It's All Greek To Me!

It's All Greek To Me!


What do these words have in common?

The Chinese characters for these words have made me laugh out loud!

They're pictographs actually, as a great portion of the language actually is. And as designers, who doesn't like a good visual pictograph?

VOMIT combines the character for mouth and the character for earth, because vomit goes from your mouth to the earth. How brilliant is that? I was reading my Chinese Characters Dictionary while waiting in line to clear customs into Hong Kong...this made me giggle out loud, annoying the stern Customs Hall Monitor who was about to lead me to the next available Customs Official...


MOTHER-IN -LAW combines the character for woman with the character for ancient. Did I say "brilliant?" I came across this one after a long day at the office, as I was relaxing on the sofa flipping thru the dictionary. Yes, my partner is concerned that I'm reading the Chinese Dictionary for relaxation and that it makes me laugh...


SQUEEZE is just as brilliant. It combines two little people symbols with one big person symbol. Get it? The big guy is squeezed between the two little guys. I came across this one as I was riding the A train into Manhattan, and across from me a really fat person has just wedged themselves into a seat. Crazy how a language created 4,000 years ago has relevance today on a subway train in Brooklyn!...


So, yes, I'm officially obsessed with Chinese characters! My trip to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China earlier this year, sealed my obsession. Pictographs everywhere!

Now that you're getting the hang of this, here are two more complicated ones:


Thumbnail image for wESQcover.gif Here's that Esquire cover...
You've seen it a million times, but you probably didn't pay much attention to the Chinese character for "beautiful" on the cover, next to the word NOW.

Yes, I've simplified this all for your amusement. And I do ask for forgiveness from our Chinese and Mandarin friends. But hopefully I've got some SPD members to look at Chinese a little differently.

And, finally, a few pics from our trip there:




  • Ray Fan

    According to what I've learned, most Chinese characters do come from pictures. The difference is, though, that usually in two part characters, the first part means what it is and the second part is what it sounds like. So for example in the character for vomit, the first character (口) as you said means mouth. The second part (土) does mean Earth, but also sounds extremely similar to the word for vomit. Vomit with pinyin is written like this (tù) and earth is spelt like this (tŭ). This is the same for 字 because the word for character and the word for child. The word for Beautiful is one of those exceptions

  • iamnotachoice

    awesome, where did you get those graphics?

  • George Karabotsos

    "Hei " is the name of a basic Kanji / Mandarin character font...most macs have it! The rest I did myself!

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