In the old days, Hong Kong’s streets were first christened in English before being translated into Chinese. Some things got lost in translation but have curiously remained until today. Many of us are blissfully oblivious to such mistakes! Having lived in Hong Kong for all our lives, our professional guides at Walk in Hong Kong have come up with 6 levels of wrongly translated street names in the city…
Level 1: 會錯意 Missing the Point
We’ve all seen how things go hilariously wrong with translations in China, thanks to the blight/boon of online translators. But mistranslations because of a word’s multiple meanings are nothing new.
Pound Lane 磅巷
上環山上比較幽靜嘅一帶有條巷以前係用嚟畀英國人放置充公牲畜嘅牛欄（cattle pound），呢條巷被命名為 Pound Lane。師爺可能淨係知道 pound 係磅秤嘅意思，就將條街字面直譯為磅巷，但其實呢度同你身上嘅肥膏係一啲關係都冇㗎。雖然師爺冇理解背後意思，但其實誤打誤撞變成磅巷，出到嚟好似仲好聽過正正經經叫牛欄巷喎。想知道更多關於磅巷一帶嘅烏龍事？就要跟我哋行「舊城中環」喇！
In the quaint area of Sheung Wan lies Pound Lane, whose name came from the street’s past function as a cattle pound. But its Chinese name was mistakenly translated to the scale that you weigh objects with… Superstitious folks might prefer if it was translated to the British Pound £££! If you want to know more about the tales of Pound Lane and its hipster neighbourhood, join us on our Old Town Central tour!
Power Street 大強街
北角電氣道同大強街，都係以往通向北角發電廠舊址嘅道路，英文名改做 Electric Road 和 Power Street 合情合理。Power 本應指電力，師爺就誤會係國際列強、「強國崛起」嘅強，於是就譯左做「大強街」！
Electric Road and Power Street are two intersecting streets in North Point. They were named after the power plant that once dominated the area. While the Chinese name of Electric Road is a literal translation from English, Power Street somehow turned into Thor-like super strength in Chinese!
Spring Garden Lane 春園街
又例如灣仔春園街，師爺跟 Google Translate 犯上同樣錯誤，將 Spring Garden 直譯「春園」，查實以前嗰度有個噴水池，Spring應該係指泉水至真（唔通溫泉hot springs 又應該叫熱春咩）。不過其實錯有錯著，春園街個名又幾有詩意，起碼好過隔離街，已胎死腹中嘅「囍歡里」……（香港人善忘，不過相信大家都好難忘記劣評如潮嘅「囍歡里」，好彩而家改返做利東街咋）鍾意聽鬼故同食好西嘅你，就要參加我哋嘅「為食鬼 ‧ 遊灣仔」喇！
Another Google Translate-style mishap involves Wan Chai’s Spring Garden Lane, whose name came from a fountain in a plush villa, hence the allusion to a water spring. However, the Chinese name of the street mistakes ‘spring’ as the season after winter, which, though inaccurate, lends a poetic flavour to this part of town. Book our What Do Ghosts Eat? Wan Chai Ghosts & Food Tour to visit the traffic-choked Spring Garden Lane for yummy snacks and spooky stories!
Level 2: 讀錯音 Wrong Pronunciations
Did you know that around 60% of English words contain silent letters? Clearly the officers who translated some of the city’s early street names weren’t aware of that, and this inevitably resulted in some not-so-accurate Chinese translations, such as…
Bonham Road 般咸道／Chatham Road 漆咸道／Fenwick Street 分域街
字中間嘅 h 同 w 音其實都唔需要發音，所以呢幾個中文譯名嚴格嚟講全部都係錯！佢哋正確嘅讀音應該係：Bon-am Road（般「南」道）；Chay-tum Road（漆「潭」道）；Fen-nick Street（分「匿」街）。英文有幾蝦人讀？睇吓呢條片就知㗎啦！
H and w in the above words are silent letters, so the Chinese names of these streets – Boon-HAM, Chat-HAM, and Fun-WICK are wrongly transliterated. If you’re a native English speaker and you think nothing is so difficult about your language, challenge yourself to this test!
Level 3: 「痴樹根」、「發花癲」Challenged by Mother Nature
Lily Street 蓮花街／Hawthorn Road 荷塘道
大坑有條以植物命名嘅街道，就係蓮花街 Lily Street 喇。相信睇到呢度你可能已經發現，Lily 唔係百合咩？點解中文會係蓮花街？Lily Street 隔離有座叫蓮花宮嘅廟宇，可能就係因為咁，師爺當年就借用蓮花一名，一借就借到今日。而大坑附近嘅跑馬地 Hawthorn Road 都唔係意譯（Hawthorn 本身嘅意思係山楂咁解），而係直接音譯做荷塘道。想學好英文嘅你，千祈唔好盡信街名，記住要 fact check 咗先，如果唔係人哋請你食山楂，你仲以為係叫你食咗成個荷塘添！參加「港島建築紀行」，同我哋一齊行吓蓮花宮等特色建築啦！
If you are bilingual in English and Chinese, you would know that Lily Street in Tai Hang does not correspond to its Chinese name, Lotus Street. This confusion probably came from the name of the nearby Lotus Temple. Speaking of which, Happy Valley’s Hawthorn Road is translated to Lotus Pond (pronounced as Haw-tong that sounds like Hawthorn) Road, while hawthorn itself is a genus of trees and shrubs. So if you want to learn the Chinese names of certain plants, we advise you not to use Hong Kong street names as guides. Walk with us on our Island Architecture Walk to learn about the history of Lotus Temple, amongst other wonderful buildings!
Fir Street 松樹街／Pine Street 杉樹街／Sycamore Street 詩歌舞街／Cassia Road 高槐路
除咗香港島，大家行開深水埗大角咀一帶，會發現好多街名都係以樹木命名，但心水清嘅就會發現， Fir Street（松樹街） 和 Pine Street （杉樹街） 嘅中文其實係唔小心對調咗（Fir 係杉樹，Pine先係松樹），真係痴咗樹根！講開又講，Sycamore 係指無花果樹，可能因為意頭唔好，師爺索性以音譯成詩歌舞街，又幾有意境。仲有啊，又一村嗰頭嘅 Cassia Road 點解叫高槐路，而唔係玉桂路呢？師爺當年對樹木嘅認識真係令人不敢恭維……
Local Chinese people are not known to order fresh Christmas trees for their homes when December comes, so it’s no wonder that the Chinese names of Fir and Pine Streets – both in Tai Kok Tsui – got mixed up! Some other streets in the area are also arboreally named, e.g. Sycamore Street. But rather than giving it a cursed literal translation of Mo-fa-gwor Street or Flowerless-fruit Street (scientifically correct but inauspicious), it’s gracefully transliterated to Si-gor-mo Street (which sounds a tad bit like Sycamore), i.e. Poem-song-dance Street.
Level 4：聰明反被聰明誤？Smart-arse Problems
Hammer Hill Road 斧山道
唔知大家有冇發現，鑽石山 Hammer Hill Road 唔係叫錘山道，而係叫斧山道呢？呢個名同韓國釜山係冇關係嘅。Hammer（錘子） 同 Axe（斧頭）雖然都係工具，但兩樣嘢嘅功用完全係風馬牛不相及啊！點解當年師爺會犯咁嘅錯？相信而家都好難查證。有人話師爺應該係四川人，知道四川話入面「錘子」係用嚟鬧人，所以將條街叫做斧山道。嗱，雖然我哋覺得呢個解釋都幾牽強，但起碼你知道咗之後，下次可以表演四川話花式鬧人喎～
Hammer Hill Road in Diamond Hill is translated to Axe Hill Road in Chinese. Although both of them are tools, they have completely different uses! Were government officials that careless even in the past? Someone speculated that this might have been done on purpose, for hammer was a Sichuanese swear word and the officials didn’t want the street name to have an inappropriate association to it. Next time you want to get a hammer from a hardware store, make sure to learn the right vocabs otherwise you might be handed an axe!
Level 5: 居然得罪老闆娘！Sorry Boss!
Queen Victoria Street 域多利皇后街／Queen’s Road Central 皇后大道中
師爺有時會懵到連事頭婆嘅頭銜都搞錯。域多利皇后街 Queen Victoria Street、皇后大道中 Queen’s Road Central 等等，「女皇」和「皇后」英文同為 Queen，但前者係女性繼承皇位，後者係皇帝背後嘅女人，兩者係天淵之別！好彩維多利亞女皇應該冇方丈咁小器，如果唔係……
One of the worst – or most exciting – mistakes one can ever commit is to enrage your boss, especially when the chief concerned is no other than Her Majesty (at least in the old days)! The Chinese word for queen can mean either the empress of a sovereign, or the wife of a reigning king. The Chinese names of Queen Victoria Street and Queen’s Road both take the latter meaning. The bumbling scribe who was responsible for this almighty faux-pas should be grateful that he didn’t live in a place like North Korea!
Level 6: 左右對轉左 Utter Disorientation
Rednaxela Terrace 列拿士地台
烏龍超錯嘅終極，一定要數中環半山嘅列拿士地台 Rednaxela Terrace 喇。呢個地方嘅命名本身係為咗紀念地主 Alexander 而咁翻譯，但負責登記嘅官員唔知係咪用錯咗中文由右至左嘅讀法去睇英文字，將 Alexander 誤寫成 Rednaxela，變成宜家個呢個蹺口嘅街名！
As weird as Rednaxela might look, don’t you think it seems strangely familiar at the same time? It is indeed the word Alexander spelt backwards! Traditional Chinese transcribes words from right to left, and we suspect this is why officials who were in-charge of street name registration mistook the word as Rednaxela!
Not only street names, these laughable inaccuracies exist around us and add flavour to our otherwise ordinary daily lives. Especially when we are now living in an insane and ridiculous world that is 2020, you would’ve already learnt to be stoic and accept such tiny mistakes…