You really have to stop!

On a major street in a neighborhood not far from Sinoglot’s Shangdi offices:


Apologies as always for pairing a cheap cell phone camera with the world’s worst photographer. The text says:

Stop car on red / Violators prosecuted

Since I’ve heard a local or two giggle about this particular sign, I don’t think written stoplight instructions are terribly common, but feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

The important linguistic question, though, is: what does it mean?

From a purely descriptive standpoint, I’m going to offer the conjecture that the native drivers interpret this as a (written) speech act in the tradition of Protesting Too Much. That is, if someone took the trouble to write out instructions for stopping at a red light, there must be good reason to run it.

And run it they do. At first I thought I might try to get a better pic by stepping into the intersection when the light turned. It did, but I didn’t, because it would have meant doing battle with a never-ending stream of drivers in harmony with the spirit — if not the letter — of the speech act.

Auntie, or Big Sister?

Believe me, I try to be grateful for the corrections. I know the phase won’t survive much longer.

My 8-yr-old daughter is in such a happy-to-correct-Dad’s-Mandarin phase that she hand-signals proper tones in the middle of my business phone conversations; she interrupts my dinner table stories; she whispers fixes to me in the back of cabs as I talk with the driver. Continue…

Falsehoods in front-line management

In the situation that a front-line worker in China is dealing with a difficult situation, are they likely to spout something demonstrably false? Specifically: are they more likely to tell you, to your face, that X is true and then have it become clear (often within minutes) that X is not true? [UPDATE: Intro changed — see comments for details]