some common character slips

image of '公义广告' with an editor's red pen correcting 义 to 益; the 'correction' is in the originalJoel of Danwei posts on a “public-service announcement” (gongyi guanggao), of sorts, that tells people “Every Chinese person should respect Chinese characters and use Chinese characters properly.” The problem, as the ad puts it, is that “there are a multitude of non-standard uses of Chinese characters in society; mistaken and variant characters are relatively common, harming the elegance and purity of Chinese characters.”

References, especially when written in so-called simplified characters, to the “elegance and purity” of Chinese characters might strike some as lacking in historical perspective if not as downright ironic. Compare, for example, the following:

(traditional) and (simplified)

(traditional) and 广 (simplified)

But, that aside, the ad contains an interesting list of 100 instances of commonly miswritten characters. (Whether all of these are really wrong would make a good subject for another post.)

This ad is, as Joel notes, a roundabout way of touting the Xiandai Hanyu cidian (现代汉语词典), which is one of if not the most popular dictionary in China. The fifth edition was issued last year.

Lü Shuxiang (呂叔湘 / 吕叔湘) (1904-1998), the editor in chief of the first edition of this dictionary, was a strong advocate of romanization, as can be seen in his excellent essay Comparing Chinese Characters and a Chinese Spelling Script — an evening conversation on the reform of Chinese characters (漢字和拼音字的 比較 —-漢字改革一 夕談 / 汉字和拼音字的 比较 —-汉字改革一 夕谈). (The English translation of this was made especially for Pinyin Info by Zhang Liqing, one of the associate editors of the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary.)

source: Characters in the public interest, Danwei, December 13, 2006

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