25 7 / 2014
24 7 / 2014
One of the hardest things for foreigners learning Chinese is the fact that there is no alphabet, which means that (almost) every word has its own unique character which must be memorised in order for the learner to know how to read it/write it.
Needless to say, if two people are meeting for the first time, there is a good chance that they still won’t know how to write each other’s names after being introduced, and the lack of an alphabet means that they can’t simply ask the other person to spell it out for them. So what can they do?
The first, and simplest, method is to give them an example of a common word which uses the same character. So, for example, if someone’s surname is Zhou, they might say “Zhou, as in Zhou Enlai” (“周恩来”的周, Zhou Enlai de Zhou).
Alternatively, they could give the components of the character. So, if someone had the surname 吴 (Wu) they could say that it consists of the character for mouth (口) and the character for sky (天).
Of course, this is not always a fool-proof way of “spelling” Chinese words, but it works most of the time, and if all else fails, you can always just whip out your phone or a pen and paper so the other person can write it down for you…
23 7 / 2014
Yesterday I was eating squid and it reminded me of a phrase we learnt in class last year: 炒鱿鱼 (chao youyu) which literally means “fried squid” but can also mean to fire somebody or to be fired (被炒鱿鱼, bei chao youyu).
The reason “fried squid” has become a euphemism for being fired is that when squid is fried, it curls up, and historically workers who got laid off would wrap all their belongings up in a blanket, which looked similar to fried squid.
21 7 / 2014
the first female chinese immigrant to america was a sixteen-year-old girl who was part of a cultural exhibit where she sat in a life-size diorama and people watched her eat with chopsticks while wearing silk clothes and that’s really all you need to know about the commodification of chinese women
if you’d like to read more about the lives of early immigrated chinese women