How to say Brain Freeze in Chinese

Here’s an interesting play on words that I saw in a Taiwanese 7-11 recently. Also, while taking this photo I was informed by a member of staff that photos weren’t allowed – but in the interest of Chinese language learners everywhere I managed to get this photo in time.

How to say Brain Freeze in Chinese

凍腦(冻脑)

Pinyin: dòng nǎo
English: brain freeze*

The sign behind the Slurpee machines reads:

就是要你凍凍腦(就是要你冻冻脑
jiù shì yào nǐ dòng dòng nǎo
Makes your brain freeze

The play on words comes from 凍腦(冻脑) being the same pronunciation as 動腦(动脑 dòng nǎo), which means to “think”, or to “use your brain”. So rather than saying “makes you think”, the sign reads something more along the lines of “makes you want to freeze your brain”.

* While in the context of the Slurpee machine, saying 「動腦」does mean “brain freeze”, though as to whether or not the phrase is in general usage, it’s probably unlikely, and depends on the person you’re talking to. Though, I am sure if you were drinking an iced drink, or eating ice cream and said 我凍腦了 or 我有凍腦 then the other person would most likely know what you meant.

  • oni

    I always had the feeling “要你” in these contexts means “makes you” or “makes you want to,” not “wants you,” even though 讓 isn’t used. It’s also important to note, for beginning speakers, how the repetition of 凍凍 makes the sentence lighter and more playful.

    It’s my first time to your site and I really like it! Keep up the good work! BTW, do you type all that pinyin and simplified characters by hand? Or do you have some nifty WordPress plugin or theme that can format it automatically from the Chinese character?

    • Hi Oni, Thanks for visiting, I’m glad you like the site! Also, thanks for the point about “makes you/wants you”, I have adjusted the translation.
      For Pinyin and Simplified I use Pinyin Dictionary on OSX and Tong Wen Tang in Firefox respectively.
      Dave

  • oni

    Oh no. I was hoping you had some Ruby on Rails magic auto-creating all that for you after you put in the word and translation. Of well :/

    Thanks for the link to Tong Wen Tang. If Firefox stops updating itself so often, I may actually get the chance to work it!

  • york2275

    Nice post, Dave!

    I can confirm that 凍腦 or something like 我凍腦了 won’t be seen in general conversation, as I never heard of this for 20 years. The use of same pronunciation can be quite appealing in an advertisement, but it is quite cliched in daily conversation.

    • T

      I am a Taiwanese. Agree.
      If you say “我凍腦了”, i only think it is “動腦”.
      People who made this ad just put a little bit creative thing in it. It is different between writing and speaking.
      But you can say “我腦(子)結凍了” after you drink that if it is very cool and you cannot think any more. haha.

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  • hanmeng

    I don’t understand the Taiwanese attitude towards photography. I’ve seen the symbols prohibiting photography at lots of places, but nobody understands why. Is it a privacy concern? I understand drivers insists on being informed of where the traffic cameras are, and in the past when I took pictures of scooters flouting the law, they really didn’t like it.