A few weeks ago, my mom showed me some articles in the Chinese newspaper about the colorful mascots for the 2008 olympics. They are all over keychains, bracelets, watches, cell phone covers, and other assorted knick-knacks. Now, you, too, can see them in all their glory: overview and details!
A little panda doing archery! A little Tibetian Antelope on a bike! And pole-vaulting! A little flame-creature playing soccer! Little water-guys doing synchronized swimming! WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK FOR????1
These little guys are so well-thought-out, it’s almost sickening. Each has a name that is one word repeated twice (in the manner of nicknames for kids). The words by themselves mean… other stuff.2 If you take each of the words, they “sound out” the phrase “bei jing huan ying ni”–beijing welcomes you!!!! (And by “sound out,” I mean–each of them are homonyms for the actual words “bei jing huan ying ni.” Their names are not the actual words in this phrase and are even different tones; it’s all a big huge whomping pun. WHOMPING I say to you.) GAHHH it’s so perfectly cute it’s bothersome. Not only that, each Friendly corresponds to one color of the Olympic rings, one “animal” or “ancient idea” that China thinks is important, has certain “design influences,” and is the “embodying element” of certain sports–their “patron saints,” if you will. GAHHHH it’s too cute and perfect to exist. Things like this shouldn’t be ALLOWED.
I mean, just the individual names spelling out “beijing welcomes you!!!” bit is hard enough to swallow. I love it and feel saccharine overdose at the same time.
You should REALLY take a gander at the website. Some of those descriptions are AMAZING. Ok I will even bring some of it to you. Check it: “Dedicated to helping Beijing 2008 spread its theme of One World, One Dream to every continent, the Five Friendlies reflect the deep desire of the Chinese people to reach out to the world in friendship through the Games–and to invite every man, woman and child to take part in the great celebration of human solidarity that China will host in the light of the flame in 2008.” I mean, gosh. Like, omg. My eyes, they glaze over, as my heart feels this massive overpouring of goodwill and happiness. Everybody sing with me now… ERRR LINGG LIIIINGGG BAAAAA…
1I have to say, the red guy doing the modern pentathlon is the strangest stylized-rendition-of-a-weird-sport I have ever seen. Or awesomest. Take your pick.
2My mom told me about the individual names.
Bei = fourth tone, and literally means “shell,” as in “treasure.” Hahahaha. You say “bao bei” to mean “treasure” and “dearest.” My mom’s family called her “xiao bei,” literally “little shell,” “littlest treasure,” “littlest darling.”
Uh, I’ve forgotten all the rest. Maybe I’ll look them up later?
3I know there isn’t a 3rd footnote, but I just wanted to add that the Chinese are REALLY FOND of puns. Like, REALLY, REALLY fond of them. There are puns for everything. It is the nature of the language to set up near-homonyms, I think because every phrase is made up of a limited number of “phonetic” building blocks in the form of one-syllable words (unlike our words, which have multiple syllables, and many different combinations of sounds)… It’s like rhyming the entirety of sentences… When we do it in English we call it “internal rhyme,” I guess, but it’s much harder in English to come up with two phrases where every single syllable of the first rhymes with a corresponding syllable in the second. I guess because Chinese has tones to create different words from the same sounds, and there are just way more homonyms anyway. etc, etc) … People are always coming up with clever phrases whose words, individually, sound like other words whose meanings are different or funny or unexpectedly related to the meaning of the phrase as a whole, about whatever current events or trends are going on. My mom gave me an example of a kind-of-suggestive one that’s currently popular in the media, but I’ve totally forgotten it… ummm…