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flautert

Possible conotations for 熟人

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flautert

I just finished reading The Wanting Seed, from Anthony Burgess, and got curious about one chinese expression. (mild spoilers ahead)

In a dystopic future mankind has descended into cannibalism.

At some point, the protagonist reads the label of a food can from China: 熟人. I recognized this as shou2 ren2, aquaintance, friend. But in the book he reads a Romanized transliteration : Shou Jên, that he interprets as cooked man.

I later saw that 熟 also means cooked and can have a shou2 pronounciation. But could 熟人 really means cooked person, or did the author just invented this combination?

 

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889

Read it as Burgess lays it out and I suspect he's telling you -- yes, you, the Chinese literate -- that Tristram isn't as capable in Chinese as he thinks. The sort of only-a-few-will-get-it wordplay Burgess enjoyed. Why else would he actually set out the Chinese characters in his text? He was writing for you.

 

While I don't know what level he achieved, Burgess was a student of Chinese from his time in Malaysia.

 

(Doing stuff like this is how you get professors to spend a lifetime analysing your works.)

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flautert

Thanks a lot for your input.

 

Another passage happened before which made me question if he knew what he was doing. Tristam speaks English to an asian-looking guy that answers something like "ying guo hua, wo bu dong".
I would expect the English language to be refered as ying yu or ying wen, and ying guo hua might be used to refer to the specific way English is spoken in England, which would not fit that scene... so I wonder if he knows a lot more than me and ying guo hua is a perfectly fine way to refer to English, or if he is guessing wrong, or if, as you suggest, this was used to imply that the Asian guy's Chinese was poor...  😖

so many variables... 🤷‍♂️

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889

Perhaps the non-colloquial Chinese should have tipped-off Tristram that the sailor wasn't really Chinese. And that indeed he wasn't in a very foreign place.

 

Also, as I mentioned, Burgess took up Chinese in Malaysia. Most Malaysian Chinese speak one of the southern dialects at home, and that has some influence on Malaysian Mandarin.

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Lu

英语 or 英文 is definitely more common, but 英国话 is to my knowledge correct Chinese. I'd blink at it, but chalk it up to different people/groups of people using different words. I once had someone compliment my Chinese saying my 华语 was so good. Word usage varies.

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flautert

I've just test it in Google Translate and it gave "English" as translation to 英国话 (even if it limited its suggestions to 英语 or 英文 when reversing).

Also, it versed cooked person to 熟人! 😬

So, a whole thread could be avoided if I did not rely so much solely on Pleco... my bad

Thanks, guys, and sorry Mr Burgess for doubting you 🤓

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889

I'd be pretty amazed if you could find a Chinese dictionary that gives a literal definition of 熟人.

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flautert

Well, all of them give "acquaintance" as definition for 熟人.

But if you ask google translate what is Chinese for "cooked person" it answers 熟人. I think that, ", in this case, 熟人 is not a chinese "word" per se, but the juxtaposition of the literal translations of the two English words.

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Lu

But 熟人 meaning 'cooked person' looks weird to me. I'd want a two-character word behind 熟, so perhaps 熟人肉 (huh, my input system gets that on the first try). So I think for someone with a good grasp on Chinese, 熟人 even without context would only mean 'acquaintance' and never 'cooked person'.

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Jim

Puts you in mind of one of Sima Qian's better anecdotes about Xiang Yu and his inability to take a sarky comment:

居数日,项羽引兵西屠咸阳,杀秦降王子婴,烧秦宫室,火三月不灭,收其货宝妇女而东。人或说项王曰:“关中阻山河四塞,地肥饶,可都以霸。”项王见秦宫室皆以烧残破,又心怀思欲东归,曰:“富贵不归故乡,如衣绣夜行,谁知之者!”说者曰:“人言楚人沐猴而冠耳,果然。”项王闻之,烹说者。

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889

Actually, if you don't want diners to be confused, you should be using 烹 on the menu, not 熟. Think 烹刑, 烹夫案, 等等.

 

Then again, maybe your menu will be silent about the ingredients.

 

https://m.sohu.com/a/215813070_330268/?pvid=000115_3w_a

 

(Perhaps that link belongs in the strange-things-you've-eaten-in-China thread.)

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imron

Authors, in particular science fiction and fantasy authors, make up words that are not real but that are real in the universe in which they exist.

 

Does 熟人 mean cooked human? No.

 

Could it mean cooked human in a dystopian cannibalistic society? Yes, and in a world where cannibalism is the norm it seems like a great pun.

 

Imagine a similar world where the canned meat was called/branded ‘Your Friend’.  
 

It’s dark humor. 

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