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Fred0

城南旧事

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It has been suggested that I start a topic related to Memories of Peking or 城南旧事,which I am  currently reading. This is my first attempt at reading a Chinese novel, and I need a lot of help. 

 

My current problem is the little girl 小英子 has made a smart answer to the maid 宋妈 who has made fun of her. The maid laughes and says, "“你嘴厉害不是?咬不动烧饼可别哭呀!” This appears to be an aporism, but I can't make sense of it. "Your mouth is difficult to deal with, isn't it? When you can't bite your sesame cake, don't cry then." Would someone give me a better translations and explain the meaning? Thanks.

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I think the 厉害 here is positive. So "You know how to talk, huh? Then don't cry if you can't bite/eat your 烧饼." 

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It's a witty remark, but I wouldn't call it aphorism.

Basically Song Ma is saying, if your mouth is so lihai, why do you cry when you can't bite your sesame cake (which is quite often according to Yingzi's explanation in the next paragraph).

It's a play on the meaning of 厲害. In the first half 嘴巴厲害 means 說話很厲害 (often described in Chinese as 牙尖嘴利 or 伶牙俐齒), having a smart mouth; in the second half 厲害 means physically strong, 吃東西很厲害, i.e. 什麼都咬得動.

Hope it helps.

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奔窝头, 还常常吃了上顿没下顿呢! 唉!  This is translated as "Still we often don't know where our next meal is coming from." I understand that 顿 is the classifier for meals. My question is, how is 上 and 没下 to be understood in this context?

 

Also, what does 奔窝头 mean? I can't do anything with it.

 

Thanks.

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Think of it like 上次 and 下次.  So they are talking about the "last meal" and the "next meal".

 

As for 奔窝头, your google is as good as mine.

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Part one understood. Thanks.

 

Part two 奔窝头, if 奔 is 北京话 for 选择 and 窝头 is a kind of food, what does this mean in the context of the sentence?

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So I gather the whole section is: “我的天老爷, 就凭我这没出息的哥哥, 什么能耐也没有, 哪儿供得起呀! 奔窝头, 我们娘儿仨, 还常常吃了上顿没下顿呢!唉!”

 

It's not a straightforward sentence, but I'd understand as the narrator saying how poor they all are, and even though they choose (奔) to eat the simplest of food (窝头) they still have to worry about where their next meal will come from (吃了上顿没下顿).

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Thanks all. Big help!

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Another sentence for your consideration: 

 

The little girl believes that the boy who just graduated first in his class is the younger brother of the thief she has been meeting in a vacant lot, but she is not certain . She says: 他准是我所认为的那个人的弟弟吗?

 

I am taking 所 to be in this sentence a particle introducing a subordinate clause. My translation would be: "Is he definitely( 他准是), as I believe him to be, (我所认为), that man's younger brother?

 

对不对?谢谢!

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Looks great to me! Good job.

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In the opening of the third story Lan I-Liang, the term “出红差” is used (in quotation marks) to mean "parade of convicts." In the dictionary I find the term 出大差 (to go on a long journey, or figuratively, to be sent to the execution ground, but I can't make sense of that term either. Does anyone have any illuminating words?

 

"从早上吃完点心起,我就和二妹分站在大门口左右两边的门墩儿上,等着看“出红差”的。"

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出差 means to go on a business trip.

 

出二天差 would mean to go on a business trip for 2 days.

 

出红差 is figurative.  It means going on a trip to the execution grounds (to be executed).  More explanation (in Chinese) here.

 

Basically he's waiting with his sister to see the people paraded for execution.

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Very helpful. Thank you. 

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What does it mean to say: 怪不错的!

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It means pretty good.

怪 adv. quite, rather

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15 minutes ago, Fred0 said:

What does it mean to say: 怪不错的!

 I believe it's the same as 挺不错的,a bit more 口语 though

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can 瞧她面子 mean "to allow her to save face or "to take into consideration her need to save face."?

 

I am reading this paragraph:

 

妈说:

“小哥刚才来了。你知道吧?”

“怎么不知道!” 兰姨娘眉毛一挑, 冷笑说: “说什么?  他爸把我赶出来?怪不错的!  我要走, 大少奶奶还直说瞧她面子算了呢! 这会儿又成了他赶我的喽! 曠曠曠!”

 

The translation in my edition, starting at 怪不错的! is: That's a lie! I wanted to leave. Elder sister begged me to stay on, saving her face. And now the story is that he drove me out! Tse tse tse!

 

Surely, from your responses she is not saying "It's a lie." She is being ironic somehow, but I can't put it into words. the older shaonainai still continued to say look at (consider) her (need to save) face, and forget about it, (whatever happened, that is.) Now it (the story) has become that he threw me out.

 

Can you give me some help?

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Yes, she's being sarcastic: What did he say? That his dad threw me out? That's a good story! I wanted to leave. The young mistress begged me to stay, to let it go just for her sake. Now the story has become that he threw me out!

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瞧她面子 = 給她面子 = 看在她的面子上

面子 is a hard-to-translate concept. I don't think any of your translations is quite right.

Let's look at it this way:

A threatens to leave. B is tasked with persuading A not to. Or B thinks she can talk A out of it, because they are close. If B succeeds, B gains mianzi. If A leaves anyway, B will lose mianzi, because obviously her words are not as important as she likes them to be. So in deciding to stay, A will be doing B a favor, i.e. A留下來是給B面子.

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