Going to visit Mrs. Murphy / Mr. Wang
Warning: potty humor ahead
Just before heading out to school this morning:
PBS*: Wǒ yào qù Wáng Cōng jiā
I want to go to Wang Cong’s house.
PBS (chortling): It means “go to the bathroom” — WC! At school we always say this.
English, of course, is full of euphemisms for seeing a man about a horse (which is one an uncle of mine is fond of). The Mrs. Murphy in the title of this post was, if not coined, at least popularized by the book / play / movie Cheaper by the Dozen. But there are two things especially fun about Wáng Cōng. One is that it’s semi-bilingual, using the first letters of the pinyin, kind of like ICBC.
The second is that the two languages involved are not Mandarin and English, but Mandarin and, maybe, Globish? The argument against English is that apparently WC is not used much in countries that have English as a native language**. Personally I can vouch for the US. Here’s a quote from BrE/AmE blogger-linguist Lynne Murphy, discussing the present-day situation in England:
I remember as a child learning that the British say water closet or W.C., but it’s not a very popular phrase today, at least not in the circles in which I travel. I’ve seen W.C. on public facilities far more often in France than in England.
In Beijing, WC is found in signs all over the place, and I think most folks think it’s standard English.
Anyone have other Mandarin examples about dropping the kids off at the pool or training Thomas on the terracotta?
*10 yr old daughter
**Readers from the rest of English-land: feel free to tell me if the generalization’s unfair…