I feel this XKCD comic:

mobile phone "alert" (original)

Good News: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID.
cropped from XKCD comic 2342: Exposure Notification

is incorrectly translated:

mobile phone "alert" (Chinese translation)

cropped from XKCD comic 2342 translation: Exposure Notification

As I understand this translation means:

Good News: You recently had no close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID.

which ruins the joke. The user should have had close contact with people who have not tested positive. And each message should refer to an individual (unidentified) person.

Question: How do we correctly translate this snippet from the XKCD comic into Chinese?

My attempt:


Although I'm not 100% comfortable with this, as it sounds like the person has "undiagnosed COVID", and using 确诊 (instead of 诊断) indicates a formal confirmation of a diagnosis, whereas the person may not have even been tested.

  • These are excellent for translation practice! I've been reading the Chinese version occasionally, but this particular one would be great on a translation exam. :)
    – Olle Linge
    Aug 15, 2020 at 6:30

4 Answers 4


I would translate it as such:


  1. Using 接触到 removes the need to introduce other complements with 与 / 和 / 跟, which reduce fluency of the joke. It also removes the negation from the main verb, just as in the English original.
  2. 未测出阳性 renders more literally "not tested positive" instead of 无确诊, which doesn't sound very grammatical to me (better with 未, by the way)
  3. I wouldn't use 确诊 anyway, because it literally means "confirmed (case)", as in 确认诊断,and the joke is more about the test result, not the diagnosis.
  4. 新冠肺炎 in your attempt, is accurate, as it identifies the pulmonary inflammation, i.e. the disease, whereas other frequently encountered terms as 新冠病毒 refer to literally the "new coronavirus", i.e. the vector.
  5. 某个~人:this term 某 as in 某人 / 某个人 does translate to "someone" according to dictionaries. However in my experience, the usage of 某 is slightly different than that. I think the most accurate translation is "a certain person". So yes, it's an unnamed person, a "someone", but it implies that you choose to not disclose their identity. An example can be found in newspaper articles, when referring to someone involved in a crime. The perpetrator or the victim can be referred to as "Surname + 某", e.g. 张某, literally "a certain Zhang". I'm not fully sure the "someone" in the XKCD cartoon is actually this kind of "someone". If it is, then 某个人 might be appropriate. Otherwise just 人 also works.

With all that said, I'm afraid this won't sound equally humorous in Chinese... but that's my personal opinion.

  • I think there's a problem with this translation. I believe (maybe I'm wrong) that it implies that the person "you have had close contact with" has had a test (which wasn't positive). Which is not what was said in the original English version, which says that you have recently had close contact with a person who has not had a positive test result. There is a subtle difference between these two statements. So different information is conveyed by your translation, I think. Aug 13, 2020 at 11:14

I think your attempt is actually quite good. I have two points to add:

  • You are correct that "确诊" is not the same as "not tested positive".
  • The present perfect tense in "has not tested" was not translated. I would use the word "尚未". This way it correctly states this guy simply has not yet tested positive, but could be due to any reasons: not even tested, or the result is not yet available etc..

So your translation would become:


That's the best I can come up with translating literally. But honestly it sounds a bit weird. A more natural way to say this would be:


which can be translated back as:

Good news: someone among the people you recently had close contact with has not tested positive for COVID.


Good News: You recently had close contact with someone who has not tested positive for COVID. Congrats!


I would translate the translation you provided from the comic as:

Good News: you recently definitely have not had close contact with anyone confirmed as suffering from the new corona virus.


I would rather say:


Which looks very similar to "您最近未与任何确诊新冠肺炎的患者密切接触"(which is the original post) but with some different meanings, as the position of "的" is different.

"恭喜" is more natural in this situation.

More explanations:

In Chinese Language, we generally uses word order to achieve emphasis. In most cases, "的" should be positioned after the last adjective (eg: "她是一名优雅美丽的女性"). If this is not the case, it means that the author is emphasizing the adjective before "的". This is usually used in witty or ironic occasions.

For example, "宁做聪明的傻子,不做愚蠢的聪明人. "("Better a witty fool man than a foolish wit"), "愚蠢的聪明人" does not equals to "愚蠢聪明的人"

  • 确诊的新冠肺炎患者: Covid 19 patients who has tested positive. Emphasize test.
  • 确诊新冠肺炎的患者:Confirmed covid 19 patients. No emphasis.
  • 1
    Downvoting, because I believe this doesn't convey the meaning; it's a mis-translation. Aug 13, 2020 at 11:06
  • Yes, this seems to mean the same thing as the translation in the original post (which is incorrect, of course).
    – Olle Linge
    Aug 13, 2020 at 14:26

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