October 11, 2008

Electronic dictionary commercial

A commercial I saw recently for an electronic dictionary prominently featured only one English word, and that word wasn't even incorrect, but it still leaves me wanting to correct the commercial.

The commercial shows a student studying English. He has made a bunch of flashcards--they are actually stickies with a word written in Chinese and in English on them. One of the notes gets stuck on his forehead. It says "stupid" in English, and in larger writing it says "bendan" (笨蛋) in Chinese.

The problem is that bendan means "fool" or "idiot," but the word "stupid" is only rarely used in this sense in English (as in "Keep it simple, stupid"). Some dictionaries don't even list this noun form of "stupid." So, while the flashcard is not technically wrong, I find it hard to believe
that a student would need to make a flashcard for this infrequent use of the word.

"Idiot" or "fool" would have been a much better choice for the English "translation"; alternatively, the Chinese word could have been changed to the adjective form (笨). As it stands, it will cause viewers to think that "stupid" and "bendan" are equivalent. But they aren't equivalent and you can't, for example, say "He is a stupid."


Commercial on official site.
Commercial on Youtube.



  • Good point. But then it's like this loose translation only. They basically can mean the same thing.

    That's what I really like about the Chinese language. The structure is quite simple unlike in English where there are past tenses, etc.

    By Blogger 宝茹, at November 23, 2008 3:34 PM  

  • But they aren't equivalent and you can't, for example, say "He is a stupid."

    You can't? But I hear Chinese/Taiwanese immigrants say that all the time. LOL. J/K.

    Maybe I use too much colloquial language, but I also translate "bendan" as stupid. If an English speaker were to ask me what "bendan" means, the first word that comes to my mind is "stupid", not "idiot" or "fool". But if someone else translated it as "idiot" or "fool", I wouldn't argue with them either.

    My point, "stupid" comes to my mind first when I hear "bendan". Perhaps it's simply that I've always been in the wrong.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 05, 2009 6:35 PM  

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