Thursday, October 21, 2021


Except when it occurs at the end of a word, the [z] sound is difficult for many Chinese speakers to pronounce correctly and often comes out more like [l]. Zero, for example, is a particular challenge for many and often comes out as "lee-lo." This can lead to some unintentionally very funny statements, like, "I haven't been to the loo since I was a child."

Many years ago, I had occasion to discuss the signs of the zodiac with a group of adult students in Taiwan, and one of them said, "I'm a Leo, and my wife is a Libra, so it's a perfect match." Everyone laughed, but I didn't get it until he explained: "Because Leo is a lion, and lions like to eat libras."

I'm not sure why that popped back into my head more than a decade later, but today it occurred to me that there may be something deeper to this particular Chinglish pun. Aren't zebra-stripes, just as much as the scales, a symbol of objective justice impartially administered?

1 comment:

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I just noticed that this is my 666th post on this blog. By coincidence, it features a Chinese speaker talking about "Leo," which sounds like the Chinese word for the number six.

Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped! -- traditional prayer Good night, Westley. Good work...