottle”, a promotional contest prize)