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Lost in Translation: Mixed Jew’s Ears

Lawrence gets lost in translation in China.

After only a week in China. Several teachers and myself were wandering around looking for a place to eat and stumbled upon a Korean restaurant.

Looking through the menu I came across an item on the menu called Mixed Jew’s Ears. I laughed and shared it around the table. I then promptly took a photo to add it to the collection of funny things you come across in Asia. The photo was sent around with little or no response from my friends.

Fast forward a couple of months. I am back in Australia and showing my photos around. I am half expecting the Jew’s Ears photo to get a hearty laugh about how obscenely wrong Chinese English can sometimes be. As I am showing the pictures, one of my relatives says, “Mmmm, mushrooms, must have been good.”

A bit agog, I asked her how she knew. “Well, Jew’s ears are mushrooms,” was her deadpanned reply.

I researched her claims and found this on wildmushroomsonline.co.uk:

Auricularia auricula-judae

Jews Ear is a rubbery ear-like fungus that is also known as Judas’s ear fungus, or as the jelly ear fungus. This fungus is conspicuously ear shaped, ranging from purple to dark brown or black in colour with a rubbery texture, and most often found on dead elder trees but also on elm and beech trees. It was said that Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, hanged himself on an elder tree, which is the origin of the name.

This intriguing name stuck, as the taxonomic name Auricularia means ear and the epithet “auricula-judae” means “the ear of Judas.”

So I was literally forced to eat my words. While I thought I was being cheeky and funny, it turned out in this case that I was incorrect and the “Chinglish” version was actually not very Chinglish at all. It was I who was lost in translation.

Filed under: China, Lost in Translation

About the Author:

Lawrence Hamilton is a freelance journalist focusing on South Asian security situations and border disputes. has written 51 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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