Reverse logic syntax

August 02, 2009, 03:42 AM posted in General Discussion

Here's a sentence that has bewildered me. From an English language viewpoint, it is a reverse logic syntax - meaning just the opposite of what the Chinese sentence means. The sentence is found in the Simple Electrical Stuff lesson:

English translation: Huh? Doesn't that mean I wasted my money buying an American computer?

Chinese sentence : 啊?我的美国电脑不是白买了?a3? wo3 de Mai3guo2 dian4nao3 bu4shi4 bai2mai3 le? Lit: My American computer is not in-vain bought?

白 bai2 = in vain

白买 bai2mai3 = to buy in vain

therefore 不是白买 bu4shi4 bai2mai3 should be = 'not bought in vain' or not wasted money. Instead, in the sentence it meant 'did buy in vain'

So the sentence 我的美国电脑不是白买了?from a WB perspective should mean 'I did not waste my money buyinging my American computer in vain?' but instead the correct meaning from EB perspective is 'I wasted my money buying my American computer.'

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August 02, 2009, 04:05 AM

hmmm..... not such a fan of double negatives being allowed in chinese myself...

How is "That doesn't mean I bought an american computer in vain!?!?" for a translation?

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August 04, 2009, 12:53 PM

Hi paulinurus

"" (qi3) might be the most important word for rhetrical question in written Chinese. There are a lot of 岂-words listed in a dictionary, such as  岂不是,岂非,岂敢,岂可,岂肯,岂能,岂是,and 岂止, which I think is worth looking into. Here are some other examples that carry a rhetorical connotation shown in one of my grammar books.






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August 03, 2009, 04:35 AM

Thanks guys but I'll have to unscrew my WB and fit on EB and read this more times to see if I can get  不是白买了 to mean he regets buying the American computer.

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August 03, 2009, 04:52 AM

Hi paulinurus,

I'm not really sure what the confusing part of this sentence is. Basically, you can think of it as "Doesn't that mean I wasted my money buying an American computer?"

If the speaker were just asking a direct question, they might say something like "我的美国电脑不是白买了?-- Was it or wasn't it?

Please let me know if this is still not clear.

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August 03, 2009, 06:15 AM

here 's a great example of double negative rhetorical enquiry:


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August 02, 2009, 02:23 PM

Hi paulinurus

不是白买 bu4shi4 bai2mai3 should be = 'not bought in vain'

不是白买 is not the same as 不白买/没白买 (not buy in vain/didn't buy in vain). I can't explain it well, but maybe 不是白买 should be understood as  不是[(我)白买]. Anyway, it's a rhetorical expression. The guy regrets buying the American computer.

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August 03, 2009, 06:25 AM

"Rhetorical question" is one of important functions "不是" has. Here is a good example.

我不是说了吗? I told you, didn't I?

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August 04, 2009, 12:12 AM


哈哈,yes EB (East Brain) could be ethidium bromide for WB (West Brain) when it flouresce as a lightbulb upon understanding the EB language.   

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August 04, 2009, 12:42 AM

Hi paulinurus

Thanks a lot for your clarification. Gee, I should have looked at the title of this groupe more closely before asking you the question. I got Embarrassed Badly, hehe.

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August 04, 2009, 02:34 AM


Before I forget, two more short forms used in this group:

g-word = Chinese grammar

MM = meeting of the minds (EB and WB) i.e. the two brains know each other i.e. there is a resolution on a certain topic. 


Thanks for your comments. I slept with my EB on, there is some light today however there is still no light bulb moment yet. My sub-concious mind has not come up with a resolution (perhaps there is a short-circuit from all the excitement in the 算了affair) on how to formulate a rhetorical sentence in Chinese. I'd appreciate if you could give me more examples on rhetorical Chinese sentences.

p.s. Casselin, in case you've not come across being addressed as 'guys', in the West, males and females can be addressed as guys, don't ask me why :-)  



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August 03, 2009, 06:20 AM

Hi paulinurus

Incidentally, what do you mean by WB and EB? Are they "weather bureau" and "ethidium bromide"?