Friday, August 29, 2008

Trendy Chinese (and English)

A boring blog unless you're one of my friends who can speak Chinese!

You know how some phrases become really popular for a little while and then kind of die? I swear this has happened with a couple of words in Chinese since I've gotten here.

One is "jiang" which kind of means to discuss something, but people use it to ask if I can speak Chinese. I've known what it meant for a long time but I swear until about 4 months ago I never heard it- they would just use "shuo," the more normal word for "speak." I have even convinced a few Chinese people that it's a trend. Jasmine says it sounds like the same word in Taiwanese so maybe it's people proudly proclaiming their Taiwan identity? Seems like a stretch... :)

The other is "xinku" which is a special way of saying thanks. (I think it's the heart xin and kunan de ku, chinese speakers!) Usually you just say "xie xie" but "xinku" (I'm told; I can understand it when I hear it but I've never used it correctly) to thank someone for something they have to do but is hard. So for example the toll collector on a rainy day you can say "xinku ni". But on a sunny day it's regular thank-you. People "xin-ku" me because I drive my scooter to visit them and that makes my arms dark! Ha! The sacrifices I make...

The trend I noticed in my classes is all these kids saying "Oh my god". For some reason it doesn't bug me when native speakers say this but it bugs me when my students do. (One teacher said it's kind of the catch-phrase for a performer on a popular variety show.) So I've taught them "Oh my goodness." Except one class learned the word "nurse" the same day I taught them that phrase so now they say "Oh my good nurse!" It's fine with me but I've started to think about the legacy I'm leaving for the teacher who will replace me. In another class they started subsituting kid's names: "Teacher, can I say Oh my Billy?" I was like I don't care, just don't say oh my god. But one of the kids is named Dick and I finally had to pull the plug on substituting kids name. You can say goodness or good nurse. That's all.

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