Thursday, November 5, 2009

In last night's episode of CSI NY titled "It Happened to Me", there was one scene where detectives were trying to figure out what killed their victims. At first, they thought the cause was these illegally imported insecticide chalk from China found in victim's apartment.

(Spoiler alert: No, it was not the insecticide chalk. Victim mismanaged killer's investment fund and lost all his money. Killer's wife had access to chemical from her work, and killer dumped it into victim's orange juice.)

CSI NY / Episode #123 / "It Happened to Me"

One would assume three lines of Chinese text on the packaging below "kills cockroach and ants effectively. keep away from baby and old man" are the same information in Chinese.

That is not true. Matter of fact, they are just gibberish.

If one would look closely, the first line of text and third line are identical. Last three characters in second line are repeat of first three.

So what do they mean?

Line 1 and 3 are:


精神和奠酒 loosely translates as "spirit and libation" and 酒吧 is "bar".

Line 2 is:


新鮮的肉 is "fresh meat" and 新鮮的 is "fresh".

What do "fresh meat" and "bar of spirit and libation" got to do with insecticide chalk?

Can everyone say CSI NY show prop fail?


  1. It certainly is a prop fail. It begs the question as to the source of the hanzi. That's a lot of work for gibberish. The Google can find exact phrase "spirit and libation bar" on this site and nowhere else.

    The only thing that makes sense to me is an inside joke. If the script called for an Engrish warning, it's getting a hanzi smatter warning as well.

    The CSI* series, and so many others, also fail when it comes to how medications are used and what they look like. They've been getting better, but it still annoys the crap out of me when Web-freaking-MD could tell them what to use.

  2. As Jerod says, one wonders how such a prop fail occurred. I have a few theories.

    They cannot show real products in TV shows unless they are product placements, so their prop departments have to make or buy a lot of fake products with generic rather than brand names. Some of these product props are intended to be just stacked on shelves or such and are only barely in camera view briefly, so the viewer can't actually read what it says on the label. They just have to have something written on them; what it says doesn't matter. If the text is supposed to be a foreign language, just random "Greeking" text like what we see here is fine.

    But other product props will be featured in close-ups and the viewer will be able to read them. These will get extra attention to make sure the text is right, including any foreign language which is legible.

    My theory is that this specific package was originally made to be just an "atmospheric" background prop and was never intended for a close-up. But maybe someone made a mistake by grabbing the wrong prop (not being able to read the Chinese), or the director changed his mind to include a close-up, but they didn't have enough time to make a good close-up prop in time to meet the filming schedule.

    So they went ahead and used the background prop anyway and that is what we see in the close-up.

    Perhaps they were counting on no one noticing, but they did not expect the eagle eyes of Tian!

  3. This really annoys me: the producers of the show are trying to make fun of non-native English speakers for writing labels in bad English, but then they go and write the Chinese label in EVEN WORSE Chinese!

  4. Matt makes a good point. I'm sure something like this went down:

    Prop Guy 1: "Haha yeah Chinese people do speak pretty bad English. Way to go. Wait what's the Chinese say?"
    PG2: "Eh I dunno, but who the fuck cares. It's just Chinese."

  5. I kind of wonder where they managed to actually get those phrases from... and my guess is that it's probably off of the menu at a restaurant. Meat? Fresh? Spirit and libation bar? That, my friend, sounds like a pretty good Friday night.

  6. Why didn't they just send someone to the local Asian grocery store to buy REAL insecticide chalk and then put a sticker over the brand logo or something?