PRC gov’t project has primary name in English, not Mandarin

This one had me confused at first. When I saw the photo I was expecting this to be another story about a typo. Here, after all, is a sign with 泰达 on both sides, which is “Taida,” not “Teda,” in Pinyin. And I’ve grown so used to seeing Pinyin described as “English” that at first at didn’t realize what was meant. But there’s something else going on here, something much more interesting:
street sign with TEDA AVENUE on one side and TAIDA AVENUE on the other; but the Hanzi are the same on both sides


But this still isn’t very clear. I did some digging and found that the street name refers to the nearby Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area (TEDA), the Mandarin name for which is Tiānjīn Jīngjì Jìshù Kāifāqū (天津经济技术开发区).

In other words, this street really does have a name originating in English: TEDA. The Chinese characters for the street name, 泰达 (Tàidá), are secondary. They have nothing to do with the Mandarin name of the park; rather, they are an awkward transliteration of TEDA, the acronym of the English name.

This practice extends beyond the name of the street into references to the name of the industrial park itself. “泰达” is all over the park’s official Web site, which, significantly, is at Thus, English trumped Mandarin in naming a PRC-government-sponsored industrial park in a Mandarin-speaking region of China, despite PRC regulations against just this sort of situation.

So the original story in Hanzi becomes a little clearer if put into Pinyin:

TEDA Dàjiē liǎngcè de lùpái shàng, “Tàidá” de Yīngwén biāozhì chūxiàn le “TEDA” hé “Taida” liǎng zhǒng xiěfǎ, qiánzhě shì “泰达” de Yīngwén pīnfǎ, hòuzhě zéshì “Tàidá” èr zì de Hànyǔ Pīnyīn. Cóng kāifāqū dìmíng bàn liǎojiě dào, TEDA Dàjiē zhèngshì de Yīngwén xiěfǎ wéi “TEDA Avenue”, ér “TAIDA” de xiěfǎ shì bu zhèngquè de.

This, by the way, is also an example of how capitalizing everything on street signs can sometimes lead to confusion.


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