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fabiothebest

The "Dark Meaning" of 5 Chinese Terms

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fabiothebest

I found this article online and I'd like to share it with you, so that we can discuss about it.

 

 

Surely in every country, and every culture, there are some very commonly used words –  common according to their literal meanings – which also have dark meanings that are tacitly understood among native speakers. If people who are not aware of the hidden meanings use these words incorrectly, they may insult themselves, or even other people, unknowingly.

[snipped the quotes - please don't copy large amounts of other people's content. Roddy]

穿小鞋 make somebody wear small shoes = make things hard for somebody 

 

 

As you can see from these examples, learning a new language involves more than just studying vocabulary and grammar. Every language has its dark meanings, but it is important to know these other meanings so you don't accidentally make a mistake. Hopefully this article will help prevent you from making a Chinese language mix-up!



I'll definitely never wear a green hat :D

Well, I never did because of my taste, but I didn't know it has this extra meaning in Chinese culture.

 

About "eating soft rice", maybe I heard it in the Hangover movie and I thought it had a negative meaning, but I didn't know the exact meaning until now. Well, yes, it would be offensive for me if someone tells me that. Usually the man earns more in almost every culture but also women have the right to earn enough..and there's financial crisis now..if I didn't have a job and my gf helps me momentary and someone told me that, it would be a bit offensive...

 

About 小姐, yes I already heard about that. My gf lives in the south and she told me if I say it, it's fine..as the author of the article said, it is mostly considered offensive in the north. Well, I don't wanna offend anyway :D I hope that if once I'll forget it and make a mistake, they will forgive a poor 老外 :D

 

About airport, I didn't know that :) Well, I think I would never say to a girl: "you are like an airport", so I'm safe, no risk of being misunderstood :P

 

About dinosaur and frog..hmm..frog may be used also abroad, but I never heard addressing a girl as a dinosaur in my country :D I'll try to remember the meaning though.

 

About the other words, I knew er4 (mostly used in Beijing dialect, but in every city I guess). Later on I also discovered 250...I admit I'd prefer someone says 520 to me :D (I'm taken anyway :P).

 

hmm about "yellow", this is particular (we tend to link that to red color, instead of yellow). Why yellow? Can anyone explain the origin?

 

"Worn out shoes", I didn't know it but It's easily understandable.

 

"Make somebody wear small shoes" is understandable too.

 

The last one is "sun". Why does it mean f**k? Is it similar to another character with that meaning? Can anyone explain that?

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Lu

Rì means fuck, the character usually used for this is 日. I suspect, but that's just me guessing, that this is a case of the word being there first and the character after, and that it has nothing to do with the sun. Perhaps there's even an older/more 'correct' character, as is the case with cào, which is usually written 操 but should strictly speaking be 肏.

Incidentally, saying that 'women also have the right to earn enough' sounds rather sexist, like men should always earn money for their women and women are only reluctantly given the right to earn 'enough', but not more than their men, god forbid. In my opinion, women have every right to earn as much money as they want, regardless of how much the men in their life are or aren't earning. Perhaps you didn't intend that meaning, in which case perhaps you should phrase it a bit differently.

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Demonic_Duck

hmm about "yellow", this is particular (we tend to link that to red color, instead of yellow). Why yellow? Can anyone explain the origin?

Interesting you say that, in English we consider "blue" to mean erotic (as in "a blue movie").

 

Also on the theme of colours/sex, in Chinese you also have 色, which can be used as an adjective to mean sex-obsessed or also in 色情、色狼、色女 etc.

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Nathan Mao

In English we also have the "Red Light district" for prostitution, which is probably what the original poster was thinking of.

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fabiothebest

Yes and I'm Italian, in Italy we can say: "film a luci rosse", literally "red light movies".

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Lu

An Italian told me that 'yellow books' in Italy means 'cheap novels', if I remember correctly :-)

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Nathan Mao

I'm not sure the 小姐 explanation is correct.  Tone of voice has a big influence on how it is taken, so if you just call someone 小姐, no one will think anything of it.

 

In addition, words change meanings over time, and over regions.  同志 (comrade) meant "homosexual" in Taiwan, at least in the mid-/late-90s.

 

I seem to remember 爱人 was sometimes the respectable term for spouse, sometimes the term for your 婚外情 (extramarital affair partner).  太太 is usually safe, but there was a time that was not in use as "wife" (I think it supplanted 爱人 as the proper term in mainland China, but I'm not sure).

 

老公 can mean either boyfriend or husband. I've seen Southerners use it as "boyfriend" more than Northerners, but for all I know that was a borrowed reference and 老公 may well be more strongly associated with "husband" in the south than the north.

 

Another one that can get you in trouble is if you try to refer to something possessed by someone's mother.  Do not say "妈的" (be careful to say 妈妈的 or 母亲的...this was a running joke in the TV series, 咱结婚吧), and especially don't say "他妈的".

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Nathan Mao

I think the use of "yellow" in Chinese to mean sex comes from the idea of Chinese skin being yellow.  So 黄色的电影 could be translated as a "skin flick" as easily as "obscene movie" or "porno film".

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Nathan Mao

The etymology of "blue" in "blue movies" indicates that "blue" doesn't necessarily mean "sex", it just means behavior restricted on moral grounds (including sex).

Consider the term blue laws, which were about restricting commerce (and later merely the sale of alcohol) in order to enforce the Christian observance of a day of rest. That was about morality, but not about sex.

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Demonic_Duck

@Nathan Mao: you know you can edit your posts, right? :wink:

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fabiothebest

For Lu: "libri gialli" (yellow books) in Italian is related to the crime fiction genre. The name comes from the color of the cover of the first books of this genre by an Italian publishing house called Mondadori. The series was called "Il giallo Mondadori".

 

Also in Italian if you say "signorina" with a particular tone and wink, it may be understood as "prostitute", but generally it just means "young lady" and if you say it normally it's NEVER misunderstood. Signorina is used for young unmarried women, they may even take it as a compliment, since you mean they are young and the suffix -ino/ina means small and could be also understood as cute. The fact that native Chinese speakers mentioned about the extra meaning of 小姐 made me think that it isn't so rare that it can be misunderstood and some people may feel offended (mostly in the north I heard). In the south it is sometimes used also to address a waitress, instead of calling her normally 服务员, without problems I guess. Yes "yellow" could be related to the color of the skin, in those movies skin is visible indeed :D But I don't know, any native Chinese can explain?

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Demonic_Duck

Re: 小姐, I don't think I've ever really heard it used in Beijing, and most Beijingers seem to be of the opinion that it's best to just avoid using the word altogether. However, a Singaporean girl I met called the 服务员 with this word. It didn't cause any obvious offense, but perhaps that was because her accent made it obvious she wasn't from the surrounding area.

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Lu

Back in 2002/3 we called the waitress 小姐 and nobody seemed to take offence; nowadays I always say 服务员. But depending on tone of voice, it should still be ok to call a young lady 小姐. (I have no idea what else to call an unknown young woman if you want her attention. 姑娘 might work, but I feel I'm in the wrong demographic to say it, and anyway that, too, can have connotations if you use a certain tone of voice.)

 

去 is also a good one to be careful about. 去你 is not 'going to you' but more in the line of 'f*ck you, drop dead'.

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Demonic_Duck

“美女” seems to do the trick.

 

For 去:

“我去” (wǒ qù) - I'll go.

“我去” (wò qù) - oh my God/fuck!

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abcdefg

小姐 doesn't cause raised eyebrows in Kunming if you use it to get the attention of a waitress, even though 美女 is more commonly used by locals.

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hedwards

Guys, yellow means pervert and when I asked it had something to do with a dictionary definition. I didn't see the dictionary myself, but I got the distinct feeling that it was the result of a mistranslation in one of the more popular dictionaries they were using for English. AFAIK, it's more of an extremely widespread inside joke as the Chinese don't traditionally ascribe such a meaning to the color.

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skylee

Personally I find 美女 quite offensive. But people of different regions could react differently to the same term.

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Lu

Seeing that even the Chinese government uses it (扫黄), I doubt that it comes from English (or that it is a joke). Is it possible that the person explaining it to you was joking? I agree that 黄 didn't have that meaning traditionally, but meanings can change.

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Demonic_Duck

@hedwards: Unlike "色", "黄" doesn't typically mean "pervert(ed)" as such, it's more along the lines of "obscene" (i.e. sexually explicit). Along with Lu, I'm also extremely sceptical that it has anything to do with English, or that it's used in a tongue-in-cheek way.

 

Cf. the lyrics of "勇敢说不", the song they play in KTV places before you select any songs: "拒绝黄,拒绝赌,拒绝黄赌毒". Though it's actually pretty funny, I don't think the humour is intended.

 

@Skylee: Why do you find "美女" offensive? I see it as having two meanings:

1) Used as a normal noun, it means a beautiful woman.

2) Used to address a young or youngish woman, it's simply a reasonably polite form of address (I guess you can draw an analogy with "gentlemen" in "ladies and gentlemen" here; the "gentlemen" in question may not necessarily be gentle, just as the 美女 in question may not necessarily be 美).

At any rate, I live in Beijing. Possibly it has different connotations in southern parts, but I seem to remember that, if anything, it's used more commonly as a term of address in the south. The caveat is that I've only been down south a couple of times.

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skylee

I searched on the internet and found five theories on how 黃色 came to refer to pornography. This description has been in use since I was a child and that was a long long long time ago.

Four theories here -
http://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/2673/how-did-黃-yellow-come-to-mean-pornographic

Another here -
http://m.tianya.cn/touch/bbs/art.jsp?item=no05&id=267349

"黃色詞源來自於60~70年代,60年代初,與蘇俄論戰,為了批判修正主義,要先翻譯一批蘇俄書籍,這批書屬於內部出版,供批判專用,封皮黃色,所以又稱為黃皮書。不久又要批17年文藝黑線,於是乎又把17年間拍攝的影片拋出來供批鬥專用,這些毒草片...也被稱為黃片。稱呼沿用,口耳相傳,從此廣大革命群眾把一切內部的,不公開的,市面上禁止的文學影視作品統統以黃色冠名。"

RE #8, I think it is very unlikely to be related to skin colour.

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