Thursday, September 11, 2008


This is what they call rock-paper-scissors in Taiwan. At first I thought this was just non-American English from our non-American trainers, and maybe that's true (if you're from New Zealand, feel free to comment!) but there are a few other reasons behind it.

First, it makes a nice rhythm to say "pay-pah, siz-ah, STONE!" pumping your fist on the first two words, then revealing your choice on stone.

Also, when they play it in Chinese, the words make the same rhythm, but I think in Chinese it's scissors-stone-paper. And this game is like the national past-time of Taiwan. Kids will play it on an escalator- winner goes up a step. Or when they're standing in line. They play 2-handed versions and can use it to decide who will go first in a group of 6 kids. Some like to play a game where the winner gets to try to stomp on the loser's feet. There are endless varieties.

I've also heard a more erudite explanation- in the West, we value the strength of rocks, but in Chinese culture, learning (ie paper) is most important. Mmmm... that seems like a stretch.

(Although one of the Hess reading books is about a fictional trip to the science museum where the kids learn that the Chinese invented "paper, kites, and umbrellas." It seems, first, like if you invent paper, kites and umbrellas are going to follow pretty quickly. And in a world with things like the wheel, pizza, and computers, inventing kites doesn't secure your culture's place as Smartest Culture Ever. But I swear I have graded 1000 homeworks and tests where kids have to recount those 3 things as proof that Chinese people are smart. Except when kids can't remember the answer and write things like "The Chinese invented food" or "Yes, what did the Chinese invent.")

No comments: