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"Ordinary World" by Lu Yao - Difficult Words and Phrases


Woodford
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On 7/22/2022 at 5:14 PM, Woodford said:

Your comment on #2 makes me think--I wonder whether the gist of the phrase is, "In a place like this, it's a rare opportunity to marry a rich person, so you'd better take the opportunity, because in an instant ("at the turn of a wheel"), it will be gone!"

 

Yes, that was my interpretation, I went for a direct translation to make it clearer and because I didn't know any English terms for it. 🙃 "At the turn of a wheel" sounds good, I was searching for "at the turn of the tide" or something like that but was not sure what that actually meant to a native English speaker.

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On 7/22/2022 at 10:13 AM, Jim said:

For 2. does mother mention he can drive as well, as it reads to me as saying a bloke who's got a driving job wouldn't swap it for a top government post i.e. being a driver is a bout as good as it gets in them thar hills.

  

Ah, yes! Earlier on, the book says that this person is a delivery driver. He asks people if they'd like him to 捎得买 something from the city (presumably, it means to buy something and deliver it).

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I suppose that learning to use Baidu would be the obvious and more practical solution for me! But I guess that I'm lazy when it comes to writing Chinese, and there's some comradery in struggling through a book together with people in a forum!

 

That 二爸 business really messed with my head, too. I thought, "What? Second father? Did his first father die? Well...no. His first father is still alive. Is it like an alternate dad? Somebody who just watches him a lot while the other dad is away?" I slowly and painfully came to the conclusion that it must be some kind of uncle. The word was first used in this really dense section of the book where a bunch of people were introduced at once, and I had a difficult time keeping track of who was related to whom, and how. So the use of 二爸 really didn't help things!

 

I think that, finally, the introduction of new characters has slowed way down, and a fairly basic story line is emerging. Things are getting easier.

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Localized kinship terms can be very confusing. My college roommate told me 爹爹 means father's father where he came from. So I asked him, what do you call your father? He said 小爷. Now 30+ years later I just realized his father must be an only child. https://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1732962647859017321

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Well, after getting 130+ pages into the book so far, it seems like the difficulty has really leveled off. It's not quite as difficult as I thought it would be, and I should have known--the beginning of a book is always more difficult than the latter parts of it. I occasionally stumble on something that's a little bit obscure, but not much that would serve as a great example to post on this thread. Today I came upon an interesting variant of a saying, 剃头担子一头热, "The barber's pole is hot at one end." Pleco didn't have this exact phrase in it, but it did have a very similar one. It means that one person is more enthusiastic than the other (i.e., a boy who likes a girl, but the girl doesn't reciprocate). According to Pleco, the idiom originates from the fact that barbers would carry their equipment on a 担子, and their warm equipment (i.e., to heat up the blades before using them) would sit at one end.

 

@PerpetualChange, how does this book compare to one of those Wuxia novels you've read? I have yet to try them, but I feel that they may likewise have a huge amount of characters (people, not 汉字) and plots, but also really complicated vocabulary on top of that.

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On 7/28/2022 at 12:03 PM, Woodford said:

@PerpetualChange, how does this book compare to one of those Wuxia novels you've read? I have yet to try them, but I feel that they may likewise have a huge amount of characters (people, not 汉字) and plots, but also really complicated vocabulary on top of that

Gu Long novels can be pretty easy but there's always the chance that you could come across some literary Chinese that will just be impossible to parse armed with only your vocabulary and pleco. Jin Yong is another thing entirely, you've got all that plus higher level vocabulary plus illusions to historical events plus swathes of characters and unreliable narrators. I really don't know how you train yourself to be up to speed to read Jin Yong, at this point I do not recommend anybody try to read his works if they are not people who already read comfortably everything else they come across. I tried to read one of his novels last year and though I did finish it it was an awful demoralizing experience that took me to the brink of giving up on the language entirely. 

 

As far as this book goes, I'm not finding it too difficult, but I am finding it difficult to make time to read every day. I'm thinking about just removing SRS reviews from my daily study entirely. It's the thing I most don't feel like doing and the very thought of having to review SRS before I read is the main thing that keeps me from reading most days.

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On 7/28/2022 at 11:51 AM, PerpetualChange said:

but there's always the chance that you could come across some literary Chinese that will just be impossible to parse armed with only your vocabulary and pleco.


I've noticed that same thing in a lot of otherwise easy books I've read--somebody quotes a line from Confucius or an ancient poem. I "read" it by sounding out the characters and seeing if I can glean words and phrases, but I put zero extra effort in figuring it all out. I just keep reading onward. It seems like learning classical Chinese would be a real challenge that's a completely different one from learning modern Mandarin.

 

On 7/28/2022 at 11:51 AM, PerpetualChange said:

Jin Yong is another thing entirely

 

Ha, that's the author I have! I've contemplated just never reading those books, at least not for years. I suppose one advantage is that his books have been translated into English. But on the other hand, it's a real pain to constantly cross-reference English and Chinese editions. 

 

On 7/28/2022 at 11:51 AM, PerpetualChange said:

the very thought of having to review SRS before I read is the main thing that keeps me from reading most days.


I've always reviewed SRS cards after I read (reviewing beforehand sounds interesting--I've never tried that!), and I usually mark unknown words with a pencil so I don't have to interrupt my reading. I normally loathe the thought of writing in books, but I make an exception for my Chinese ones. Over the past several months, I had a daily quota of 14 pages of reading and 14 new words (I would put extra words in a waiting queue). These days, I've cut my reading amount in half, and likewise with the word quota--up to 7 words a day. I, too, am tired of SRS. But I'm getting to the place where I can naturally and gradually stop it, anyway.

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I'm gonna restart this novel, I think.

Too far ahead, lost too many characters, SRS getting away from me.

 

Got to chapter 8 but think it's time to try a fresh restart and see if I can't take some notes in the process. 

 

Edit: or maybe just move on to something easier and come back.

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On 7/28/2022 at 1:08 PM, PerpetualChange said:

I'm gonna restart this novel, I think.

 

I'd have to say that after chapter 8 (maybe around chapter 10) it starts to get less frustrating to read. However, I do admit that I also have a hard time remembering who certain characters are, or the plot line associated with them. I finished a long narrative arc that focused on the younger of the two brothers, Shaoping, and his love interest, Hao Hongmei, and it was a nice, simple, linear story. But now I've reached Chapter 19, and the narrative crosses back over to the older brother, Shao'an, and his love interest, Tian Runye. Oops--it's been many chapters since reading about that plotline, and my brain is drawing a blank. Where did they leave off? What did they do?

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On 7/29/2022 at 2:51 AM, PerpetualChange said:

I'm thinking about just removing SRS reviews from my daily study entirely. It's the thing I most don't feel like doing and the very thought of having to review SRS before I read is the main thing that keeps me from reading most days.

Time to nuke your deck.

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Well it may come as no surprise but I've made the difficult decision to table this one and instead I'll be reading through a collection of 曹文软  books. I really enjoyed the one that we read a year or so ago, and found that it was right at my level.  

 

Although I think that I could actually get through Ordinary World, I just don't have the stamina to really buckle down and do it right now. I just want to read to relax, and don't want to have to exert so much effort just to get through this story. I think that it is more important that I read every single day even if it is just casually, and there may be times in the future where I want to read stuff that will stretch my abilities again.

 

I do hope @Woodford keeps this going though, as I will enjoy having it as a resource the day that I decide to pick the novel back up 😉

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I'm halfway through the first book now, and the difficulty has remained minimal. However, this phrase (particularly the use of 往着) is a little puzzling to me:

 

玉亭接过福堂老婆递上的纸烟,没往着点,别在自己的耳朵上,说:“福堂气管有病,不能闻烟味。”

 

I translate this one as, "Yuting took the cigarette that Futang's wife passed to him. He didn't light it, but he pinned it behind his ear and said, "Futang has a respiratory illness, so he can't smell smoke."

 

It seems that this book uses 往 in that way multiple times. It might be the rustic dialect--I'm not sure!

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Works like "didn't go on and light it...."

As an aside, I always assume the use of 纸烟 in such social contexts is because they were a bit novel in the countryside in those days still, and the default smoke was either a pipe or that sort of rough cigar thing you see.

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点着(zháo) is a verb + resultative complement construction (light-alight).

 

Structurally, 往着点 is a bit like 往死里打 (to beat, with 'death' as the expected result).

 

没往着点 may look strange at first, but I think it's quite natural in this context. Consider this sentence: 他接过递上来的香烟,点着了,深吸一口…… That's the usual sequence, right? What if he didn't light the cigarette? 他接过递上来的香烟,却没点着…… Does that mean he tried to light it but failed? 没往着点 makes it unambiguous: He didn't have the intention of lighting it. It's all because 'to light-alight' ≠ 'to light'.

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