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You Got English in My Chinese…

If you’re concerned about the English-ification of Chinese, you’re not alone. Chinese authorities have been concerned about it for years, and last year brought announcements of a ban on acronyms and English words in the national media. Now, Beijing is considering a proposal that would ban the use of foreign letters in the naming of buildings. So […]

03·24·2011

You Got English in My Chinese…

If you’re concerned about the English-ification of Chinese, you’re not alone. Chinese authorities have been concerned about it for years, and last year brought announcements of a ban on acronyms and English words in the national media. Now, Beijing is considering a proposal that would ban the use of foreign letters in the naming of buildings. So […]

03·24·2011

If you’re concerned about the English-ification of Chinese, you’re not alone. Chinese authorities have been concerned about it for years, and last year brought announcements of a ban on acronyms and English words in the national media. Now, Beijing is considering a proposal that would ban the use of foreign letters in the naming of buildings. So if your address includes something like “B座” (Building B), it might be best to bone up on your “earthly branches and heavenly stems” now, because next year, you might be living in 乙座 instead.

The earthly branches and heavenly stems are traditional methods of reckoning time, but those characters are now more frequently used for naming. For example, in the place of “Party A” and “Party B” in contracts, Chinese agreements generally refer to “甲方” and “乙方” instead.

Opinion is divided on whether this measure is necessary to protect the Chinese language or a step in the wrong direction. But it’s worth pointing out the the proposal also takes aim at superstition, and would make it illegal to skip unlucky numbers like 4, 13, and 14 when naming the floors of buildings or buildings themselves.

This story comes to us via the excellent language blog Sinoglot, and there’s some fascinating discussion going on in the comments there about whether or not these measures are necessary. But regardless of what you think — and please feel free to share your comments — we thought it might be a good idea for everyone to bone up on their stems and branches. You know, just in case!

Heavenly Stems:

  • 甲 jiǎ
  • 乙 yǐ
  • 丙 bǐng
  • 丁 dīng
  • 戊 wù
  • 己 jǐ
  • 庚 gēng
  • 辛 xīn
  • 任 rén
  • 癸 guǐ

Earthly Branches:

  • 子 zǐ
  • 丑 chǒu
  • 寅 yín
  • 卯 mǎo
  • 辰 chén
  • 巳 sì
  • 午 wǔ
  • 未 wèi
  • 申 shēn
  • 酉 yǒu
  • 戌 xū
  • 亥 hài