Language


Random funny conversations I had with coworkers, because we’re bored like that.

The first one has a little bit of background and requires some knowledge of Japanese, but I’ll explain as I go.  One of my coworkers (who is super smart) knows a smattering of various languages (and frequently makes fun of me for not knowing enough of my own, but hey), so I felt at ease one day to thank him for helping me by typing 3Q.

Me: 3Q

Coworker: What?

Me: 3 = san (this is where you need to know Japanese, or Chinese works, too), Q =… well, q.  Like sankyuu.  Thank you?  (I learned this from someone else a while ago.)

Coworker: Doesn’t it make more sense for it to be 39? (3 = san, 9 = kyuu in Japanese)

Me:  …I guess so, but 3Q looks better than 39.  Besides, if you just said 39, people would be more confused.  3Q looks like it could stand for something.

So then more recently, I was thanking him for something again…

Me: 3Q… or 39 if you prefer.

Coworker:

Me: I hope I’m getting that right.  (Bulldozer =>dozer => dozo, which is sort of an informal “You’re welcome” in Japanese.  Yeah, it took me a while to get it.)

Coworker:  Me too.  Since we’re playing in bastardized pseudo-Japanese.

Me:  I think mine is a little less bastardized.

He was about to go home at the time, so he suddenly comes into the office asking, “You think that 39 is less bastardized than dozer?”  I told him that yes, I did.  We promptly had a brief discussion/argument about which one was less or more so, but he ended it with, “So you did get it, then.”  Yes, I did :P  Of course, my poor office mate was like, “What is going on?”  XD

Then as my office mate and I were leaving for the day, we ran into another coworker and started talking about microwaves on the floor (there’s only one public one, but some people have one in their office).  We parted ways with the other coworker and started saying (again) how we should get a microwave, a little toaster oven, maybe a grill, and stack them in this metal shelf thing we have taking up space in one corner.  They would probably fit between the shelves.  We already have a fridge, by the way, so this is like turning our office into a kitchen.

Me: We should get a Hibachi grill!

Office mate:  And we could bring some food, or some meat, and cook on the grill…

Me: Exactly.  On a Hibachi grill!  Or we can do barbecue.  And then people can come and eat and cook barbecue.

Office mate:  The only thing is that if you cook meat, there’s a smell, and it’ll be hanging around the office for a good while.

Me:  It’s okay, we can just use Febreeze.

Office mate: Oh yeah, Febreeze.

Me: Febreeze works for everything.  It’s like duct tape for air!

Yep.  And it’s true.  I really do think that about duct tape — and Febreeze.

I always thought that languages are interesting, especially when some languages only have one word to refer to something, and others have a lot of words.  Something I learned from my parents the other day: family relational names.

In English, we refer to our parents’ siblings and their spouses as “uncle” or “aunt.”  We may even refer to close family friends as “uncle” or “aunt.”  And luckily, it’s just that simple.

In Asian languages, it seems that there is a consistent trend of having different names for different relatives, depending on where they are in the family tree.  This is because, I think, there are a lot of nuances in Asian languages that refer to a person’s status or place.  In Chinese, there are different names depending on if the relative is on the father’s side or mother’s side, and even different names for the spouses on each side.  It’s complicated (more complicated than I had thought, even).

So, for my personal organization and your viewing/educational pleasure, I’ve written the references down here XD

Father’s side

Father’s older brother: 伯伯, bóbo
Father’s younger brother: 叔叔, shūshu
Uncle’s wife (for both uncle types): 婶婶, shěnshěn
Father’s sister: 姑姑, gūgū
Aunt’s husband: 姑爹 gūdiē (where the diē is the same as “dad”), (more intimate reference); 姑丈, gūzhàng (丈夫, zhàngfu = husband)

Mother’s side

Mother’s brother: 舅舅, jiùjiù
Uncle’s wife: 舅妈, jiùmā (where the mā is the same as “mom”)
Mother’s sister: 阿姨, āyí
Aunt’s husband: 姨丈, yízhàng; 姨爹, yídiē is possible, but apparently never used

And when referring to non-relatives of our parents’ generation, we usually call the men 叔叔, “shūshu” (same as father’s younger brother) and ladies 阿姨, “āyí” (same as mother’s sister).

There are also ways to refer to a specific aunt or uncle. Usually we will put “big” in front of the oldest aunt/uncle (e.g., 大舅, “dà jiù” for mom’s oldest brother… and we cut off the second 舅, “jiù” because it sounds better like that… I guess??).

If there are only two of one set, then we can put “small” in front of the younger aunt/uncle (e.g., 小舅, “xiǎo jiù” for the second and youngest brother of your mom).

If there are more, I think we use a counting system (e.g., 大舅, “dà jiù” for the oldest; 二舅, “èr jiù” for the second; 三舅, “sān jiù” for the third.. etc). I’m a little fuzzy on these, though.

Complicated, right?

(Please excuse me if my Chinese characters are wrong or mixed traditional/simplified… I’m illiterate, so I copied them out of here… XD)

Please correct me if I’m wrong on anything! >w<

Happy Chinese New Year!  新年快樂 (Xīn nián kuài lè)! :D

The Chinese New Year, probably more correctly the Lunar New Year, is celebrated by many Asian countries (countries that used to, or perhaps still do, use the Lunar calendar).  The day of celebration for Chinese New Year varies from solar year to solar year, because the lunar and solar calendars don’t exactly match up.  For 2011, the first day of the Chinese New Year fell on February 3.

Of course, Asians love to celebrate (I think, anyways), so it should be no surprise that, unlike the western New Year (from the solar calendar), the celebrations for Chinese New Year can last for two weeks.  In addition to that, I think in some countries, employees get the whole time off to celebrate.  (Why don’t we have that here XD?)  I’ve heard that the longest and most elaborate celebration occurs in Taipei, Taiwan, since Taiwanese culture still retains many of the old Chinese traditions.  (What we typically refer to as the country of China, from what I’ve heard, has a more current view, and so I think that their celebrations may not be as big.)  I’m not really sure on that, though; I’ve never been to any Asian country’s celebrations.

Anyways, Wikipedia knows more than me about all the details >__<;

There are a few traditions that I know of during Chinese New Year:

(1) Lion Dance. Several dancers don a long, elaborate “lion” costume and perform dances to Chinese music and drums.  That’s a terrible description, but XD;

(2) Rice cake and fish. Each year, you are supposed to eat rice cake and fish as part of the celebrations.  This comes from the Chinese saying 年年有鱼 (nian nian you yu), which means something like “abundant/prosperous year.”  This site has a pretty good explanation (and a pretty picture).  Basically, “nian” in Chinese means “year,” but is a homophone for the Chinese word “sticky.”  In Chinese, rice cake is called “nian gao” (“sticky cake”), so we eat rice cake.  “Yu,” which I think means abundant, sounds like the Chinese word for “fish,” so we eat fish also.  Kinda nifty, huh?  I think so, anyways ^ ^  Other traditional meals are dumplings and hot pot.

Fishy-shaped rice cakes I made.  You get both luckies in one :3

(3) Red envelopes. Chinese families also give out “hong bao,” or red envelopes, with money inside.  This is usually given from older generations to younger, so basically kids get a lot of money XP  BUT the catch is, the kids are supposed to do a special bow (it’s called “kuh to” or something, but my pinyin is awful so I can’t find out proper name for it) to their elders and wish them a happy new year.  A similar bow exists in the Korean culture, also.  (See the red envelopes in the picture above, in the bottom right corner.)

You can also say 恭喜發財 (gōng xǐ fā cái), which means “congratulations and be prosperous.”  I guess we’re congratulating each other on surviving the previous year and wishing that the new year will be prosperous?

A funny saying that comes off of this is [恭喜發財,紅包拿來!] (“gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái!”), which means “Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope!”  Usually kids will say this… jokingly.  Well, sort of.  XD

Also unlike western New Year, the Chinese New Year ushers in a special year for those whose zodiac sign aligns with the current year.  The Chinese zodiac consists of 12 animals, and each year is one animal’s year.  Anyone who is born in that animal’s year is then referred to as that animal.  A little confusing, so let me illustrate with this year’s animal.

This year is the Year of the Rabbit.  Anyone born in this year will be considered a rabbit, and for anyone who was born in a previous year of the rabbit (a multiple of 12 years ago, so 1999 was the previous one, 1987 before that… etc), this is considered their special year.  So congratulations, rabbits, it’s your lucky year! :)  I hope it is a wonderful year for you.

!

年 年 有 鱼