Apr 2, 2006

South Park Chinatown gate analysis

My last entry talked about nonsensical English on the back of a girl's jacket. The letters came quite close to spelling out some actual words in English, but the real meaning was unclear. What a coincidence then, when watching the latest South Park episode this week that they had some Chinese characters that were almost correct, but not quite. The premise of the South Park episode was that Kyle's family buys a Prius ("Pius") hybrid car and becomes so smug that they relocate to San Francisco, the "smuggiest" city in America. During the scenes showing them relocating, there are some famous sites in San Francisco, including the Chinatown gate, which is where this topic comes in.

In the screenshot below, I've superimposed the Chinese characters next to the original cartoon. Let's take a look at what's going on.

大 級級: "高級" is normally used to mean high-grade or high-level. 大級級 is a close guess. However, we're dealing with South Park here, which is not the cleanest humor around. It's very possible they have a Mandarin speaker on their staff who knows that 大級級 (da4 ji2 ji2) is very close to sounding like 大 雞雞 (da4 ji1 ji1), which is crude slang for "big penis". Or they may have simply stumbled onto an unintentional joke.

研: usually used in conjunction with another character to indicate something related to research or education. By itself it means "grind" or "pestle" and it's infrequently seen this way.

快位大度: this makes no sense. In real life that little sign says "天下為公". This is a quote from Confucius in the Book of Rites (孔子禮記), "When the Great Way prevails, the world belongs to all." (大道之行也,天下為公)

級: this one could work. Perhaps it's a sign that says "超級" (super) and the top is cut off.

快度人街: this one makes no sense, but the last three characters "度人街" look similar to "唐人街", which means "Chinatown".

超: again, this could be part of "超級" (super)

To me it looks like the South Park writers put a lot more effort into realistic foreign language usage in this episode. In the Bin Laden episodes they usually just scribbled some random Arabic squiggles.


Blogger absolutED said...

this is pretty creative!!!

7:30 PM  

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