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Nini the mutant mascot

fuwa-turtles1.jpg For two years, Beijing Olympic organizers have been telling us that Nini the Fuwa is a swallow:

Every spring and summer, the children of Beijing have flown beautiful kites on the currents of wind that blow through the capital. Among the kite designs, the golden-winged swallow is traditionally one of the most popular. Nini’s figure is drawn from this grand tradition of flying designs. Her golden wings symbolize the infinite sky and spread good-luck as a blessing wherever she flies. Swallow is also pronounced “yan” in Chinese, and Yanjing is what Beijing was called as an ancient capital city. Among Fuwa, Nini is as innocent and joyful as a swallow. She is strong in gymnastics and represents the green Olympic ring.

Now it turns out she’s a different species altogether:

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So now we know. Nini is a turtle. Actually, the discovery dates at least as far back as summer 2006, but very few of us noticed.

Moving swiftly on from this disturbing example of genetic engineering, the Yanjing mentioned in the BOCOG quote above was the capital of the state of Yan during the Warring States period. Yan roughly covered the territory that is now northern Hebei province. The character is written the same as yan the swallow, but pronounced with a different tone - 1st tone for the city and the beer that’s named after it; 4th tone for the bird.

A linguistic coincidence:

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yan (4th tone) - noun - swallow (bird)

Add a mouth radical:

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yan (4th tone) - verb - swallow (eat)

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