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This Language Log post is an entertaining discussion of some possible explanations for an unidiomatic English phrase, "Suffered We Protect They", that has appeared on some Liuzhou SWAT posters.

My personal assumption is that they were "trying to say" something like "we [the police] suffer to protect them [the people." Assuming that this meaning is the correct one, what do some native Chinese speakers (beyond Dr Mair's graduate students) think about any Chinese versions (conceptual or otherwise) of this sentiment the folks coming up with this poster might have been working off of before they reworked it into English.

I've found that my Chinese sadly rarely escapes sounding like a foreigner wrote it; too many constructions betray the clear influence of English grammar and writing, to the point that it's often easy to tell what English I'm "working off of." It possible for any native Chinese speakers here to "reverse engineer" what the original Chinese version might have been of this fairly problematic English?

  • I love this comment "这是哪国英语? 要山寨美国特警也要山寨得敬业点嘛." – March Ho Dec 26 '14 at 18:40
  • For a cop (or photographer) whose English knowledge is next to none, all he did was to extract the meanings, look them up the words in a dictionary, then stick them together. He is stuck in this warm and cozy unconscious incompetence until he faces the crowd, then "boom", there goes his world. – Wang Dingwei Dec 26 '14 at 23:47
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    I agree with the second answer in that Language Log post: "牺牲我一个,幸福千万家", "牺牲小家,保卫/幸福大家", etc. Anyway, that's the most terrible situation, they didn't just translate that sentence by machine (if so it can be easily understood by Chinese people with some English knowledge), they intentionally made it sound "idiomatic" :( – Stan Dec 27 '14 at 2:26
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    -1. I thought this is a site for learning Chinese language. Since when did it become a site for learning how mangled English came into being? Only the author of that poster slogan will know the answer to your question. – 杨以轩 Dec 27 '14 at 4:07
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    agree w/ 杨. this question has little to do with Chinese language. – Wang Dingwei Dec 29 '14 at 13:21
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I gotta say this guy hit the nail on the head (bold-ed is my own):

  1. I thought it may come from Chinese that "有困难找警察" (if you meet troubles, please ask the police for help). I thought "we" in this slogan referred to the police, "they" referred to the people who is in trouble. This slogan may mean "we will protect you with all our effort" (危难时刻 我们在您身边 At the risky second, we are by your side).

The poster clearly says 危难时刻 我们在您身边 in Chinese above the English, and that's usually how Chinese posters (or, so called, propaganda) work.

Chinese

English

With, obviously, some poetic license, if you will....

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    with lots of license, lol - it seems a bit too far from the Chinese it's supposed to be translating. If the "危难时刻 我们在您身边" Chinese wasn't there, and you only had the English to go on, it would still be understandable - but what would you think the Chinese would be in that case. If not 危难时刻 我们在您身边, then what? – Master Sparkles Dec 26 '14 at 15:29
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    User3306356, I think you are right but I cannot tell whether you like all the bolded part. Doesn't the Chinese simply say "In time of danger we are at your side"? – Colin McLarty Dec 26 '14 at 19:40
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    Yes, it does say that, but look at the English they picked: "Suffered We Protect They", it's almost as if they are trying to, four-"character" (word), idiom-ize the English. – user3306356 Dec 27 '14 at 4:52

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