Slavish Literalism

There’s a little restaurant with an interesting name in the neighborhood where we resided for 10 years in Tainan City. It’s been there for a long time. Folks hosting a business lunch or taking friends out for a meal frequent it because the menu has a pleasing variety of offerings. It’s cozy for 2 or 4 people, and has a couple of rooms upstairs that can accommodate groups of 8 or up to 16. 

In Chinese, it’s called the “Cloth Tiger” for a stuffed animal in the front window. That’s kind of cute. But then someone decided that it needed an English name, too. That became problematic. A stuffed animal, such as one gives to a child, is called by a term that must include the word “cloth”, otherwise taxidermy is implied. But the “tiger” element had to be included, too. So something like “Tiger doll” might be apt. However, someone looking up stuffed animals in a bilingual dictionary found the term “rag doll”, and chose that. 


THEN, apparently, a grammarian got involved. It wasn’t a “Tiger Rag Doll” or a “Rag Doll Tiger”, but only a simulacrum of a tiger. So, “tigerish” was chosen.  The name on the sign is “Tigerish Rag Doll”. Not only weird English, but a lot to say for a restaurant so small, and not all that easy to pronounce when English is one’s third language.

But it is, literally, what the place is about.  Had anyone asked me, I’d’ve called it “Tony’s.”

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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