I recently encountered the Chinese translation of “suntan” that has uneased me for a while. If I’m not wrong, a lot of people translate it as 晒黑. When I read about the vegetable tanning process to the leather this morning, which has enhanced my comprehension about the term “tan”. The unsettled thought came back to urge me to write a few words about my interpretation.
“She caught a tan, how great!” On Wiktionary, the definition of tan is a brown or darkened coloration of the skin caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. No mistake, the Chinese translation 晒黑 is literally exposing to the sun and get a darkened skin color. It seems to be perfectly right. However, this exact term implicit in a pejorative way in China, referring to the blue collars or farms who have to suffer from sun working in the sun for hours. In my culture, women do everything to whiten their skin. See the girls above as if they are about to commit a burglary?
Obviously, 晒黑 doesn’t express the relaxed holiday atmosphere at all but the contrary. So, how could a term suggest both complimentary and pejorative emotions simultaneously?
In stead of 晒黑, maybe 晒肤 would be playing a more neutral role. This later term could be literally translated as expose one’s skin in the sun. This term is new and owns no prior definition. Thinking about the nature of words in Chinese, it’s a verb plus noun, which could stay functioning as a verb after all? I’m not linguistic but that sounds much more logical to me than wear one word with two exact contradictory meanings!