I recently found out that the people here in the Northeast have their own word for Russians, 毛子. 毛 means hair so I guess the term translates as something like “hairy one”. The nicer version is 老毛子, and the more derogatory is 傻毛子. My neighbour tells me that she only uses 傻毛子, but doesn’t really mean any harm by it, even though 傻 means stupid. If she sees a tall blonde woman in Harbin for example, she will say to her friend, “Hey look at that 傻毛子, she’s beautiful”, with no negative connotations, but she freely admits that it’s a negative word on its own. My coworkers tell me it’s still pretty commonly used, but maybe not by the post-90s generation. Same goes for words like 布拉吉, the Russian loanword for dress discussed in this Language Log post. My 65 year-old neighbour still says it, but her 17 year-old granddaughter refuses to, she says it sounds old-fashioned and prefers 连衣裙.
Then there’s 二毛子, which means someone of mixed Chinese and Russian origin. In this case, my elderly neighbour uses this word a lot and loves to bring up the 二毛子 whenever anything remotely connected to Russia is brought up, but a couple of my coworkers had never even heard the word, including one who is from Harbin, so I guess it’s not so commonly used these days.
I searched multiple dictionaries in vain before realising that it’s a composite character like this one.
It’s a combination of 日日有见财, 日日有财, 日日有才, or 日日有财见. The Baidu Baike page has more info, and better pictures. Basically it means see riches every day, but depending on how you read 财/才, it could also mean learn something new every day.
It is made up of the two 日s on the top, 有 in the middle, with the 月 component of 有 being replaced with the 目 component of the traditional version of 见, 見. 才 is then placed to the right and on top of the last stroke of 見.
A similar Chinese expression to the English “strike while the iron is hot”, is 趁热打铁.
There has been heavy snow in Harbin lately, and apparently people were/are taking advantage of the situation to charge drivers whose cars had become stranded on icy roads 30-50yuan to help them push them out of trouble.
Apparently people were describing this behaviour as 趁雪打劫, replacing “hot” with “snow” and “strike iron” with “rob/plunder/loot”, resulting in something like “Steal while the snow falls”.
Any better translations?
I haven’t posted any chengyu for a while, so here’s one I like, which I’ve heard a couple of times, in reference to myself, haha.
乐不思蜀 lè bù sī Shǔ
It’s used to describe someone who is having so much fun away from home that they forget about their country and/or family.
Shu 蜀 refers to Shu Han 蜀汉, one of the Three Kingdoms. When Shu was defeated by Wei, the last emperor Liu Shan 刘禅, also known as 阿斗, a word that has come to mean a weak and incompetent person, lived comfortably ever after in the Wei capital where he claimed not to miss his old kingdom at all, and the chengyu was born. Almost two thousand years later people are still saying it.
In English, a typical guessing exchange might go something like this:
Me: Guess how old I am
And so on. In English, when someone guesses wrong, we see the right number or amount as the constant, and tell them where it is in relation to their guess. In the above dialogue, for example, I answer by saying “older” because my age is a higher number than the one they guessed, and they need to adjust their guess in order to figure out how old I am. As a result, their second guess is higher than the first.
In Chinese it goes like this:
The difference being that in Chinese the last guess becomes the number/amount being commented on, and in the dialogue above I give the guesser information about their guess, rather than about the actual number by telling them that their guess was too high, making them guess lower, rather than giving them any information about my age. As a result, their second guess is lower than the first.
When the two meet in a second language situation it can lead to confusion, compounded by the use of different adjectives when discussing age, and conversations like this:
Student: How old are you?
M: I said older, older than 30! *gestures upwards wildly*
S: Uh, 28?
This is also a grammatical difference - in English you answer with a comparative adjective, eg. older, whereas in Chinese you use adjective + 了, effectively telling the guesser what was wrong with their guess, eg. 大了, your guess was too high.
Disclaimer: I have tested this out on friends, students, and coworkers, in both English and Chinese, and so far all of the exchanges have gone as above. This could be regional though, and if anyone thinks that the above way of answering an incorrect guess in Chinese is non-standard, I’m happy to stand corrected.
Can’t remember how I found him in the first place, but I’m a big fan of this guy’s videos. Here’s a playlist for beginner calligraphy covering the basic strokes.
Noticed this in the opening credits to a Korean movie. I can barely remember the movie, but the logo sticks in my mind, and belongs to the production company Zip Cinema.
It’s made up of the Chinese character for home/house, 家, and the native Korean word for home/house, 집.
I love how they’ve taken the Korean word and put it under the roof radical 宀, said mián and called 宝盖 (cap for the character 宝), replacing 豕 shǐ which means pig.
According to the dictionary, 家 came to mean house or home because during ancient times people used to keep pigs indoors, so the image of a pig under a roof came to represent a dwelling place.
Back to the name-seal-shaped logo, I think it’s great. It’s clean and simple, and the combination character gives added meaning to the Korean, with a nod to history and tradition, and looks much better within the design than either the Chinese character or the Korean word would alone. Every Korean knows the hanja 家 also, so it’s neither pretentious nor overly Chinese.