Let's talk about awesome words
One of the most charming things about Chinese is the way words are formed by putting together smaller lexical parts (characters). This results in a language that is imaginative and colorful. Let's not talk about the sound transcripted loan words like 巧克力 (qiǎokèlì, chocolate). They are not awesome. They suck.
However, there are some words that, when you learn them, just make you say "Dogg that is so rad." Here's my current favourite: 脑袋, nǎodai. It means "head", and is composed of the characters for "brain" and "container". Bain box. That is totally sweet. "I just got smacked in the brain box". I'm gonna import that.
Do you have any such favourites? Tell me about them!
xiaohuDecember 13, 2009, 09:42 AM
Take 可口可乐 (Coca-Cola), ke3 kou3 ke3 le4 for example. It's made up of 可口 (tasty) and 可乐 (happy), so it perfectly imports the sound and meaning into Chinese.
My vote is to upgrade 可口可乐 to the status of awesome.
bababardwanDecember 14, 2009, 11:36 AM
Great posts.Some beauties silktown.This is why I love etymology.I just learnt that 望 which shows the moon radical on the top right originally depiced a person gazing up at the moon giving the character the dual meanings of gazing into the distance and also hoping,but the rest of the character has apparently changed over time.
0h0h0h0hDecember 13, 2009, 01:01 PM
... words like 巧克力 (qiǎokèlì, chocolate). They are not awesome. They suck.
Seems you didn't understand the "smaller lexical parts" of 巧克力:
clever - be able - strength
Isn't it clever, that eating chocolate gives you strength and better ability?
0h0h0h0hDecember 13, 2009, 02:36 PM
No? Really no?
BUT you said above: If the loan words manage to keep both sound AND meaning, then they're extra impressive and awesome.
You may find REALLY, and I mean REALLY, AWESOME
馬桶 mǎtǒng "horse - bucket"
which in fact is a toilet bowl.
simonpetterssonDecember 13, 2009, 10:11 AM
Actually, yeah. If the loan words manage to keep both sound AND meaning, then they're extra impressive and awesome. So I agree.
Though I wouldn't call 可口可乐 a loan word; it's a brand name. Nevertheless awesome. Good call.
chanelle77December 13, 2009, 11:51 PM
The word 东西 originates from the 5 element system and / or feng shui. Where the direction 东 refers to wood and 西 to metal. So wood/metal = thing!
(This is my favorite Chinese word, if one can have one :-) )
changyeDecember 14, 2009, 01:04 AM
I also think the "wood/metal" etymology of "东西" is very attractive. Actually there is still no universally accepted etymology of "东西". Some say it's originated in "东市场/西市场" (East/West market), others say it's a shortend form of "东南西北", which implies that commodities comes from many places. Interestingly, the original meanings of the characters "东" and "西" are "basket", which is also not an accepted theory, but in this case it seems that "东西 = goods" really makes sense. God knows!
bodaweiDecember 14, 2009, 01:11 AM
My favourite word comprised of 'opposites' is
矛盾 máodùn (verb and noun: contradict and contradiction)
There is an old story about a spear and shield vendor who claims that his shields cannot be penetrated by any spear, and that his spears will smash any shield.
矛 máo (spear)
盾 dùn (shield)
chanelle77December 14, 2009, 01:19 AM
I was hoping for you to comment on this one ;-). Actually I have no scientific proof for my theory, last week asked my teacher how the word originated and this is what che came up with. I liked it, but also like your explanation. One thing is for sure: it is fascinating!
(plus the fact that I buy too many dongxi...)
silktownDecember 14, 2009, 11:16 AM
Here's a brilliant "opposites" word that Western financial gurus like to point out: crisis = 危机 wéi jī = danger + opportunity. Yes!... (but do Chinese people think of it like that?).
While we're talking about opposites, what's the Chinese for oxymoron? Google Translate gives 反比 fǎn bǐ - oppose + together. Nice, but I like the English (well, Greek) = sharp + dull/foolish.
Thanks for 矛盾 máodùn - spear + shield = contradiction, Bodawei, I'd completely forgotten that story.
Words made from opposite characters are neat, but aren't characters made from opposing elements even neater? I can think of:
尖 jiān = point(ed),sharp - from big to little.
友 you3 = friend, left hand and right hand together (but, according to Zhongwen.com, this used to be two right hands).
災 zai1 = disaster. Fire under a roof in the simplified version, but river and fire in the traditional.
silktownDecember 13, 2009, 07:56 PM
I like the words made from two opposites:
东西 dong1xi1 "east west" = thing, stuff
大小 da4xiao3 "big little" = size
买卖 mai3mai4 "buy sell" = (do) business
多少 duo1shao3 "many few" = how many? how much?
There must be lots more of these wonderful pairings? Could someone post some more, please?