Hello again! Sorry to be writing again so soon… This is completely unrelated to my travel plans, though. I was reading the Chinese newspaper this morning in preparation for my exam and came across the word 龙卷风 (pronounced longjuanfeng). Now, the literal meaning of the three characters together is “dragon roll wind”. How logical is that?! A hurricane is, according to Chinese, a dragon spinning round viciously to create a powerful, rolling wind. In light of this, I thought I’d write my favourite bits of vocab and most bizarre explanations of characters for you to enjoy.
地震 (dizhen) – staying on the theme of natural disasters, this one means earthquake, and – very sensibly – the characters literally say “ground be excited”
龙凤胎 (longfengtai) – credit to Will Briscoe on this one. He is the male component of a boy-girl-twin-combination, and he thus looked up the word for this. You might recognise the first character from the hurricane explanation; this one says “dragon phoenix foetus”. A quick explanation is required: dragon and phoenix are the metaphors for successful males and females, respectively…
物流 (wuliu) – this one means logistics, and obviously enough, the characters mean “things flow”
吹风机 (chuifengji) – can’t quite express how amazing this one is. If someone asks you to pass the “blow wind machine”, what they’re after is actually the hairdryer
糟糕！(zaogao!) – this is an exclamation. My family will testify that it has become a bit of a mantra: whenever anything goes slightly wrong, I shout in Chinese, “messy cake!” English equivalent is fairly obvious, and not massively publishable…
公共汽车 (gonggong qiche) – on to transport now. This one means bus, and is in Chinese “public together automobile”
出租汽车 (chuzu qiche) – taxi is equally straightforward… “rent out automobile”
飞机 (feiji) – and aeroplane: “fly machine”
Now, I couldn’t have written this little post without a passing mention to Hu Laoshi (Teacher Hu). My first ever Chinese teacher, who played a part in compiling a version of the English-Chinese dictionary, had a fantastic knack for explaining characters. Although they sound bizarre, I have never forgotten many of them, so here are two of my favourites:
想 (xiang) – this means would like. You might be able to see the parts making up the character… top left is a tree 木, top right is an eye 目, and at the bottom is a heart 心. Mr Hu’s explanation for this one was an analogy of walking into a forest, seeing a beautiful tree, and feeling in your heart that you would like that tree. Simples.
突 (tu) – suddenly. Now, the top of this character is the radical (part) meaning a hole, and at the bottom is a dog. How, you may ask, does this mean suddenly? Well – if you were walking along, when a dog jumped out of a hole and started attacking your face, that would be quite sudden, wouldn’t it?!
Thanks again to Mr Hu for those two, and all the others along the same lines – we miss you greatly! To finish, I wanted to write three of my favourite “chengyu”. These are famous in Chinese: they are four-character idioms which are notoriously hard to learn, but are seen as a sign of your level of Chinese – the more you know, the more learned you appear.
对牛弹琴 (dui niu tan qin) – literal meaning is “to play the qin to a cow” (qin = a traditional Chinese instrument). In English, it’s best expressed as addressing the wrong listener! Full story is at http://sina.echineselearning.com/english/contents/idiom-stories/dntq.html
乱七八糟 (luan qi ba zao) – literally “random seven eight mess”. Although we use different numbers, the principle of at sixes and sevens is roughly the same…
守口如瓶 (shuo kou ru ping) – “to close mouth like bottle”. Self-explanatory, I feel… keep one’s mouth shut!
On that note, I’ll shut mine and get back to revision. 2 hours of cramming, here we go!