Saturday, January 29, 2011

Knowledge comes at you from surprising places

For example, I now know that 笨, pronounced bèn, is Chinese for "stupid." (Also for "foolish" and "silly" and "slow-witted" and "clumsy.") And why do I know this?

Well, because...

1. I wanted a Chinese-English dictionary for my Kindle; so I went to the Amazon Kindle store and saw a five-star rated book called A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. Now, a five-star rated dictionary was exactly what I was looking for...but what's this bit about "...for Lovers"? Was it only naughty words, or what? So I checked the reviews...

2. ...and discovered that it was a actually a novel, written by a young Chinese novelist who for years has gone back and forth between London and Beijing. And all the reviewers loved it; plus it sounded truly fascinating: it's a first-person novel that is written in the voice of a young Chinese girl from a nouveau-riche Chinese country-village family, who has been sent to London for a year to learn English (rather against her will, actually). Of course she is completely unprepared culturally and linguistically; and she falls in love with a much older English man who is pretty much the first person in England to actually be nice to her. So it is a novel of self-discovery on every level (including, I warn you, sexually, since one of the features of traditional Chinese life is that parents don't talk about sex to their kids and the Chinese government tries not to let anybody else talk about it either...there are numerous passages that are very explicitly sensual indeed). And the novel is written in English -- but it's the character's slowly-improving English, which is therefore in the early chapters Chinese syntax with English words. Here, for example, are the opening words of the prologue:
Now.

Beijing time 12 clock midnight.

London time 5 clock afternoon.

But I at neither time zone. I on airplane. Sitting on 25,000 km above to earth and trying remember all English I learning in school.

I not met you yet. You in future.

Looking outside the massive sky. Thinking air staffs need to set a special time-zone for long-distance airplanes, or passengers like me very confusing about time. When a body floating in air, which country she belonging to?...


3. Obviously, intrigued by the premise and impressed by the enthusiasm of pretty much every reader who had submitted a review, I bought the thing, started reading it...and couldn't stop until the end. Had to finish it. Had to.

4. But along the way, it caught my attention when the narrator asked herself, "How I finding important places including Buckingham Palace, or Big Stupid Clock?" For a moment I was thrown: Big Stupid Clock? But then I realized, "Oh, she must mean Big Ben." And the next thought: "Ah, so I bet ben means 'stupid' in Chinese." So I went and looked it up, and sure enough, 笨, pronounced bèn, is Chinese for "stupid." (Also for "foolish" and "silly" and "slow-witted" and "clumsy.")

And now I'm unlikely ever to forget how to say "stupid" in Chinese -- even if I have trouble remembering such basic and essential phrases as "Hello," "Thank you," and (critically) "Where's the bathroom?" I'll always know how to say "stupid," thanks to the Big Stupid Clock.

That kind of thing happens to me all the time, which is pretty much how I tend to wind up the possessor of so many random pieces of odd and not terribly useful knowledge.

In the meantime, I very highly recommend A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, by Xiaolu Guo.

By the way, here's one of my favorite paragraphs from the novel, as Zhuang's frustration from her daily English classes boils over into her journal:
Chinese, we not having grammar. We saying things simple way. No verb-change usage, no tense differences, no gender changes. We bosses of our language. But, English language is boss of English user.


But this one is good, too (obviously from much later in the book, as you can tell from the improved English):
"Love," this English word: like other English words it has tense. "Loved" or "will love" or "have loved." All these specific tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exist in particular period of time. In Chinese, Love is "爱" (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.

If our love existed in Chinese tense, then it will last for ever. It will be infinite.

5 Comments:

At 8:44 PM, Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

ninest123 10.26
nike outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet online, gucci handbags, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, replica watches, polo outlet, burberry handbags, christian louboutin shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet online, christian louboutin outlet, oakley sunglasses, uggs outlet, christian louboutin, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, ray ban sunglasses, jordan shoes, prada outlet, oakley sunglasses wholesale, nike air max, cheap oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, uggs on sale, burberry outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, christian louboutin uk, kate spade outlet, nike free, louis vuitton outlet, tiffany and co, replica watches, nike air max, longchamp outlet, uggs outlet, longchamp outlet, tiffany jewelry, longchamp outlet, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton, prada handbags, michael kors outlet store, ray ban sunglasses

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

sac vanessa bruno, louboutin pas cher, new balance, hollister uk, coach outlet store online, longchamp pas cher, nike tn, nike air max uk, north face, true religion outlet, lululemon canada, michael kors outlet, true religion outlet, coach purses, abercrombie and fitch uk, sac longchamp pas cher, polo ralph lauren, ray ban uk, vans pas cher, nike free run, air max, michael kors, north face uk, hollister pas cher, oakley pas cher, converse pas cher, nike free uk, nike air force, true religion outlet, coach outlet, jordan pas cher, sac hermes, guess pas cher, nike roshe, polo lacoste, nike roshe run uk, michael kors pas cher, ray ban pas cher, nike air max uk, kate spade, burberry pas cher, nike air max, nike blazer pas cher, ralph lauren uk, coach outlet, michael kors, hogan outlet, mulberry uk, timberland pas cher, true religion jeans

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

mac cosmetics, gucci, hollister, herve leger, babyliss, hermes belt, soccer jerseys, nike trainers uk, celine handbags, vans, abercrombie and fitch, jimmy choo outlet, giuseppe zanotti outlet, nike air max, ferragamo shoes, lululemon, ray ban, ralph lauren, iphone 6 cases, converse outlet, asics running shoes, ghd hair, north face outlet, valentino shoes, timberland boots, insanity workout, nike air max, north face outlet, nfl jerseys, chi flat iron, hollister, vans outlet, beats by dre, soccer shoes, longchamp uk, p90x workout, louboutin, oakley, mont blanc pens, mcm handbags, converse, reebok outlet, hollister clothing, baseball bats, wedding dresses, nike roshe run, bottega veneta, new balance shoes, nike huaraches, instyler, tory burch outlet, oakley sunglasses

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger ninest123 Ninest said...

louis vuitton, thomas sabo, michael kors outlet, louis vuitton, pandora jewelry, swarovski crystal, canada goose outlet, juicy couture outlet, barbour, louis vuitton, canada goose jackets, hollister, marc jacobs, barbour uk, moncler outlet, louis vuitton, canada goose outlet, supra shoes, canada goose, canada goose outlet, moncler uk, michael kors outlet online, toms shoes, wedding dresses, pandora jewelry, ugg pas cher, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, swarovski, doudoune moncler, moncler, pandora uk, moncler, moncler, juicy couture outlet, michael kors handbags, replica watches, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, ugg uk, pandora charms, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, moncler outlet, moncler, lancel, canada goose, ugg, doke gabbana, links of london, canada goose, karen millen uk, canada goose uk, coach outlet
ninest123 10.26

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Lai Weizhou said...

chung cư Imperial Plaza 360 Giải Phóng
chung cư Imperial Plaza
chung cu Imperial Plaza
Imperial Plaza 360 Giải Phóng

Imperial Plaza 360 Giải Phóng

Imperial Plaza 360 Giải Phóng

chung cư udic riverside
chung cư 122 vĩnh tuy
chung cư Valencia garden
chung cu Valencia garden
chung cư Valencia garden Long biên
chung cư HBI Long Biên

 

Post a Comment

<< Home