Late in the movie The Sand Pebbles, Steve McQueen is about to share his backstory with Candice Bergen, and there is this graffiti in the background:

steve mcqueen in the sand pebbles

Just idle curiosity on my part, I happened to pause my DVR at this scene and was curious if the graffiti was placed there intentionally for this shot.

  • I think it says 木子四. What that is, I'm not sure. – Wai Ha Lee Mar 9 '15 at 8:24
  • It literally means 'tree', 'little/child', 'four' but this makes little sense – EdChum Mar 9 '15 at 8:30

Actually, it appears to say 李四, not 木子四 as commentators above have said. (the 木 and 子 are connected at the bottom and top, respectively).

李四, pronounced Li Si, means "John Doe", or "Anonymous".

It's part of a idiom that goes 張三, 李四, 王五 . Kind of like English's "Tom, Dick and Harry". 張, 李, 王 (Chang/Zhang, Li/Lee, and Wang/Wong) are three very common Chinese last names. 三,四, 五 are 3, 4, and 5. So the phrase is "Chang number 3, Li number 4, and Wang number 5"

  • You are probably correct but normally such logograms are spaced such that the character width/height is uniform to avoid such confusion, whoever wrote this possibly is not a native speaker or did this in a messy manner, I'm Chinese so this is what I think – EdChum Mar 9 '15 at 13:32
  • So am I. My handwriting sucks though, so my Chinese characters can be out of proportion just like above. The lack of spacing between the 木 and 子 suggests that it is one character, where there is noticeable space between the 子 and 四. – Trish Ling Mar 9 '15 at 13:34
  • @EdChum how neatly could you write if carving into stone without the proper tools? Considering that, I think this is pretty good. – Catija Mar 9 '15 at 16:36

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