Saturday, January 08, 2005

Two Happy New Years for the price of One

You know it's that time of the year. Every restaurant, coffee bar and concert hall starts playing ABBA's "Happy New Year". (Just like the other 24 years before it.) True, we just had the conventional calendar year version. Good for expats, and also good for the Vietnamese who like the spirit of the thing. (But they have to be back home by 11 pm - as observed at one party this year. I shit you not. At 10:30, all the Vietnamese guests - sans my girfriend - got up as one, made their excuses, and left. Parental directives, you know. They were all in their twenties too.)

But to most of the locals, January the 1st is just another page on a calendar. A new calendar, perhaps, but just a calender. Presently, they're looking forward to their big, BIG, BIG version of the event. It's Tết, the lunar new year celebrated in this country roughly around the end of January. Plane seats into or inside this country are booked solid, as millions of people are off to visit their relatives. That includes all of my students, so I'm getting another small holiday just after this one. And the catchphrase for this season is (what else?) the Vietnamese phrase for "Happy New Year". Folks, it's "Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!" You see it everywhere.

So why do the people at New Year Wishes Around the World think (in their ignorance of languages, characters sets and the world in general) that thee Vietnamese is "Chuc Mung Tan Nien"? I've seen it nowhere. It's been absent from all propaganda, pamphlets, papers and posters in this place. Well, according to the fiancee, it is technically correct to use "Chúc Mừng Tân Niên" (diacritics added). But it's not ubiquitous like the other phrase. Think of it more as Sino-Vietnamese: like Vietnamese, but with more words of Chinese origin. So the site is correct - sort of. It's strikes me as equivalent to shouting out "Merrie Yule" - appropriate at a SCA meet, perhaps, but few places else.

Now with Bulgarian, the "New Wishes" people really bollixed it up. Is "×åñòèòà Íîâà Ãîäèíà" really how you say "Happy New Year" in that language? Like fuck it is. It's Честита Нова Година - or "Chestita Nova Godina". Hell, if Language Log is competent enough to work it out for free, they should be competent to work it out for pay.