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Meng Lelan

魚 - Short Story for 2014

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Meng Lelan

This story is appropriate for the intermediate level. 

 

魚(黃春明) Most high school students in Taiwan have this required reading. A boy buys his grandfather a fish, only to lose it on the way home. While you read this story think about why the boy is bringing home (or should be bringing home) a fish. What does the fish represent in this story? Who is really the breadwinner (or should I say fishwinner) of the family? Text can be read here:

 

http://web2.tcssh.tc.edu.tw/school/guowenke/new_page_482.htm

 

If you need glossary support with the story, you can try Contemporary Short Stories from Taiwan Volume II. 

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Meng Lelan

Many thanks for posting the links, ouyangjun!

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li3wei1

The two simplified versions appear to be the same, but they are not the same as the traditional version. Where the first dialogue begins, just under the line 「下次回來,那不知道要在什麼時候?」, which appears in both, the traditional version seems to be missing a large chunk, about 30 lines of dialogue.

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Meng Lelan

Hmmm, I have the traditional version here in one of my textbooks, didn't read the simplified version, so I didn't know about this omission. Where are you getting the traditional version from ?

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li3wei1

I'm working entirely from the links in #1 and #2.

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li3wei1

Can someone help me with this sentence?

“样子倒没看你长大,讲话的口气却长大了不少。”

I think I understand what he's saying, but the grammar in the first half eludes me.

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Meng Lelan

倒 can mean contrary to expectation. This seems to be the part where the boy says something quite wise even though he is relatively young and the grandfather laughs at him. 

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li3wei1

So what's the subject of 没看你, and why is 样子 at the beginning of the sentence?

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Meng Lelan

 样子 is at the beginning of the sentence, I think because this sentence is referring to the boy's appearance and looks. There isn't a subject really. If I had spoken this sentence in English I would have said "The way you look, you don't seem like you're all grown up, yet you speak words of wisdom" or something like that. 

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li3wei1

okay, sounds a bit strange to me.

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li3wei1

Here's another question. Near the end, the old man and the boy are having an argument. What's going on in this sentence:

老人被他这样子缠得一时发了莫名火,随手在门后抓到挑水的扁担,一棒就打了过去。

I think there are some familiar words here being used in unfamiliar ways.

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Meng Lelan

Well, what's going on here is the old man seems really angry!

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li3wei1

Would a literal translation be:

老人 the old man

被  by

他这样子 his (the boy's) manner

缠得 annoyed to the point of

一时 for a short time

发了莫名火,  a nameless anger

随手  casually (?)

在门后  behind the door

抓到   grabbed

挑水的扁担,  the pole for carrying water

一棒就  with a few steps (?)

打了过去。 hit (or punched) it through (what?)

 

I was initially confused by 发火 being split up like that.

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Meng Lelan

随手 can mean casually but not really in this case. Usually I translate this as "thereupon" or "right then at that point". 棒 is a stick. So here he is using a stick to whack the boy. So now what does the boy do? 

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li3wei1

抓到挑水的扁担,一棒就打了过去.

Is this an unusual way of saying this? Is there something stylistic going on? 一. . .就 means 'at the same time as' whatever goes in between, is that the construction being used here? Why 棒? Shouldn't it be a verb, like 抓?  And does 打了过去 emphasise that it's over before the old man realises it? Alternatively, does 一棒就打 mean 'hit him once'?

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Meng Lelan

Well try to imagine what the grandpa is doing now. As soon as he grabs --- and this is what the 一. . .就 is telling you here, as soon as he grabbed the pole/stick --- he goes over to administer a beating. 打了过去 doesn't really mean this beating is over before you know it. He went over to the boy to beat him is what this is saying. 棒 is a noun right here,  I think. Yes this sentence would have been better served with a verb, but here we have to make do and think about how quickly he takes a stick and goes to do a beating. Hard to say if he hit just once or twice or thrice. Even then all it matters for us to understand now is what mood grandpa is in now and how quickly he acts on this. 

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li3wei1

You're saying that 过去 is one verb, and 打 another?

wouldn't 一棒就过去打了 be better? or maybe 过去了打, so they're in chronological order?

if on the other hand 过去 is a directional complement, shouldn't the 了come after it? See this sentence from the Grammar Wiki:

"我 看到 马路对面 新开了 一家 蛋糕店,就 走 过去 了。" If 过去 is a directional complement, it suggests that the beating is directional, i.e. he beats his way over to the boy, or approaches him while beating. With a long stick, this is entirely possible.

 

I get what's happening in the story, I think, what I don't get is what's happening in the grammar of this sentence.

 

Sorry if I'm getting bogged down in the details, but this is the climax of the story, at least one of them, and I have a feeling the author is bending some grammar rules to express something about the action, or the emotional states of the characters. Perhaps grandad beats first and then approaches, or perhaps 过去 is in there because he's beaten the kid in the past and the author wants to hint it without saying it.

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Meng Lelan
Sorry if I'm getting bogged down in the details, but this is the climax of the story, at least one of them, and I have a feeling the author is bending some grammar rules to express something about the action

 

 

That's ok, as long as you understand what is happening here. As for grammar rules, heh, that made me think of how my Chinese professor told my class "中文没有语法。英文有语法, 但是中文没有!“。 

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Altair

I am unsure about many of these questions, but here are my guesses.

“样子倒没看你长大,讲话的口气却长大了不少。”

English is oriented around subjects and predicates. Mandarin is more organized around topics and comments. 样子 is the main topic and so comes first. Syntactically, it can have any relationship to the verb, or none at all.

I would say that 倒 in this case introduces a concession that sets up a contrast to follow. In other words: "with respect to your appearance, to be sure, I don't see that you have grown up; in terms of the tone of your speech, however, you have grown up quite a bit."

老人被他这样子缠得一时发了莫名火,随手在门后抓到挑水的扁担,一棒就打了过去。

I think that 莫名 is not so much "nameless" as "indescribable," that is, "something no one can put a name to. "

As for 随手, I think the core meaning stems from "felicitous convenience" or something that "conforms to what the hand can just reach out for," at least metaphorically. In this case, I think it indicates that the pole happened to be handy and could be grabbed with no additional effort.

I am not sure about 一棒, but guess that it functions as a verbal measure word that is further described by what follows. I guess it means something like: "with just such a stick."

I think that 过去 is a directional component, but does not indicate the displacement of the man, but rather the displacement of his action. In other words, he "struck over/across/away" at the boy. I am not sure whether the Chinese clearly indicates whether he connected or not.

打了过去 describes the moment after the blow was performed, without telling you how things concluded overall. 打过去了 would describe how the overall action or the scene ended, and is less appropriate if there is more to be said about how the scene unfolded after the blow.

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