In China, math spells romance! (Secret Chinese love codes)

With only 409 syllables in the entire language, Chinese has too many homophones. That might sound judgmental but hear me out: Jessica’s Chinese name, for example, has in it. If I type “yi” on my phone, it’s the 90th (!!) yi in the list of yi characters to scroll through. It’s a good thing I love her so much, because inputting her name is serious 麻烦

So the Chinese totally go to town on homophone wordplays. They don’t even need to be true homophones; drunk language student pronunciation is apparently good enough to get the meaning across. In fact they don’t even need words; numbers work just fine. Turns out that in Mandarin you can say a lot with numbers. Like on the inside of our friends’ wedding rings:

They inscribed “L.L. 14520” inside the bands. The “L”s are just for their last names: Liú and . But the numbers when spoken are yī sì wǔ èr líng, which to them sounds like yī shì wǒ ài nǐ一世我爱你),which means: “(For my) whole life I love you”. (“一世” is short for “一生一世”。)

I showed the picture to my preschool office coworkers and they all got it in under three seconds.

One of their friends has 201314 on her ring: èr líng yī sān yī sì, which sounds like ài nǐ yī shēng yī shì (爱你一生一世: “love you (for my) whole life”).

There’s more language learning fun to be had in the Learning Mandarin topic. See also:

Things That Are Awesome (Fushan, Qingdao edition 青岛浮山)

Things That Are Awesome (in sharply descending degrees of awesomeness):

#2. The views on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain (浮山).

#3. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China.

#4. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain.

#5. Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing We Are The World:

Aaaaand…. #1! Those portable personal fanny-pack radios popular in Mainland China on top of Qingdao’s Fushan mountain playing When a Man Loves a Woman when you’ve hiked up there to celebrate your 12th anniversary.

Snogging pics in

3…

2…

1…




Viral one-minute Chinese sex ed video — English translation

So there are these minute-long Chinese sex ed videos that’ve gone viral on the Chinese internet. I suspect they’re actually aimed at parents, but they’re funny and well done. Here’s a translation of the first one, which compares conception to getting a shot at the doctor’s and makes fun of the classic Chinese answer to, “Where did I come from?”


Your mom says you were brought back from the garbage pile?

We’ve had an interest in Chinese sex ed ever since we first arrived as language students and got involved with Bright Future, a sex ed project run by an American at Tianjin University. The traditional taboo against talking about sex is still strongly felt in China, so sex ed is a special challenge. And the not-talking-about-it enables copious amounts of risky sexual behaviours and their damaging consequences (see links at the bottom), so we’re fans of creative efforts like Bright Future.


A hands-on Bright Future birth control class at Tianjin University

Here I’ve embedded the video from YouTube, but if you’re in China without a VPN you can also see it on Youku and Tudou. Embedded from Youku at the bottom.

(If you want to mouseover the Chinese and get instant pop-up pronunciation/translation, install this in your web browser.)

一分钟性教育(1):小孩从哪儿来?

One-minute Sex Ed #1: Where Did You Come From?

你从哪儿来的?
Where did you come from?
当然是你爸妈生的啊!
Of course your dad and mom borned you!
老师跟你说是爱情的结晶?No, no, no,
Teacher told you it was love crystals? No no no…
我们是哺乳动物又不是晶体
We are mammals, not crystal
只有受精哪来的结晶
There’s just fertilization, where’s the crystallization?
你妈跟你讲,是从垃圾堆里捡回来的?
Your mom says you were brought back from the garbage pile?
也不是,你妈记错了
Nope, your mom remembers wrong
你是从小树林里捡回来的
You were brought back from a small grove of trees
哦,不
Uh, no
你是在小树林里受精的
You were conceived in a small grove of trees*
这个受精啊
This conception
就是你爸的精子钻到你妈的卵子里去
is your dad’s sperm making its way into your mom’s ovum
你问精子怎么进去的……
You ask how does the sperm go in…
呃,医院打针见过吧?
Um, you’ve seen an injection in the hospital, right?
针头戳一下,药水推进去
The needle pokes all of sudden, and the medicine is pushed in
过程差不多
That’s the process, more or less
哦,想知道你怎么长成这么大的呀?
Oh, so you want to know how you grew up this big?
刚开始受精卵比你的头发丝还细呢
At the very start the fertilized egg was thinner than your hair
用眼睛是看不到的
Couldn’t be seen with eyes
精子那么小,所以针管一定很小?
Since the sperm is that small, so the needle must be really small?
不不不!这和注射器大小没有关系!
No! No! No! This has nothing to do with the syringe’s size!
啊,你问会不会和打针一样疼?
Ah, you’re asking does it hurt as much as an injection?
嗯,多少会疼那么一下吧
Um, I guess it will hurt like that just a bit**
总之,你要孝顺你妈,知道了吗?
Basically, you need to show filial piety to your mother, understand?
然后受精卵会分裂
Afterwards the fertilized egg will divide
一分二、二分四、四分八……
One into two, two into four, four into eight, etc.
接着呢,会形成组织器官
After that, it will take shape and organize organs
慢慢分化
Slowly differentiating
这样你就有了心肝脾肺肾,眼耳鼻舌喉等等零碎儿了
This way you have a heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, throat, etc., odds and ends
什么?你妈说确定你是从垃圾堆里捡回来的?!
What? Your mom says she’s certain you were brought back from the garbage pile?!
我擦
Censored (“I erase”)
等等,我得去跟她聊聊……
Hold on, I need to have a chat with her…

(*P.S. — “…conceived in a small grove of trees” isn’t just some random joke. In memoirs we’ve read of China’s 1980’s, it was apparently not uncommon for couples to sneak out to public parks at night to fool around because they had nowhere else to go; living quarters were crowded and lacking privacy. I’m guessing that’s what they’re alluding to.)

(**P.P.S. — How would you translate this? 嗯,多少会疼那么一下吧)

More about Sex Ed (and the lack thereof) in China:

Abortion, AIDS, prostitution and gendercide: