Cool Running in Beijing

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Translating into Chinese is often as much of an art as a science and often produces some pretty whimsical results. That’s true of all translation of course, but because of the gulf between sound-conveying letters and Chinese ideographs, which convey meaning, have a sound attached to them and sometimes also hint at the sound. Names are particularly problematic. Thus Oxford is translated as “niujin” (牛津) literally, “ox” “ford”. But Cambridge (to pick an example) comes out as “jian” which means sword and is a transliteration of the first syllable, “Cam,” and “qiao” (剑桥) which means bridge. Sometimes names come through very peculiarly. Obama, for example, could have been rendered exactly the same as the matching sounds exist in Chinese. Instead, he ended up with “ao” (think ‘ow’ as in ouch) “ba” “ma” (澳巴马). Go figure. Anyway, occasionally serendipity hits and Parkour, the sport of urban gymnastics invented in France is being rendered “pao”(跑) “ku”(酷) or cool running, which is a reasonable approximation of the sound plus a good dollop of meaning rendered in an neat fashion. All this is a roundabout way of introducing a video of “paoku” in Beijing courtesy of the inimitable Kaiser Kuo (blog here) and the Chinese video hosting site youku.com. The link is here. I can’t embed the video or at least don’t think  I can on this new blog server we are using. More research needed, clearly. Anyway, it’s a fun watch. Enjoy.

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