Sterility Hospital

As you can imagine, when I saw this billboard downtown, I did a double-take.  Sterility hospital?  A place where you go to get sterilized?  Is that what they’re really saying? If so, why does that man look so happy? And wait…isn’t that Steve Martin?  Even though I instinctively knew that it couldn’t mean what it sounded like it was meaning, there was something about the English that was making me think that (did that make any sense at all?).

My next step was to look at the Chinese characters in hopes of finding the source of what seemed to me a bad translation. In Chinese it says bu yun bu yu.  Bu yun and bu yu each mean “infertile.” And since infertile and sterile can be synonomous in this context, technically the translation is fine.  Yet it definitely makes a native English speaker puzzled. I guess its because we call clinics that treat infertility “Fertility (or Infertility) Clinics.”  We don’t call them “Sterility Clinics,” presumably because “to sterilize” as some sort of treatment has the opposite result of infertility treatment.

So this is really an advertisement for a hospital that treats infertility, that helps couples have babies.  And don’t you love the pitch–Steve Martin, from the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. I guess the message is “Come to our hospital and you too can have 12 children.”

Which seems very odd in a country that has a one-child policy!”  Perhaps if you can afford to go to the clinic you can afford to pay the fines.

Thanks to my friend BS for supplying the photo.