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"The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters": Chinese Food & Eating Translations


prasantrin
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Many of you probably have a copy of this book, but for those who don't and can't afford $69 for a copy (the lowest price I've found so far), it's being reprinted! Due out March 2004, though the release date according to amazon.ca is May 2004. It will be a much more reasonable $16.78 Canadian :smile: . The US Amazon site did not yet have details so I cannot report on the US price. I do have confirmation from University of Chicago Press, though.

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Many of you probably have a copy of this book, but for those who don't and can't afford $69 for a copy (the lowest price I've found so far), it's being reprinted!  Due out March 2004, though the release date according to amazon.ca is May 2004.  It will be a much more reasonable $16.78 Canadian  :smile: .  The US Amazon site did not yet have details so I cannot report on the US price.  I do have confirmation from University of Chicago Press, though.

THANK YOU!!!!!

Thank you for that information! My copy, which long ago fell apart, is being held together by an elastic band! What a wonderful little book. I am so glad it is being reprinted, and will keep my eye on Amazon to catch it when it comes out. I will buy half a dozen copies, this time!

How did you find about this? (I'm sure glad you did!)

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THANK YOU!!!!!

Thank you for that information! My copy, which long ago fell apart, is being held together by an elastic band! What a wonderful little book. I am so glad it is being reprinted, and will keep my eye on Amazon to catch it when it comes out. I will buy half a dozen copies, this time!

How did you find about this? (I'm sure glad you did!)

I'm pretty happy about it, too! I've been looking for a copy for years and every so often, I go through amazon, e-bay, half.com, abebooks, etc. looking for a reasonably priced used copy. This time amazon.ca had two listings for the book so I looked at them both. One had the usual "out of print" message but the other had a price and a release date. I wrote to UofC Press and they confirmed that it was being reprinted. The only negative for me is that I'll probably be out of North America when it's released, but I'm going to get a copy shipped to me as soon as possible!

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That's great news! I spoke to the University some months ago and as a result of my approach they said they would look into re-publishing it. Hurrah!

All the best,

SOOOOOOO glad you did, Ian!!! Good going! I can't even count how many people have told me that they want that book. It is a treasure!

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Wow, what a coincidence: I just listed my copy for sale on Amazon, although if anyone on this forum would like to buy a 1984 paperback edition in great condition (looks unread), let me know...of course, I'd subtract all of Amazon's fees that I used to set the price, making it a relative bargain all things considered.

Just to make this more than a gratuitously commercial post, it is indeed a great book, although ideosyncratic in classification and done completely in traditional characters, which is great for everyone but those of us PRC-centric folk ...yeah, yeah, I know, master traditional and simplified becomes an academic exercise, but at my age and with my level of patience, I have enough of a time memorizing simplified characters.

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  • 1 month later...

I don't want anyone to think I'm obsessed with this book (I am, but only because I've been searching for a copy for several years :biggrin: ), but amazon.com now has it available for pre-order for just $10.50! Not bad considering the cheapest used copy on amazon is $71.95! The date of publication listed is May 2004--just a few more months to wait! So, support e-Gullet and order from Amazon! (anyone know if amazon.ca works the same way as amazon.com in terms of the e-Gullet commission thing?)

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re: amazon.ca

the current code only works for amazon.com (US) and won't work on amazon.ca, or the other amazons (co.uk, .de, .jp). eGullet has to join the other ones and provide links, otherwise eGullet won't get any commissions out of it.

if you want, I can give you my amazon.ca code? I promise commissions won't go toward canada bashing :)

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  • 2 months later...

Bringing this up yet again! Apparently the release date for the book was moved up and Amazon has already shipped copies out! I'd do the whole e-Gullet amazon link thing, but don't know how. Maybe someone else can help?

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At the bottom of every page is a link to amazon--shop now and save, I think it says. If you click on that to get to the amazon site, I think amazon will give commission to e-gullet for whatever you buy. Maybe someone with more details can clarify?

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<iframe marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120" height="240" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?o=1&l=as1&f=ifr&t=egulletcom-20&dev-t=D68HUNXKLHS4J&p=8&asins=0226555925&IS2=1&lt1=_blank"><MAP NAME="boxmap-p8"><AREA SHAPE="RECT" COORDS="14, 200, 103, 207" HREF="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm/privacy-policy.html?o=1" ><AREA COORDS="0,0,10000,10000" HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/egulletcom-20" ></map><img src="http://rcm-images.amazon.com/images/G/01/rcm/120x240.gif" width="120" height="240" border="0" usemap="#boxmap-p8" alt="Shop at Amazon.com"></iframe>

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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<iframe marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120" height="240" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?o=1&l=as1&f=ifr&t=egulletcom-20&dev-t=D68HUNXKLHS4J&p=8&asins=0226555925&IS2=1&lt1=_blank"><MAP NAME="boxmap-p8"><AREA SHAPE="RECT" COORDS="14, 200, 103, 207" HREF="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm/privacy-policy.html?o=1" ><AREA COORDS="0,0,10000,10000" HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/egulletcom-20" ></map><img src="http://rcm-images.amazon.com/images/G/01/rcm/120x240.gif" width="120" height="240" border="0" usemap="#boxmap-p8" alt="Shop at Amazon.com"></iframe>

Has e-Gullet signed up with other Amazons yet? I can't order through .com but I can order through .co.jp and would love to support e-Gullet if I could.

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  • 3 months later...

Many, many mistakes and lacking good explanations.

I found the translation of "gong yong dian hua" particularly tiresome.

What the author also fails to note is that in many cases, the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears *no* relation to the English translation.

A good primer for the absolute beginner, who has no clue about characters or how to make sense of them..............

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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Well, I'm not exactly an absolute beginner, but I found the web-site fun. The owner put a lot of work into it.

Jason --- As Susan said -- "What the author also fails to note is that in many cases, the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears *no* relation to the English translation."

Case in point is China 46. Their sign translates as "9 Fish" (九魚 - Jiu Yu) (China 46 is one terrific restaurant in Northern NJ.)

Thanks for the link. I bookmarked it.

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Well, I'm not exactly an absolute beginner, but I found the web-site fun. The owner put a lot of work into it.

Jason --- As Susan said -- "What the author also fails to note is that in many cases, the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears *no* relation to the English translation."

  Case in point is China 46. Their sign translates as  "9 Fish" (九魚 - Jiu Yu) (China 46 is one terrific restaurant in Northern NJ.)

Thanks for the link. I bookmarked it.

Yeah, I was thinking about China 46 and how its english name has nothing to do with its sign.

However in China 46's case -- the "9 Fish" is actually interpreted as "Many Fish" or "abundance of fish" correct? Its from a Chinese saying that goes along the lines of "may you never run out of fish" or something like that, right?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Well, I'm not exactly an absolute beginner, but I found the web-site fun. The owner put a lot of work into it.

The whole website is kind of fun and charming. The auther readily admits he knows no Chinese other than the ones he challenged himself to learn so he coud read signs and menus.

What the author also fails to note is that in many cases, the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears *no* relation to the English translation.

In San Francisco's Chinatown, restaurants will often changes owners, staff, cuisines, and Chinese name but retain the previous English name, presumably to keep their gueilo customers. This can be counter-productive: Great Eastern Restaurant, arguably the best in Chinatown these days, was one of the worst back in the '60's when I first went there. I had to be strong-armed into going back to it three decades later because I still asociated the name with mediocrity.

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That site is fantastic. If the author is going to make updates to the website, I would like to see more coverage of offal and the more exotic ingredients. These items don't usually get translated well on bilingual menus, if at all.

Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, NY has at least 3 items that aren't translated on their bilingual menu. If I remember correctly, they were a turtle dish, pork kidneys with sichuan peppercorn, and double-boiled black-skinned chicken.

I think it's also worth mentioning that the Chinese have a penchant for "poetic language" in naming dishes. Oftentimes, the name of a dish has nothing to do with the ingredients used or the way it's prepared. Some are well known, e.g. "phoenix claw" for chicken feet.

Some are truly cryptic. I'm looking at a takeout menu from a local restaurant now that has an item called:

牛郎織女, literally translated as either "cowboy (or gigolo) weave(-ing) girl". The English translation on the menu is given as "Lover's Nest - Beautiful bird's nest containing beef & chicken with carrots & celery in a delicate sauce". Okay, I get it, there's beef, yeah? Oh, and the woven basket/nest, sure, sure. I think I get it. :unsure::wacko::wacko: Where else can you get a meal and a brain-teaser?

There are many other examples from the same menu - a small sampling:

七星伴月- "Seven Stars Around the Moon"

富貴雙仙 - "Ying Yang Delight"

Names like those confound me, and I'm glad that there are English descriptions as well as translations. However, I don't pretend to be an expert on the Chinese language, but far from it. There's probably some guy out there, steeped in Chinese history, myths and legends, reading this and muttering, "Ying Yang Delight? How could you not know that's 'shrimp and black bean sauce on one side and scallops and broccoli on the other side of the plate'? That's just sooo obvious, you dumbass!" :biggrin:

Edited by Laksa (log)
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What the author also fails to note is that in many cases, the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears *no* relation to the English translation.

From my experiences working in the Chinese restaurant business, when the restaurant was first opened the owner typically will try to match the English name with the Chinese name (Chinese name is picked first, typically). They translate their business names by one of the 2 means:

1. Translate by pronounciation: e.g. Mei Wah, King Fung Garden.

2. Translate by meaning: e.g. Golden Dragon, China Pearl.

But sometimes, they would do a combination of both, that created something like China (by meaning) Sun (by pronounciation).

What you observed, that the Chinese name on the restaurant sign bears no relation to the English translation, is typically because, like Gary said, a new owner taking over the business decided to change the Chinese name but keep the old English name (so the owner doesn't need to change the registration, phone book, menu, etc.).

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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However in China 46's case -- the "9 Fish" is actually interpreted as "Many Fish" or "abundance of fish" correct? Its from a Chinese saying that goes along the lines of "may you never run out of fish" or something like that, right?

In a fish tank inside a Chinese restaurant, it is customary to keep a total of nine fish. Not eight, not ten, has to be nine. I am not sure what the reason is.

It perhaps has to do with the sound association. Nine in Chinese (at least in Cantonese, pronounced as "Gau") sounds the same as "Forever" (also "Gau"). It would mean the business will run forever. Fish in Cantonese (pronounced "Yu") sounds the same as "Excess" (which is good, it means you have made more than expected). So Nine Fish can have an associated meaning of "Having excess forever").

Not sure how that translates to "China 46".

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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There's probably some guy out there, steeped in Chinese history, myths and legends, reading this and muttering, "Ying Yang Delight?  How could you not know that's 'shrimp and black bean sauce on one side and scallops and broccoli on the other side of the plate'?  That's just sooo obvious, you dumbass!"  :biggrin:

Contrary to what you may believe, usually these "poetic" names for dishes are only known to the authors. When I read up on these poetic names in menus, I would be scratching my head just like you do.

These poetic menu entry names are used notariously often during the Chinese new year, where the restaurant managers often come up with names that would imply good luck, prosperity and such. Only a few old ones are well known: e.g. Fat Choy Ho See (Fat Choy (hairy fungi) = making lots of money; Ho See (dried oysters) = Good outlook for the market). For any other creative names, I would need to read up on the fine prints to figure out what they are.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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But sometimes, they would do a combination of both, that created something like China (by meaning) Sun (by pronounciation).

Or even the both for the same character. The Chinatown restaurant called "New Hong Kong" in Chinese (Xin Xiang Gang) is called New Sun Hong Kong in English.

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