Here’s an idiom that you’ll hear around the Chinese New Year to wish people well. While I was out taking photos recently in a traditional market here in Taiwan I noticed this sticker from the Taiwanese SPCA that uses the idiom in a play on words to promote the protection of fish.
The double 年 in this idiom means ‘year-after-year’, and you’ll often see this double character usage in other places, such as Carrefour’s 天天都便宜 (Tiāntiān dōu piányi) “Low prices everyday” ad. Next is 有 which means ‘to have’, followed by 餘 (余) which is a surplus, or in other words, an abundance.
The SPCA sticker reads –
年年有魚 (年年有鱼 Nián nián yǒuyú)
To have fish year after year.
The different is the last character, which been replaced by a picture of a shark/fish, and takes advantage of 魚 and 餘 being homonyms – making the play on words ‘have fish’ instead of ‘have abundance’. I must admit that when I first saw the sticker I thought it was a clever ad for fish – as in ‘eat fish every year’, since seafood is such a huge part of the Taiwanese diet. It wasn’t until closer inspection that I saw the SPCA logo, and then the text to the left, that I realised that the meaning was to protect fish. The text reads –
Dàjiā yìqǐ jù chī yúchì, bǎohù bīnlín juézhǒng de shāyú.
Everyone refuse to eat fins, protect the almost extinct shark.
It looks like someone has written this on afterwards using a pen, but I can’t be completely sure. Either way, it helped to clarify the meaning of the sticker for me.
If you’ve seen any other play on words like this please post ’em below!