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A Christmas pinyin puzzle

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xianhua

I just received a thoughtful Christmas message from my sister-in-law in China. As my phone doesn't process Chinese characters, it was written in pinyin:

"tiwohegezhufuniquanjiarenjierikuaile"*

Yeah, I know. To save you the pains of having to work it out though (like I did) the answer is below.

I've seen signs outside hotels and other buildings written in this manner. My children's books and other materials in pinyin (from China) all seem to separate the words, so I wonder how this style developed. Did any native speakers work this out straight away? I kept reading the first few letters as 'two' every time.

Maybe I'll have to add this to my ever-growing list of things to study along with: printed simplified characters, hand-written simplified characters, printed traditional characters, hand-written traditional characters.... :conf Maybe not.

*"替我和哥祝福你全家人节日快乐".

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roddy

It's not uncommon. Chinese doesn't have spaces, and if you've never used pinyin, don't know English or any other languages, and then get asked to make a pinyin sign, why would you suddenly think to put spaces in. And sometimes, you may even see it written right to left . . .

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889

"And sometimes, you may even see it written right to left . . . ."

2926_thumb.attach

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Meng Lelan

No wonder I never liked pinyin. I can never understand it.

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xianhua
"And sometimes, you may even see it written right to left . . . ."

I'll add pinyin-backwards to my list to learn. Maybe they were just being considerate to all those motorists reversing up to the sign and then looking back through their rear-view mirrors.

Since the teaching of pinyin (with gaps for words as a far as I can tell) is now widespread in the Chinese education system, perhaps this art form will die out one day. I must take a picture next time I see one.

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vampire
and then looking back through their rear-view mirrors.

then it's another form of puzzle, written from left to right but every letter is right to left reversed.

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imron
Did any native speakers work this out straight away?
I'm not a native speaker but I worked it out straight away - but then I've also received a ton of similar messages but with Chinese characters instead of pinyin :mrgreen:

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xianhua
then it's another form of puzzle, written from left to right but every letter is right to left reversed.

Ah, yes. I overlooked the lettering in my excitement; it was Christmas Eve. :lol:

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trien27
tiwohezhufuniquanjiarenjierikuaile

ti = to substitute; to replace, take the place of.

wo = I

ti wo + verb = [verb / anything to be done] from me [but done by you]

he = and

[wo] ge [ge] = [my] older brother

zhu fu ni quan jia ren = Wish your whole family

jie ri kuai le = Happy Holidays

Correctly, it should be: ti wo he ge [ge] zhufu ni quan jiaren jieri kuaile: 替我和哥 [哥] 祝褔你全家人节日快乐. It means "Happy Holidays & give my & my brother's regards to your family."

哥, ge, is the shortened form of gege "哥哥"

Edited by trien27
additional information

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imron

Did you read the first post, where xianhua provided the Chinese also?

Correctly it should be:

替我和哥祝福你全家人节日快乐

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xianhua
Correctly, it should be: ti wo zhu ni quan jiaren jieri kuaile

No, because then it wouldn't have included 哥哥.

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in_lab
And sometimes, you may even see it written right to left . .

That's really bizarre. I've seen plenty of badly romanized Chinese, but I've never seen any written right to left. I wonder why.

The best guess I can come up with is that in Taiwan, a knowledge of the alphabet is the first step in learning English, so if you know the English alphabet, you've at least had a brief brush with English. In China, pinyin is used for spelling Chinese, so you could learn the alphabet without knowing a single thing about English.

Edit: Ignore the above paragraph. Pinyin is always written left to right, so it would be really difficult to be in the situation of being familiar enough with the alphabet to produce a pinyin sign and not know that it should be written from left to right.

Edited by in_lab

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Daan
Pinyin is always written right to left, so it would be really difficult to be in the situation of being familiar enough with the alphabet to produce a pinyin sign and not know that it should be written from right to left.

On first sight I didn't even notice this, but..left to right, shurely? :)

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in_lab
On first sight I didn't even notice this, but..left to right, shurely?

Oops. Fixed it above.

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Jose
That's really bizarre. I've seen plenty of badly romanized Chinese, but I've never seen any written right to left. I wonder why.

You can find some more examples of this on the Internet, even with English rather than pinyin (for example here and here; I found these links in this blog post, which has a similar picture too). I think I remember seeing some pictures of a "steliot" sign too.

This seems to come from the fact that characters can be written from right to left in (especially old-style) signs, like 學大京北 for 北京大學, and people with scant familiarity with pinyin or English wrongly assume that this reversibility applies to Latin letters too.

Edited by Jose

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Daan

I discovered last weekend that there is a street on Hong Kong Island called Rednaxela Terrace. It had me confused at first, but then I realised it was the same principle at work...

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skylee
I discovered last weekend that there is a street on Hong Kong Island called Rednaxela Terrace. It had me confused at first, but then I realised it was the same principle at work...

Interesting. You might wish to take a look at this -> http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%88%97%E6%8B%BF%E5%A3%AB%E5%9C%B0%E5%8F%B0

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Daan

Thanks! That goes to show one should never trust travel guides :wink:

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