Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lost or Stolen? What’s the difference?

Well, it has always felt a bit like blaming the victim, but whenver something is stolen one uses the word 丢 diu, ‘lost’. I read something by an eccentric who wishes the comment to remain anonymous * that has helped me understand the phrasing and one aspect of life in general here in the developing world:

It’s tacitly assumed that if you care about your stuff, then you’ll do whatever it takes to hang onto it. If it gets stolen, then it’s your fault for not taking proper care, and if you report the theft, you will be considered a fool.

I think I’ll leave it at that lest this turns into a long, meandering tract of rubbish with disconnected chunks of Whorf, iconicity, and relativism.

*probably until he sells the rights to his memoir

Fewer than $10?!?!?!

Speaking about the imminent international release of BBC’s iplayer (only for ipad?!), BBC director general Mark Thompson said that it will cost “a small number of dollars per month, definitely fewer than 10”.

There’s the whole idiotic argument over whether to say 10 items or fewer, but I don’t think I’ve heard ANYONE ever say fewer than X $,£,RMB, or anything.

A not quite so sexy foreign accent

I didn’t start studying Mandarin until I was 19 years-old. Even then, I didn’t really start studying until I was about 22 years-old, so I never had any silly dreams of speaking just like a native speaker. Now, more than ten years later, I know exactly which phonemes and syntactic structures I struggle with and have come to accept those as just being the defining part of my accent.

And so it has struck me as quite odd that three different people here in the Northeast have told me that I sound like a southern Chinese person when I speak Chinese. I’ve spoken to people on the telephone, and when we meet they express shock that I’m not Chinese.

What’s really interesting, though, is that Chinese people who often speak with foreigners can tell immediately that I’m a foreigner. They start to notice the different pronunciation, intonation, etc. that are unique to non-native speakers of Mandarin whereas people who don’t speak with foreigners probably just assume that it’s some accent from another part of the country.