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A Dilettante Sinologist's Exploration of Mandarin

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Word of the Day 27/7/20 直观

n./adj. 直观

This word means intuitive, audio-visual, visual, i.e. something that is directly perceived through the senses.


aids to object teaching; audio-visual aids


object teaching

On the upside, I found working with the Facelets API to be very natural and intuitive.

在有利方面来说,我发现使用Facelets API非常自然和直观

The touch-key designed accords with the trend of the products, and operate the products more easily.


For an interesting take on intuitive English vocabulary learning, check out: http://pic.daqi.com/slide/2934663.html

What do you think?


Word of the Day 25/7/10 歇斯底里


Hysteria, Hysterical

According to Nciku this word is a noun, however a quick glance at google search results will tell you that this word often finds itself acting as an adverb:


Yesterday she argued hysterically with a salesman.

歇斯底里 can also be used as an adjective or verb:



Can you think of any synonyms of this word?


过度 Vs. 过分

过度 and 过分 are both adjectives meaning "excessive, undue, over-", but how can we distinguish between the two when writing or speaking Chinese?

I'm not 100% sure on this one myself, it's appears that they are interchangeable for emotions such as 过分高兴 and 过度高兴. I asked a Chinese friend about the difference between the two; she replied "个人认为没啥区别,但“度”比“分”成分多" - not really helping that much.

I have broken 过度 down to two common uses:

1) describing something that you do to yourself like 饮酒 or 减肥, or even 过度治疗

2) describing an emotion 过度兴奋

过分, according to my dictionary, is used for “说话,做事”; i.e. doing something or speaking excessively. I think it emphasizes reacting excessively or "going over the top" perhaps. Rather than an objective quantity emphasized by 过度1, 过分 implies a subjective consideration of the preceding action. i.e. you are making a judgement on what has happened. 过度 appears to be more neutral/objective in this regard.

Consider this example: 因为老公过度喝酒的问题离婚是不是太过分?

This fits in with my above explanation; we have the seemingly quantifiable “过度喝酒” with the subjective reaction from the writer.

Does the common collocations 过分要求,过分强调 fit this explanation as well? I would suggest that when somebody makes a 过分要求, they are reacting based on an understanding of what is being explicitly or implicitly offered.

For example, when a customer walks into a shop, there is an implicit promise that the staff will offer the best services possible. When you 过分要求 a staff member, you are overreacting (反应过度) to the understanding of this tacit agreement.

What do you think?


贯穿/横贯 Traverse

Usage Examples:





Is the only difference between 贯穿 and 横贯 that 贯穿(于) can also refer to something traversing a non-geographical object?


Interesting Collocation 21/7/10

Came across this collocation today during my reading.


To grasp the dynamics/developments of something.



楼市五大怪象迭出理性购房掌握市场动态是关键 (Title of an article)

手机短信拦截器是您掌握老公,情人动态的最佳工具 (My personal favourite)


My View of "Views"

观念 - formed over a long period of time; not easily changed. 传统观念,道德观念

观点 - usually public and concerning an important topic. 阶级观点,马克思列宁主义的观点

见解 - "view and understanding"; usually thoroughly thought out.

看法 - similar to 见解 but not necessarily formed through trenchant consideration

立场 - standpoint i.e. position you take when dealing with an issue

念头 - seems to refer to an idea that is transitory in nature. 打消念头,闪过。。。念头

Can you add to the list? Perhaps offer your views or corrections on each word?


对象 outdated?

I came across this while reading the New York Times today:

“Oh you know, I’m so old, you’re a young girl in my eyes,” she said to a female contestant who worried about being older than her date. “These days, everyone works for a few years before they start looking for a duixiang, right?” she responded, using an outdated term for significant other.

I thought 对象 was quite a common and not outdated way of saying "partner", especially the collocation 找对象. If it is indeed outdated, then what is a more fashionable term for significant other?


As an adjective 曲折 can be found to mean both “winding” or “curved” in the dictionary, and is used to describe an object that is winding, such as a road or a staircase; 曲折 can also mean “complicated” as an adjective or “complications” as a noun. First let’s look at some examples of 曲折 in the first sense of the word:

Adjective 1:

1) 连接上下两层的是一条光滑、曲折的楼梯,一个两层高的书架在一旁伫立

The two floors are linked by a sleek curved staircase, with a double-heightbookcase running up one side.

2) 这条河的河道曲折,汊流众多。

This river has a zigzagging watercourse and many branches.

3) 沿着池塘有一条曲折的小路。

There's a winding path following the edge of the pond.

Note: 曲折 can also describe a metaphorical road or path that is winding and tortuous, such as:

4) 澳博的上市之路漫长而曲折,厄运和争议始终紧紧相随。

SJM's road to market has been a long and tortuous one, dogged by bad luck and controversy.

If you are anything like me, you might be wondering how 曲折 can mean both “winding” and “curved” when they are different concepts in English - I think of winding as something with many curves. After googling “曲折” in the images section, it appears that 曲折 normally describes an object (such as a road or waterway) that is winding, but can sometimes also describe an object that has just one curve. In the above example of the “curved staircase” we cannot be sure if this a mistake in translation or if it is infact a curved staircase rather than a winding staircase - are they the same thing? Can you find more examples of where 曲折 is translated as curved?

One of the mental tricks I employ to remember a Chinese word, particularly when I also have its numerous synonyms in my head, is to fix an English word (winding) to a Chinese word (曲折) and then add a couple of mental caveats to it. I will try to demonstrate my mental processes as I go along. So:

Mental picture: 曲折 = winding (could be curved)

As mentioned before, 曲折 also has the meaning of “complicated” as an adjective or “complications” as a noun. This meaning of complicated can be used to describe a plotline (情节) or story (故事) that is full of twists and turns (充满曲折).

Adjective 2:

1) 这个剧本情节很曲折。

The play has a very complicated plot.

2) 故事曲折有致。

The story with its many twists and turns is very intriguing.

Mental picture 2: 曲折 = adj. winding (could be curved) roadlike object or storylike object

As a noun 曲折 collocates with verbs such as 经历, 经过 and 有;here noun 曲折 refers to the many setbacks (挫折) you might suffer in a complicated situation (错综复杂的情况).


…experience countless difficulties and setbacks

2) 曲折的生活经历锻炼了她坚强的性格。

3) 在旅途的末尾,会有曲折。

At the end of the journey, there is a twist .

The last example (3) suggests that 有曲折 can refer to just one twist rather than a series of twists i.e. winding. This suggests that 曲折 can serve as either a singular noun or a plural noun depending on the context. Does anyone have a better understanding of this?

Now we have my complete mental picture of 曲折:

Mental picture 3: 曲折 = adj./n. winding (could be curved) roadlike object or storylike object

Can anyone add to this?

Next post: a comparison of 曲折 with 弯曲 and 歪曲 (and maybe others If I have the time)


Word of the Day 16/7/10 野鸡大学


From what I can gather, 野鸡大学 can mean:

1) an illegal organization where you can purchase degrees or diplomas; or

2) a university where you turn up, pay the tuition fees and relax for the next fews years because you're getting a degree no matter what you do; or

3) a (extremely) low-ranking university;

A lot of 海龟s, especially famous ones, have been criticized for attending the so-called 野鸡大学, and using the ‘qualification’ gained there to find employment in China.

(Check out 唐骏“造假门” News Link for the latest example of the storm that engulfs China when the media discover the supposed links between a 野鸡大学 and a public figure. )

Personally, I like "diploma mill" for a translation of 野鸡大学. Does anyone have a better translation? Do you disagree with any of the above? I would love to hear your comments.


推进 Vs. 推动

According to my HSK 词汇精解 book, 推进 means to use force to advance, improve or develop something - 工作,事业,社会等 - that is not progressing as expected or is poor in quality.

1) 邓小平南巡讲话推进了中国经济进一步发展

2) 我们在努力推进这项计划

Whereas 推动 means to push (i.e. promote) something - 人,汽车,历史,进步等 - with force.



A quick look at engkoo.com shows that these words share the same objects: 工作,发展,计划, etc.

My mental picture: they can be mutually substituted, but 推进 implies the advance of something that is not developing the way it is supposed to be.

Does anyone have a better understanding or another way of distinguishing the two? Is there a third, or even fourth, synonym that would be worth discussing? How would you translate 推进历史 and 推动历史?

Any answers would be greatly appreciated!