The Chinese Characters Dictation Competition Is a Test Few Could Pass – WSJ.com.
Linda and I watched this programme when we were in Shanghai as a bunch of (junior?) middle school students were tortured with various characters.
The particular word for “toad” given on the page is not in my big dictionary. That gives 癞哈蟆 (làiháma; with 癞虾蟆 given as a variant), but when I type the characters in, I get 癞蛤蟆, which, ignoring the final character, is the expected word in the programme.
This very much looks like a matter of contrary orthography so that the word which is given in the programme is no more correct than any of the others. The first character, 癞, means “leprosy” while 蛤 means “clam”, and 虾 (here pronounced há) appears to be a bound morpheme in this case, otherwise being xiā, the word for “shrimp”, which is much more familiar to me.
It’s a pity that I don’t have an etymological dictionary of Chinese because I’m also wondering whether this word has been borrowed from another language.
The quirks of the imperial mafia.
Well, as we all know, Gu Kailai got away with murder as the punters expected she probably would. Much as I deplore the culture of whacking people in this country, it would seem that premeditated murder should have got Gu dragged off to some distant field and her brains splattered all over it. As for the defence, I’d assume that Neil Heywood as an Old China Hand would’ve known better than to threaten anyone in Bo Xilai’s family. Will we ever know the truth or come close to it?
Meanwhile all those fat little Asian babies continue their infantile squabbles about some rocks in the South China Sea. It seems to me that none of them have any clear and unequivocal claim to this particular piece of water since, I expect, they will’ve all been criss-crossing it for centuries.
I’ve been reading stories about some foreigner in Zhengzhou nearly causing a riot by allegedly slapping and spitting on some Chinese woman for bumping into his car. No details about the man himself, but foreigners driving cars here are relatively rare, and in all my time in the Empire, I can only recall ever having seen one, which was in Tiananmen Square in Beijing not too long after I arrived. As for his behaviour, if he did indeed assault the woman, he was asking for trouble.
According to the LA Times, there have been changes to the requirements for tourist visas for China. The one which has me scratching my head is the “letter of invitation”, which, the article says, should come from a duly authorised tourism unit. It sounds like the Empire is trying to force tourists to go on package tours rather than just turn up and wander about where they please: more stage management to keep people away from the warts? It would appear to make it difficult for foreigners principally coming here to visit family members or friends. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the implementation of these new rules and regulations is haphazard, though. Back in 2005, the Chinese Embassy in London proved to be a monstrous pain in the arse for me because they were still working on the old system after a new one had been introduced.
Well, I’ve been saying it wrong.
Having spent many occasions trundling into Beijing on the 938 from Tongzhou (通州) during my first three years in the Empire, I got rather familiar with the character 贸 (mào), which means “trade, commerce, exchange of goods”, because I’d get off the bus outside 国贸 and switch to the Metro. The stop there was actually hugely long and more like a roadside bus station. When it was really busy, there would be several thousand people there all charging for the buses and suffering the consequences of the usual lack of consideration for each other. There were the vendors alongside the stops all announcing, “闻报， 闻报！ 北京闻报！”, and I eventually realised these were the cries of the newspaper sellers. I can still hear the voice of the old woman who would sit outside the entrance to the Metro station quite clearly in my mind.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m here in Wuxi. I can remember 贸, and roughly what it looks like. I’ve always associated it with something commercial, and when I encountered the Far Eastern Department Store, I saw 贸 again in the title. As it turns out, I misread the character. The name of the place is 远东百货, and it is this final character which I’ve been muddling up with 贸, not just in Wuxi, but everywhere in the Empire for the past nine years.
百货 (bǎihuò) means “general merchandise”, and it would explain why 百贸 is not a collocation when I type it out.
I bought myself a stopwatch the other day because I was curious how long it takes me to get from one place to another round here so that I can then calculate my average speed. From outside this building, it took me 6:11 to get to the 红豆 Building, including stops (two sets of lights) and various impediments. From the 红豆 Building, it took me 2:45 to get back to the lane to the side gate because I wasn’t delayed crossing the road and because I’m able to go through the intersections on the return leg without needing to worry about the lights.
That’s about 915m, which means I was doing an average of 5.54m/sec (about 20kph), which is a little slow for me.
I see the lane that runs between the 红豆 Building and the Knightsbridge Department Store is called 道长巷 (Dào Cháng Xiàng) and the one it intersects, where the Provençal restaurant is, is called 永定巷 (Yǒng Dìng Xiàng). There’s an old building there next to the Knightsbridge Department Store, which has somehow survived. Where it faces onto 县前街, there are shops, but round behind there’s a door in a wall. I’d guess from the names of the alleys (the former means “the Way [is] long”, and the latter means “eternal calm”) that it is (or was) a Daoist temple.
I’ve also learnt something else. I’ve seen the character 定 a fair few times, but because of it’s similarity to 走 (zǒu) “walk, go follow”, I’ve assumed that it had something to do with walking and was probably pronounced in the same way. Of course, it’s more proof (which I don’t need) that Chinese characters are utterly opaque.
Thus I conclude that buying a stopwatch is ultimately educational because I’ve learnt of the existence (I think) of an old Daoist temple and the actual meaning and pronunciation of a character I’ve long assumed to have guessed the meaning of.
Not all learning is good, though. I’ve learnt that you can search WordPress to a point (it sometimes does odd things), but you can’t even get onto the Tags page. I wonder which bunch of drooling halfwits I can blame for always finding some way ruining the Internet just that little bit more and making life in this prison even worse. Bastards.