Saturday, 21 July 2012

O London Bus, thou art translated ...

Today, for the first time, I saw a London bus advertisement (apparently for drinking milk, or something) written entirely in a language I cannot read at all, let alone translate.

Don't misunderstand me - advertisements in languages other than English without a translation are very common in London and not at all remarkable, but they're usually small in scale, the largest being shop names saying obvious things like "POLISH FOODS" in Polish. As far as I remember, this is the first time I've seen a foreign-language ad on a bus.

O London Bus, thou art translated! Click to embiggen.
Although the shapes of the characters are of course vaguely familiar, the only one that means anything specific to me is the fifth one which I know as "rèn", a human being. Now, there are numerous languages written in Chinese characters, and I have no reliable way of knowing even which one this is, although under the circumstances Modern Standard Mandarin seems the most likely candidate, with Cantonese perhaps second favourite.

I am curious to know if the man in running shirt and glasses is 'just a man,' or someone the target audience would recognise.

I can't use Google Translate for this because I don't know how to write the characters on my computer. Can any of my readers (a) confirm the language, (b) make a pinyin transcription (c) translate the text? [Edit: Answers here]

The location, incidentally, is the corner of New Oxford Street, where the umbrella shop is.


Iain said...

Hello MsHedgehog,

A quick image search on the logo led to "Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co.", official dairy provider and sponsor of the Chinese delegation to the Olympic games.

You're not the only Londoner to wonder at this advertising campaign targeted at people living 5000 miles away - see



Iain (dancing in London next month!)

Iain said...

Oh, the man in the glasses is Li, a 62 year old marathon enthusiast that has run over 25000km and competed in 17 marathons. I don't think he's famous though - the focus of the campaign is ordinary people, and the translation of the text on the side of the bus:


is 'Ordinary Chinese People, Extraordinary Stories"

There's a video of Li on the second link I posted.

Louis said...

Yes, this is Chinese, although I'm not sure if people generally make a distinction between Mandarin or Cantonese (or perhaps just in UK)!?

In pinyin the ad reads: ping(2) fan(2) zhong(1) guo(2) ren(2), bu(4) ping(2) fan(2) de gu(4) shi(4). A bit rusty with my pinyin so I wasn't sure of the correct way of indicating the tone.

A rough translation is: An ordinary (or common?)Chinese, an extradordinary story. Tis implies that the person in the photo is probably not a celebrity.

msHedgehog said...

Awesome comments guys! I'll promote them to a post.

@Iain, if it's tango and you have questions - do ask. Email top right. Thank you :)