Friday, May 24, 2013

Chinese demand School Xing sign change

by +Tina Cruris

Mandarin speaking families in the US have launched a campaign to have local authorities change road signs found near schools to read "School Crossing" instead of the familiar shortened version "School Xing" claiming that it is offensive and misleading.
A school crossing sign
A harmless SCHOOL XING sign, or is it?
Xing has been a shorthand way of writing 'crossing' for decades with the X representing a cross, but in the Mandarin language the word Xing, pronounced sying, translates to 'torture' and many Mandarin speaking families do not want their young children making that connection and being afraid to attend school.
The word XING in Chinese script
Xing = Torture in Mandarin
I spoke with MNDOT here in Minnesota and they are aware of the campaign and don't have any plans to modify any of the road signs any time soon. A MNDOT representative told us anonymously and unofficially, "the expense of replacing street signs for the 3000+ Minnesota schools, plus repainting the warnings on the road surfaces far exceeds the happiness of a few Chinese people." She added, "English versions of Chinese words often have multiple meanings since English cannot reflect the subtle nuances of the Chinese language."

I looked up the word Xing in a Chinese-English dictionary and Sue from MNDOT was right. There are 46 unique translations for the word Xing including:
  • star
  • to flourish
  • teacup(2)
  • introspection
  • apricot
  • to swell
  • fishy
  • long necked wine flask
  • ape
  • storm(1)
  • to blow one's nose
  • molasses
  • a common surname and girl's name
With such a large number of alternate words, each of which is equally valid as torture, why single out that one term?
Storm in a teacup
A Storm in a Teacup
Do you think that the Chinese linguists have a valid cause for concern or is it just a Xing(1) in a Xing(2)?

Share you thoughts in the comments section below. We want to know what you're thinking.

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