Archive for the ‘translation’ Tag
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.
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”.
A guy alerts his dorm mates that he has lost his “cologne.” The dorm mates don’t even know he uses cologne, so they’re surprised, and ask what type it is. He says, in English, “Six God”, which sounds like it might be some fancy foreign brand. In fact, he’s just referring to the very fragrant liushen bug repellent, which is both very common and very cheap. Once everyone realizes exactly what “Six God” means, they’re speechless.
One reason that such a misinterpretation could realistically happen is that there is one broadly applicable Chinese word that can refer to cologne, perfume, and other similar fragrances. This is xiang shui, which, broken down into its constituent parts, simply means “fragrant water”. Indeed, liushen could by some be considered a type of “fragrant water”.
There are some other culturally specific things to note about this text. Chinese college students often live six or eight to a room, which is why the “dorm mates” are answering one person. In these living situations, they normally select a shezhang, or dorm room leader.