情毒 Translation

Had a sudden urge to listen to 情毒 by Kelly Chen tonight. Besides hearing it in the months after its release, I don’t think I’ve played it once in the almost 15 years since. It’s a song that really spoke to me back then, and I still remember a night I was driving in the Sunset and listening to the CD. Listening to it now, I find it more true than ever.

There are some obvious electronic instruments used in the song which, in my opinion, would sound pretty awesome if they were replaced with the real thing. Such as it is, the HK music industry is all about copycatting and churning, and I do believe this was a churn album produced at the height of Ms. Chen’s popularity.

Even so, the lyrics to this song have a truth to them which I will try to bring out in English. Here’s a YouTube video of the song:

Love Poison

作詞: 李俊一
Lyrics by: Joe Lei

作曲: 李俊一
Music by: Joe Lei

主唱: 陳慧琳
Performed by: Kelly Chen

They say good medicine is bitter
But love (poison) is actually more so
It can drown you in teardrops

The bitterness remaining on the taste buds
Brings a strand of drunken sweetness
Like opium, I cannot stop

It can be like fire burning
And being buried in snow
Desire is the most poisonous medicine

Maybe I’d rather give up my life
Than give up that person
That first kiss moved my soul, and shook my heart

Let me drink it then
Until every inch of my heart breaks
And still thank you for the pain

A more toxic poison
Doesn’t match the longing
You can’t resist the yearning, even at the end

I willingly accept the pain

Repeat *****

Let me drink it then
Endure excruciating pain
Wishing only for a gentle kiss when it takes hold

A more harmful poison
Doesn’t compare with cowardice
It makes you numb, lose your mind

I willingly accept the pain

Repeat #####
Repeat &&&&&

冷雨夜 Translation

Here’s my second attempt at translating a Cantonese song. I have to say that it’s not as easy as it first seems. There are plenty of literal-translation traps to avoid, where using the literal translation results in some weird shit (IMHO) in English. At the same time, entire words get lost in translation as a result (example: the street lamps in the second line are supposed to be blue street lamps, or perhaps street lamps that emit blue light, or perhaps aren’t street lamps at all, but the actual blue light emitted from street lamps).

When I listen closely to the song and follow along with the lyrics, a picture forms in my mind. In translating to English, I tried to convey the picture as much as possible, while still keeping a good flow. It’s a matter of choices, as can be seen in the blue street lamp example. Of course, this is just my own interpretation, and I’m sure the picture is different for everyone.

I’ve linked the live karaoke version below, because it has a badass bass solo. The original 1988 release can be heard here.

Cold Rainy Night

作詞: 黃家強
Lyrics by: Wong Ka Keung
作曲: 黃家駒
Music by: Wong Ka Kui
主唱: 黃家強
Performed by: Wong Ka Keung

Slowly walking amidst the rain
Street lamps passing one by one

We gaze at one another
Holding each other tightly, silently

Looking for those days past
Searching for those warm days past
They’ve gone away

The rain hits my face freely
It’s hard to tell what’s rain, what’s tears

My thoughts are a jumble
Worries coiled up like a thousand threads

Going from hot to cold
Words that unintentionally hurt her
Can’t be taken back

On this cold, rainy night I’m at your side
Hoping that you’d know
Know that my heart
Has already changed
There’s only obligation now

On this cold, rainy night I don’t want to go home
Afraid to see you turned away
Smiling ruefully at the rain
Though I know I must make it clear
I’m afraid to even try

Slowly walking amidst the rain
Tasting the flavor of the water
It does seem like
This is the moment it ends

Have not understood
What being together means

Repeat *****
Repeat #####
Repeat *****
Repeat #####


孤單一吻 Translation

In an effort to keep up (and possibly improve) my Chinese, here’s my attempt at translating Beyond’s 孤單一吻 into English. The lyrics are copied from Mojim.com, with some corrections. The English is my own. 😉 I tried to preserve the meaning and have it make some sense instead of just translating it literally.

I really like the Latin/flamenco flavor of this song. It’s possible that the lyrics are referring to a flamenco dancer. You can listen for yourself below:

A Lonely Kiss

Lyrics by: Wong Ka Keung
Music by: Wong Ka Kui
Performed by: Wong Ka Kui

The dance music plays like fire
Its romantic rhythm dances with you
放縱野性 似醉在狂舞動
Primal passions unleashed, wildly dancing as if intoxicated

Like seductive fire, a fragrant kiss on your lips
Heat permeates into my dream
Spreading to all, beauty is love and desire

幻想著愛 是永恆的故事
Fantasizing love, an eternal story
幻想是愛 永遠也拋不開
Fantasy that is love, eternally present

Pull closer, skin to skin, romance to your heart’s desire
此刻的心 為你跳動
My heart in this moment, it beats for you

孤單的一吻 她肖像
The lonely kiss, her portrait
消失的一吻 難抓緊
The disappearing kiss, difficult to grasp

A purple fan, face half covered
Enchantment fills my eyes
冷冷笑意 看見亦難接近
A cold smile, both visible and difficult to near

Disappearing into the darkness is the dancer’s silhouette
Indifferently dissipating my hallucination
Looking all over intently, again hoping to find it

幻想著愛 是永恆的故事
Fantasizing love, an eternal story
幻想是愛 永遠也拋不開
Fantasy that is love, eternally present

Pull closer, skin to skin, romance to your heart’s desire
此刻的心 為你跳動
My heart of this moment, it beats for you

孤單的一吻 她肖像
The lonely kiss, her portrait
消失的一吻 難抓緊
The disappearing kiss, difficult to grasp

孤單的一吻 她肖像
The lonely kiss, her portrait
消失的一吻 難抓緊
The disappearing kiss, difficult to grasp

Pull closer, skin to skin, romance to your heart’s desire
此刻的心 為你跳動
My heart in this moment, it beats for you

孤單的一吻 她肖像
The lonely kiss, her portrait
消失的一吻 難抓緊
The disappearing kiss, difficult to grasp

孤單的一吻 她肖像
The lonely kiss, her portrait
消失的一吻 難抓緊
The disappearing kiss, difficult to grasp

起舞如火焰 消失永沒追尋
When dance and flame disappear, never pursue

起舞如火焰 消失永沒追尋
When dance and flame disappear, never pursue

起舞如火焰 消失永沒追尋
When dance and flame disappear, never pursue

起舞如火焰 消失永沒追尋
When dance and flame disappear, never pursue

At the Post Office

Today’s lesson has to do with going to the post office. Since I’ll be mailing my tax return, I’ll be looking for proof of mailing as well as proof of delivery. In America, I would be buying a certificate of mailing, and sending my packet with delivery confirmation. In Hong Kong, the terms are a little different.

Delivery confirmation is “advice of receipt”, 派遞通知書. In a previous lesson we learned 遞, and it makes another appearance here along with 派 (more info to follow).

In America, a proof of mailing is known as a “Certificate of Mailing”. Here, it is “Certificate of Posting of Registered Packet”, 投寄掛號郵件證明書. You must use registered mail, I’m not even sure you can get the certificate without it. In case you’re wondering, the certificate is form number Pos 511.

Here’s the breakdown:

派遞通知書 – Pài dì tōngzhī shū – 派遞 is delivery. If you asked me what the difference between 派遞 and 送遞 is, I’m not sure what I’d tell you. I know that 派 is to give out. Some things you would give out (for free) would be candy 派糖 and money 派錢. In Hong Kong, I’ve learned that 派糖 also refers to government handouts. Go figure. 通知書 is simply “notification document”. My first thought of 書 is always “book”, but it’s a character that can also be used for letters, documents, and certificates.

投寄掛號郵件證明書 – Tóu jì guàhào yóujiàn zhèngmíng shū – This one is a mouthful. 投寄 is the act of mailing. When I think of 投 I think of throw, so I guess “throw mail” is mailing. 掛號 is registered, literally “hang a number”. 郵件 is just a piece of mail, and 證明 is proof. We talked about 書 above. All together, we have “the act of mailing a registered piece of mail certificate of proof”. 🙂

空郵 – Kōng yóu – air mail.
掛號郵件 – Guàhào yóujiàn – registered mail.
快郵服務 – Kuài yóu fúwù – express delivery, literally “fast mail service”.

For reference, here’s the Hong Kong Post website. See you next time!

Learning Chinese – Takeout Menu 2

Continuing on from the last post (which only covered the first page!), today we continue with the rest of the menu, with some actual food items.

類 – lèi – type, variety, kind. In a lot of Chinese menus we will see different sections for different types of food, and these sections are usually labeled something-類. In the case of this particular menu, 類 appears in 餛飩類, i.e. that section is all about the wontons.

麵 – miàn – in Chinese menus, this refers to noodles. The character itself is often used in combination with another to form a compound term that usually has something to do with wheat, i.e. 麵包 (bread) or 麵粉 (flour). Note that the left part of the character is also the character for wheat, 麥 (though this character can be used for other grains as well). The right part is 面 (face, also pronounced miàn), and is probably there for phonetic purposes.

素菜 – sùcài – vegetarian dish. 素 is vegetable, plain, simple. 菜 is also vegetable, usually referring to some kind of greens. It can also mean dish or cuisine, i.e. 這個菜很好吃 or 我喜歡日本菜.

西洋菜 – xīyáng cài – watercress. 西洋 is Western, i.e. Western (white) people. I don’t know why watercress is called “western vegetable”; perhaps it was introduced to China from the West (or not).

酸辣 – suān là – literally sour-hot, i.e. hot and sour. I guess “hot and sour soup” sounds better than “sour and hot soup”. The radical for 辣 is 辛, and I like how it actually looks like a pepper in the character.

併雪菜肉絲麵 – bìng xuěcài ròusī miàn – 併 is combine, 雪菜肉絲麵 is pickled-cabbage 雪菜 and shredded-pork 肉絲 noodles. This entry appears after a smaller order of wontons to indicate that the smaller order is paired with (i.e. combined with) noodles on the side. 雪菜 is literally “snow vegetable”, and 肉絲 is literally “meat-strips” or “meat-threads”. My guess is that once the cabbage is pickled, it appears translucent like snow, hence the name. 絲 is also the word for silk, so the meat strips are finely cut like strands of silk. 雪菜肉絲 is a pretty common combination. In HK-style restaurants, you can often find it with rice noodles in soup for breakfast.

每打 – měi dá – normally 打 means hit, but in this context it means dozen and is pronounced differently. 每 is each, so 每打 is each dozen.

鮮肉餃 – xiānròu jiǎo – fresh meat dumpling.

Just from this little 餛飩類 section, I’ve gleaned 17 characters to practice. I’ll be writing each one out at least 10 times, there’s no other way around it. Until next time…

Learning Chinese – Takeout Menu 1

We picked up a menu the other day from a restaurant called 上海弄堂菜肉餛飩, Shanghai Lane. As can be seen in the Wikipedia entry below, the 弄堂 is something unique to Shanghai, and apparently 餛飩 is the Mandarin version of 雲吞, wonton. Together, the name of the restaurant is “Shanghai Lane Meat & Vegetable Wontons”.

This menu has a lot of new (to me) characters, so I will use it to master those new characters.

弄堂 – lòngtáng – alley, lane. More on Wikipedia.
弄 – nòng – play with; fool with; do; manage; handle; get sb. or sth.; get; fetch; play.
餛飩 – húntún – wonton in Mandarin.
雲吞 – yúntūn – wonton in Cantonese.

Above we have an example of how one character can have different pronunciation and meaning. We also have an example of how one thing can have different names.

香港郵政 – xiānggǎngyóuzhèng – Hong Kong Post, or literally Hong Kong postal service.

通函郵寄 – tōnghányóujì – Circular mail. I’ve never heard of 通函 before, but 通 by itself could mean communication, and 函 could mean envelope or letter, so together they become a communication letter, which I suppose is what a circular is.

服務 – fúwù – service
外賣速電 – wàimài sùdiàn – I think 速電 is a Cantonese thing. 速 is speed and 電 is short for 電話, so this whole thing means delivery/takeout speed line or hotline.

壹 – yī – this is the long way of writing 一 (one), used to prevent ambiguities (or fraud, as one of my dictionaries put it). The way the character is constructed is interesting. There is a single bean 豆 under a cover 冖 being protected by a soldier 士. Anti-fraud, perhaps?

外賣自取免加壹服務費 – wàimài zìqǔ miǎn jiāyī fúwù fèi – no service charge for self-pickup (i.e. “takeaway”). More below.

外賣 – wàimài – literally “outside sell”, i.e. to-go, takeaway, or delivery, based on the words after.
自取 – zìqǔ – “self get”, i.e. self-pickup. Hence, no service charge.
加壹 – jiāyī – “add one”, i.e. plus 10%. With 服務費, it becomes the standard HK 10% service charge.

The next one is pretty long:

外賣送遞如有需要須收取來回車資, 訂購金額最少為$120及約需時45分鐘.
Wàimài sòngdì rú yǒu xūyào xū shōuqǔ láihuí chēzī, dìnggòu jīn é zuìshǎo wéi $120 jí yuēxūshí 45 fēnzhōng.

送遞 – sòngdì – 送 is to send, 遞 is to hand over. When you send something and hand it over, you’re delivering it.
如有需要 – rú yǒu xūyào – if required, if necessary.
須收取 – xū shōuqǔ – 須 is must, 收取 is collect.
來回車資 – láihuí chēzī – 來回 is come-go. 車資 is car expense. 來回車資 is therefore round-trip transportation cost.
訂購金額 – dìnggòu jīn é – 訂購, reserve purchase, 金額, gold amount, i.e. order total.
約需時 – yuēxūshí – 約 is actually short for 大約, approximately. HKers love to abbreviate stuff. 需時 is required time. Again, 時 is short for 時間, duration. The whole thing is approximately required time.

“For delivery orders, a round-trip transportation cost will be collected if necessary, a minimum order of $120 is required, and approximately 45 minutes will be required.”