To explain what went wrong here, we're going to have to back up and give you a quick crash course in Mandarin. As you may know, Mandarin Chinese is a ridiculously complicated language, with different characters for each and every word in the traditional written form. It also has a whole lot of homophones -- words that sound similar but have different meanings. There's even a poem called "Lion-Eating Poet" made up of nothing but 92 variations on the syllable "shi." But since this is all absurdly hard to learn, back in the mid-20th century an alternative called Pinyin was developed that simplified the written form by clumping together similar-sounding words into the same character.
Via Wikimedia commons
You see? Simple!
So what does that have to do with GAN4? Well, as you may have guessed, GAN4 isn't pronounced "ganfor" but is rather one of several Mandarin words represented by the sound "gan," and in Pinyin, all the GANs correspond to a single character. Which wouldn't be such a big deal, except GAN1 means "dry" and is commonly used in grocery stores, while GAN4 means "f**k." You can guess how that plays out:
Plenty more can be found with a simple GIS search. The most plausible explanation here is that store owners are using a s****y translation program that automatically converts any GAN into "f**k," which seems like a pretty serious oversight to us -- it would be like if an English-to-Chinese converter constantly translated "runs" as the Chinese equivalent of "diarrhea," regardless of context.
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