What does Bradley Cooper say in Chinese at the end of Limitless?

Bradley Cooper’s character says something in Chinese at the end of Limitless (2011), but what is it? Here’s the scene if you haven’t seen the film (it happens right at the end before the credits):

The plot of the film is that there is a drug called NTZ which makes people extremely intelligent, and at the very end Bradley Cooper’s character speaks Chinese as a way to round off this idea. He makes some sort of joke with the waiter but his (Bradley Cooper) accent is so terrible that it’s pretty hard to follow.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

Zhá jiàng miàn, liǎng gè cōng yóubǐng, qīngcōng shāo lóngxiā. Qiān wàn bùyào gěi wǒ wèijīng!
Zhajiang noodles, two onion oil cakes, spring onion roast lobster. Absolutely do not give me MSG!

Wéijīn huì bǎohù nǐ de yīfú.
A scarf will protect your clothes.

Kěshì bù huì bǎohù wǒ de āng zāng shǒu!
But it won’t protect my dirty hands!

The joke uses a pun in Mandarin: 味精 (wèijīng) MSG sounds very similar to 围巾 (wéijīn) scarf. Even knowing that, though, the joke is still a bit weird and difficult to understand.

The idea is that Bradley Cooper is ordering lobster and says he doesn’t want any MSG, so the waiter jokes that a scarf (i.e. a bib) would protect his clothes whilst eating the lobster. Cooper says that it wouldn’t protect his dirty hands, i.e. as he gets into politics.

Ho ho ho.

Not the best joke in the world, actually a pretty bizarre one even without the cross-language difficulty. The leap from protecting your clothes to “protecting” your “dirty hands” just doesn’t quite work in English.

Besides that, as far as I know, “dirty hands” as we might associate it (vaguely!) with politics in English doesn’t really have the same meaning in Chinese. That added to Bradley Cooper’s awful pronunciation of the Mandarin, especially the second bit, made it pretty much impossible to figure out in my view.

Tip of the hat to this for doing all the work!


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