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Confucius Institute

Literal translations of Mandarin words that will make you chuckle

29 June 2017

Many words or concepts in Chinese are built up from other simpler concepts and their direct translation will make you smile.

Many words or concepts in Chinese are built up from other simpler concepts. For example, the word “computer” in Chinese is basically the words “electric” and “brain.” Well, technically each of those words has a corresponding symbol. We have put a list of those words together to make you smile. 

1. A job is a “rice bowl” (饭碗 fàn wǎn).

2. A owl is a “cat head hawk” (猫头鹰 māo tóu yī).

3. A kangaroo is a “bag rat” (袋鼠 dài shǔ).

4. A giraffe is a “long neck deer” (长颈鹿 chǎng jǐng lù).

5. A rocket is a “fire arrow” (火箭 huǒ jiàn).

6. A van is a “bread car” (面包车 miàn bāo chē).

7. A cell phone is a “hand machine” (手机 shǒu jī).

8. A turkey is a “fire chicken” (火鸡 huǒ jī).

9. A breast stroke is a “frog swim” (蛙泳 wā yǒng).

10. A cactus is an “immortal man’s palm” (仙人掌 xiān rén zhǎng ).

11. A panda is a “bear cat” (熊猫 xióng māo).

12. A mistress is a “little three” (小三 xiǎo sān).

13. A hot babe is a “spicy little sister” (辣妹 là mèi).

14. Contact lens are “invisible glasses” (隐形眼镜 yǐn xíng yǎn jìng).

15. A vampire is a “blood suck ghost” (吸血鬼 xī xuè guǐ).

16. A lobster is a “dragon shrimp” (龙虾 lóng xiā).

17. A computer is an “electric brain” (电脑 diàn nǎo).

18. A telephone is “electric speak” (电话 diàn huà).

19. A boss is an “old board” (老板 lǎo bǎn).

20. A pet is a “spoilt thing” (宠物 chǒng wù).

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