Harry Potter in Chinese, Japanese & Vietnamese Translation


Nose-Biting Teacup


Simplified Chinese (China) (一个)咬鼻子茶杯
(Yíge) yǎo bízi chábēi
一个 yíge = 'one' ('one' plus classifier).
yǎo = 'to bite'.
鼻子 bízi = 'nose'.
茶杯 chábēi = 'tea cup'.
Nose-biting teacup
Traditional Chinese (Taiwan)

(Yíge) huì yǎo rén bízi de chábēi

一個 yíge = 'one' ('one' plus classifier).
huì = 'can, will, likely to'.
yǎo 'to bite'.
rén = 'person'.
鼻子 bízi = 'nose'.
de = connecting particle (for relative clause)
茶杯 chábēi = 'tea cup'.
A teacup that bites people's noses
Japanese 鼻食いつきティーカップ
Hana kui-tsuki tiikappu
hana = 'nose'.
食いつき kui-tsuki = 'biting' (from the verb 食いつく kui-tsuku, meaning 'to bite, fasten teeth into'. This is a compound verb consisting of 食う kuu 'to eat, bite into' and つく tsuku 'to attach onto').
ティーカップ tiikappu = 'teacup' (from English).
Nose-biting teacup
Vietnamese (một cái) tách uống trà Cắn-mũi
cái = classifier for inanimate objects
tách = 'cup' (from French tasse).
uống = 'to drink'
trà () = 'tea'.
Cắn-mũi = 'bite nose'. (cắn = 'to bite, sting, sink teeth into', mũi = 'nose').
Nose-biting cup for drinking tea
(Where a Vietnamese word has been borrowed from Chinese, the original Chinese character is shown in parentheses.)

The Nose-Biting Teacup is a prank item sold by Zonko's. Harry and Ron bought one each when they visited Hogsmeade in third year (Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 14, Snape's Grudge).

The name 'nose-biting teacup' is self-explanatory. You serve your guest tea, and when he/she goes to take a sip, the mischievous cup bites their nose.


In English, the 'teacup' is a very specific kind of cup. It is a small cup, normally 8 ounces in the U.S. or 250 ml in metric countries. It has a handle, generally a small handle that may be grasped with the thumb and one or two fingers. Typically made of porcelain or china, a tea cup comes with a matching saucer and will often form part of a tea set. In polite society, the teacup is the preferred way of serving English tea (black tea). Milk and/or sugar is added to taste. Informally, English tea may also be drunk from a mug, which is a large, sturdy ceramic cup. Such a mug is not referred to as a 'teacup'.

To translate teacup, both Chinese translators use the word 茶杯 chábēi ('tea cup'). Superficially, the word 茶杯 chábēi ('tea cup') looks like a perfect fit for 'teacup', but in reality what is called a 茶杯 chábēi in Chinese may be quite different from the refined English teacup!

For a start, the Chinese drink an amazing variety of teas -- green teas, floral teas (mainly jasmine), oolong tea, black tea, white tea, and pu-er tea (see Chinese teas). The type of tea drunk tends to depend on the locality. Usually such teas are drunk without adding anything. In addition, there are also 八寶茶 / 八宝茶 bābǎo-chá (eight-treasures tea) from Sichuan which adds a variety of items to the mix, 珍珠奶茶 zhēnzhū-nǎichá 'pearl milk tea' (with gelatine balls in the bottom) from Taiwan, not to mention the styles of tea drunk by the various other nationalities living within China's borders, such as the Tibetans and Mongols. English-style tea drinking, with milk and sugar added, is known but is still something of a minority pursuit found in hotels and other fancy places. The fashion of adding milk to black tea is, however, widely followed in Hong Kong and Macau. In Hainan, sweetened condensed milk is added.

To make matters worse, many different types of of 茶杯 chábēi are used in China. The word bēi (or 杯子 bēizi) can refer to anything from cups, mugs, or glasses, to full sized tankards. Certain kinds of tea cup are usually called 茶碗 (cháwǎn 'tea bowl'), although the distinction between a 'cup' and a 'bowl' can be fuzzy. Some of the main types of 'tea cup' are:

  • Bowls with lids (盖碗 gàiwǎn) which are the traditional style of tea cup. Used for green teas as well as 'eight-treasure tea'.
  • Medium-sized cylindrical cups or low, simple cups used for serving tea in restaurants.
  • Japanese-style tea cups (日式茶杯 rìshì chábēi), which are roundish and have no handle or lid, usually forming a set.
  • Large mug-like cups with handle and lid (马克杯 mǎkè-bēi - 'mug') for everyday drinking, especially in the north. Tea leaves are placed directly in the cup which is topped up with hot water as needed. (In fact, many people make do with old coffee jars with screw-on lids, and refer to the jar as a 茶杯 chábēi).
  • Very small round cups called 'drinking cups' (饮杯 yǐnbēi) used in the elaborate tea ceremony of Chaozhou. This name is opposed to 'smelling cups' (闻杯 wénbēi) designed to savour the aroma.
  • Glasses for drinking oolong, green tea, etc., often found in modern tea houses. These may be tall slender glasses that bear little resemblance to a traditonal tea cup.
  • Large glasses or glass mugs for drinking 'pearl tea'.
  • Proper English-style teacups, found mainly in hotels or coffee shops and used for the drinking of English tea.
  • Western-style teacups (with handle), somewhat larger than English 'teacups', used for milk tea in Hong Kong/Macau.

Unfortunately, Chinese does not have a word in commmon use that could refer specifically to an English-style teacup. It would be awkward and intrusive for the translator to specify the type of cup involved. With such a bewildering variety of 茶杯 chábēi used in their society, Chinese readers are free to imagine any kind of tea cup they like. Since Harry Potter takes place in a Western background, a reader might think of an English-style teacup -- but not necessarily!

The Japanese translator has a much easier time of it. To translate 'teacup', she simply has to use the borrowed term ティーカップ tiikappu. Japanese are quite familiar with English tea (most often in the form of Lipton's tea bags) and the word ティーカップ tiikappu refers exactly to what is known in English as a 'teacup'. Incidentally, a coffee cup is コーヒーカップ kōhiikappu.

There is an alternative Japanese word for 'teacup'. This is 茶碗 chawan 'tea bowl' or 湯飲み茶碗 yu-nomi-jawan, literally 'hot-water drinking tea-bowl', often shortened to 湯飲み yu-nomi 'hot-water drinking'. (茶碗 chawan 'tea bowl' is used as the generic term for 'rice bowl' in Japanese. The word 湯飲み茶碗 yu-nomi-jawan 'hot-water drinking tea bowl' removes the ambiguity).

It is doubtful whether 湯飲み yu-nomi would have even crossed the translator's mind as an equivalent for 'tea cup'. The 湯飲み yu-nomi is a purely Japanese utensil used for drinking green tea (see Japanese teas). It is often a small roundish cup, without handle, or may be a taller cylindrical cup in restaurants. Had the translator used 湯飲み yu-nomi, she would have conjured up the incongruous image of Harry and Ron buying Japanese-style teacups in Hogsmeade!

Like Japanese, Vietnamese distinguishes between traditional teacups used for drinking green tea and Western-style teacups used for drinking coffee or English tea. The Vietnamese translator uses the term for a Western-style teacup, which is tách, borrowed from French tasse 'cup'. To specify that it is a tea cup, tách uống chà ('tea-drinking cup') has been used.

The alternative word for 'teacup' is chén, a small cup used for drinking Vietnamese green tea. Chén are normally of traditional earthenware or ceramic and form part of a tea set (bộ ấm chén) consisting of four cups and a pot. In Vietnam the commonest type of tea is green tea, but floral teas (such as lotus) and other types are also found (see Vietnamese teas).

Like the Japanese translator, the Vietnamese translator did not have much choice of term. She could have chosen chén, but this would have suggested that Ron and Harry had bought Vietnamese-style teacups!


So self-explanatory is the name 'nose-biting teacup' that it is easy to take for granted the rather interesting way that English goes about making this kind of expression (see also Ever-Bashing Boomerang). It goes something like this:

Original sentence structure Teacup bites (your) nose
Relative clause structure Teacup that bites (your) nose
Attributive expression Nose-biting teacup

Notice how (1) the object 'nose' is transferred in front of the verb 'to bite' ('bites nose' --> 'nose-biting') and (2) the use of 'biting' shows that the teacup is the active agent. If the teacup were the victim instead of the perpetrator, it would be called a 'nose-bitten teacup'.

In Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, the little table above is as follows:

Original sentence structure 茶杯咬鼻子
chábēi yǎo bízi
Teacup bite nose ティーカップが鼻に食いつく
Tiikappu ga hana ni kui-tsuku
Teacup (subject particle) nose (place particle) bite = Teacup bites nose Tách̀ cắn mũi Cup bite nose
Relative clause structure 咬鼻子的茶杯
yǎo bízi de chábēi
Bite nose (particle) teacup 鼻に食いつくティーカップ
Hana ni kui-tsuku tiikappu
Nose (place particle) bite teacup = Teacup that bites nose tách (mà) cắn mũi Cup (that) bite nose
Noun (attributive expression) 咬鼻子茶杯
yǎo-bízi chábēi
Bite-nose teacup 鼻食いつきティーカップ
Hana kui-tsuki tiikappu
Nose-biting teacup tách Cắn-mũi Cup bite-nose

Both Chinese and Japanese make a relative clause-type structure by taking the predicate and putting it before the noun.

  • Chinese uses the particle de to signal the relationship between the relative clause and the noun that follows.
  • In Japanese the verb comes at the end of the sentence. Grammatical relations are shown by particles after the noun. ga indicates the subject of the sentence. ni indicates place, direction, etc. and is grammatically required by the verb 食いつく kui-tsuku. In a relative clause structure, all that is required is that the verb precedes the noun it modifies. No additional particle is required. Here, 鼻に食いつく hana ni kui-tsuku 'bite the nose' is placed in front of ティーカップ tiikappu to mean 'teacup that bites the nose'.

In Vietnamese, the relative clause follows the noun as in English. The word may or may not be used to indicate the grammatical relationship.

To make a noun of this ('nose-biting teacup'), Chinese and Vietnamese simply omit the markers for the relative clause. In Vietnamese, a change of orthography is needed to ensure that Cắn-mũi is perceived as a single unit as 'nose-biting', not 'bites the nose'.

In this case, the Taiwanese translator does not go this far, preferring to retain the more explanatory relative clause construction 鼻子茶杯 huì yǎo rén bízi de chábēi ('a teacup that will bite people's noses').

Japanese is more complicated. The translator has (1) removed the particle ni from hana 'nose' and (2) converted 食いつく kui-tsuku 'to bite into' into 食いつき kui-tsuki. Grammatically, 食いつき kui-tsuki is no longer an independent verb; it combines with ティーカップ tiikappu to form a single expression (食いつきティーカップ kuitsuki-tiikappu or 'biting-teacup').

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