For those of you who either live or visit a foreign country where English is not normally spoken, you’ve probably seen any number of gaffes involving the English language. There’s always funny English that just doesn’t make any sense, and then sadly even funnier, are folks who clearly don’t realize what is written on the t-shirts they wear (or if the old men wearing “I’m Too Sexy” t-shirts are doing it purposefully, then I suppose, good on them!).
We English-speakers see these slips and chuckle to ourselves, but what about when the joke is on us (or government officials)? I learned of one such case from my dear friend Peter’s blog — the mysterious grass-mud horse, which is actually a play on words to combat censorship in China.
If you have been in Hong Kong long enough, you’ve no doubt come across a G.O.D. store, which is like the HK version of Urban Outitters, but more emphasis on home goods than clothes. In it you’ll find some kitschy fun items, including hipster-ish t-shirts, and plenty of things that have Hong Kong significance (like a tablecloth with HK highrises printed on it, or a “Kowloon Rugby” t-shirt).
I’d often pass this shop and see t-shirts with the words printed very plainly, “Delay No More,” and thought it was some sort of moody hipster phrase akin to c’est la vie or something. Only recently was I clued in that it was in fact a play on words to mean something very naughty in Cantonese!!
When a local had explained it to me without saying what it was meant to mean, I paused for a moment and started searching my very limited vocabulary of bad words in Cantonese and came upon it with some quasi-aloud thinking…. I repeated “delay no more, “delay no more,” and then it clicked!