I will think of a better name for this blog one of these days.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Interesting thing I learned in Chinese class

Normally nothing interesting happens during class, either it's too early in the morning for me to remember anything or I cut class for an extra two hours of sleep (those are the best two hours of sleep ever!)

A little bit background info for people who are not familiar with Chinese characters. Chinese characters are like molecules built up from smaller elements like atoms. These smaller elements are called radicals. For example the character for noodle is (mian4). It consists of two radicals, on the left side is the radical (mai4) which means wheat and the right side is the radical (mian4) which means face. So by looking at the (mai4) provides a clue on the meaning of the word (Noodles are usually made out of wheat) and the (mian4) portion tells us how to pronounce the word.

It's not always this easy though, radicals don't have to be aligned left to right, sometimes they are placed top to bottom, outside/inside. Sometimes all the radicals in a character are for meaning and not for pronuncation. Sometimes radicals are put in there that have nothing to do with meaning or pronunciation.

For example, one word i hate is . On the top is (neng2) which means "can or to be able to." On the bottom there those four little marks that are the radical version of (huo3) which means fire. So I'm thinking, you pronounce the word just like (neng2) and it has something to do with fire.

WRONG! is pronounced xiong2 and it means bear. Bear as in those big furry animals that live in Jellystone park and steal picnic baskets.

It's as if whoever made up these words hundreds (thousands?) of years ago were like. . .

Guy1: Okay, how should we make the character for bear?
Guy2: Dude, it's friday, it's late, we've done a thousand of these already. We're gonna miss happy hour.
Guy1: Okay, then. . .
(Closes eyes and points to a wall with all the radicals)
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by the. . .

So what two words did the teacher write on the blackboard?

First word was . The radical on top is  which represents a body, inside/underneath of that is which means rice. So what happens when you eat rice? You eventually go #2, and that's what the word means.

The teacher actually wrote "shit" in english next to "" just to make it clear. I thought that was pretty funny.

Second word was . The same radical on top, bottom is the radical which means water. So what happens when you drink water? You eventually go #1, and that's what the word means.

I am absolutely terrible at remembering how to write chinese words. I usually need to keep on practicing writing a word over and over again before i have it commited to memory but these two words. . . it won't be necessary.

1 comment:

pris said...

That's cute! Nice little chinese lesson you got there. =)