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Hutong Etiquette




Lets present this one as a quiz (although if it's too easy for you let someone else have a go first):

1) Which two popular activities are referred to?

2) Which character is wrong, and what should it be? (at least I hope it is. Going to look a bit daft otherwise)



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ooh.. cant really read these very well.

Qing请? tiao2条? Da4大 xiao3小.. bian4便?

Not sure what both of them mean either.. is the second one taking a pee and a (poop..)大便/ 小便? Is Tiao2 written wrong?

What's qing1tiao2?! :mrgreen:

Now who looks lame?! (me);D

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Nice catch, Roddy. I'll not spoil the answers to your questions, though let me assure you you're right that there's a wrong character in there - no need to worry about looking daft :wink:

Much to my amusement, in Taiwan such signs often read 請勿在此大小便,謝謝合作. Surely thanking people for that is a bit too much?

(請 is qǐng, by the way :))

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You're getting there, Shi Tong, but you need to take a more careful look at the characters if you're going to get all the way - and bear in mind that one is wrong, so a bit of lateral thinking might be needed to make the leap to full enlightenment.

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I think the joke about this is that it seems like they wrote 请务大小便

So in a way you could argue that they ended up writing the opposite of what they were intending to say (though of course it's debatable if 务 can really be used like that here, probably not, but it's enough to get a good laugh out of it...)

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Ahh.. I think I understand what the joke is ;)

I'm supposing the one they wanted to say was not 务 as Chrix suggested, but I'm not sure what character should have been used.. appart from the negative of 务.. right?

Shall we leave the full English translated punch line until everyone knows what the joke is? ;)

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If you know the usage of 请勿 it's clear, otherwise it's a fun exercise of looking for structurally or phonetically similar characters that might be the correct one and seeing if they fit. Or something like that.

You can find examples where it appears they used 请务 and meant it - eg "皮肤中心已发布皮肤,如有更新请务到迅雷皮肤中心下载修改" but I wouldn't use it.

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hahahaha.. ;)

I do know these words (请 and 勿), but I've not seen them used like this before.. plus, as I'm sure you know my writing leaves a bit to be desired (I think my level is about HSK 2-3 with writing).. It was a fun task Roddy. Very amusing! :D

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Dear all,

When I saw that I was wondering whether the Chinese, at any time in the past, ever used the character "務(务)" to mean "don't".

In ancient times, it was quite common for characters with similar pronunciations to be used interchangeably.

Either because it was simpler to write the wrong character than the right one, because the writer forgot the writing of the correct character, or what not.

If it became common enough in usage it was included with this new definition in dictionaries.

Even today, with computers and the Internet, it's not uncommon to see the wrong character used, either through ignorance, a typing mistake where the adjacent character is typed instead of the intended character, as a pun or slang, or to be cool (like hip hoppers intentional misspellings).

In addition to 勿 meaning "don't", there are also 無(无) and 毋.


Entry for 勿 from the Wangli Gu Hanyu Zidian.


Entry for 無 from the Wangli Gu Hanyu Zidian.


Entry for 毋 from the Wangli Gu Hanyu Zidian.

Okay they might not all have the same tone but they are all pronounced wu and meant "don't" at one time or another.

Then there's 冇. The Cantonese dialectal character that means "don't"

The character 冇, except for tone, has the same pronunciation in Cantonese as 務(务)", 勿, 無(无) and 毋. Don't go by the Mandarin reading because it's an artificial reading since Mandarin doesn't have 冇. Or rather the variety that is now the national standard doesn't.

The entry for 冇 at the CantDict Cantonese dictionary at the Chinese (Cantonese) Help Sheets web site.

CantoDict entry for 冇


Entry for 冇 at the CantDict Cantonese dictionary at the Chinese (Cantonese) Help Sheets web site.

I know the web site doesn't include a definition of "don't" but it does say 文: 無 and one of the definition for 無 is "don't".

The CantoDict is a collaborative Internet project produced by Netizen volunteers.

But, these two compound words use 冇 in the sense of "don't".

CantoDict compound 1


Compound word 1 at the CantoDict


CantoDict compound 2


Compound word 2 at the CantoDict

Here is the Hanyu Fangyan Da Cidian entry for 冇 with a definition of "沒有; 无".


Hanyu Fangyan Cidian entry for 冇.

I believe, now don't hold me to this, that I read somewhere that 冇 might be a contraction of 唔好 which means "don't".

CantoDict entry 唔好


Entry for 唔好 at the CantDict Cantonese dictionary at the Chinese (Cantonese) Help Sheets web site.

I think I read it in Jerry Norman's Chinese or somewhere. I don't have my copy with me at the moment.

There's a bit of controversy over the character whether it's a contraction or that the original character should be 無.

It seems that quite a lot of the Cantonese dialectal characters came about because of slight pronunciation variation among the Cantonese. Slight differences in pronunciation resulted in variant characters.

There are some saying that they should go back to using 無 instead of 冇 even though the latter character has been quite established in Cantonese for a long time.

At any rate some dialects retain older meaning of characters that are no longer used in modern Chinese.

Where's Wangli when you need him?

He was really good at sorting this type of thing out. :P

I remember reading a book where they go through all these characters with similar pronunciation and definitions. Where they go over the history and which are correct and which are wrong but I can't remember which book it is and where it is. It was a downloaded scanned copy. :P

Oh, well. :mellow:

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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Sounds reasonable Kobo, and quite possible. I've only really leared about 700 characters, but I know how many use a pronunciation "clue" in the word (see青请清情*(cough)* and 精..) :unsure:


Either way, I think your post 很有道理(里哩 etc etc)

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Dear Roddy and all,

Does that make sense to anyone?

I had debated in my mind whether to post a reply here or start a new thread at the Classical Chinese forum.

Now I know I should have gone with the Classical Chinese forum. :)

Basically, there have been quite a few characters pronounced "wu" that have meant "don't", 勿, 無(无), and 毋.

Look in any modern dictionary and you'd find a definition of "don't" for all the characters except perhaps 無(无).

That's why I posted the images of the entries from the literary Chinese dictionary Wangli Gu Hanyu Zidian, for their older definitions.

Most modern dictionaries won't give a definition of "don't" for 無(无) anymore.

Though my 1992 copy of the 商務新詞典 does. Only 18 years ago.

I was just wondering whether any time in the past the character 務(务) might also have had that meaning.

Or whether any of the various Chinese dialects might have used the character 務(务) to mean "don't".

And no, Shi Tong, I'm not talking about semantic-phonetic characters. There is no common phonetic element to any of the characters I've posted in this thread.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.

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