Chinese really does have words for everything

But some of them may not get used much.

The boys on Language Log often foam at the mouth (but in a decorous and academic fashion) about claims that language X lacks a word for Y. I always felt slightly irked to be informed that Old English mōd (> MnE mood) or Middle English corage (> MnE courage) had no equivalent in contemporary English. Such words were always a little mysterious and I felt that it was being implied that English was a little wanting. Both words appear to mean something like “animating spirit” among other things, and it’s probably possible to find some phrase which would more or less capture the mysterious meaning in other contexts.

On the other hand, Chinese still appears to have words for everything, even if they don’t get used much. As regular readers will know, Chengdu (in particular) and Wuxi (often) can be foggy, misty, or hazy, and anything after that requires modification in English. I was bodging around my Chinese dictionary this morning and stumbled across the words 霾 mái “thick haze” and 阴霾 yīnmái “thick dark haze”. I’m not sure the word peasouper quite captures the latter (or even the former), but 阴霾 does describe the state of affairs usually just before it starts raining here.

The weather has been more beneficent over the past couple of days. Clear yesterday; very thin layer of cloud (or pollution) today. I expect, though, that I’ll be rolling out 阴霾 sooner or later.

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