April 30, 2007

nigger, nigger…(nei ge, nei ge…)

Filed under: China,language — Kim @ 6:02 am

It’s a rum old world where the Mandarin (world’s most spoken mother tongue) for “umm” “ah” “hmm” “well” “erm” “er” happens to sound exactly like what is perhaps the worst insult in English (world’s most spoken language) for a big and understandably touchy community.

The Pinyin is “nei ge” but when spoken it sounds exactly like “nigger”.

In some (prissy/politically correct) circles “nigger” is simply referred to as “the N-word.” In some circles it’s used as a greeting/term of endearment. In any case, it’s not a word I would ever use lightly – I mean in banter – because it just has too much baggage, and because I’m a Sussex countryside boy who’s lived in Hungary and Asia and so hasn’t really got any black friends, perhaps.

I was reminded of the whole issue this during my debate classes last week. My students, who are good at English and by and large did a great job of debating difficult topics, would often fill in their nervous pauses with “nigger,nigger’ or sometimes just “nigger’. I told them it sounded weird and tried to discourage them from saying it when speaking English.

When I first heard this Putonghua “vocal filler”, I really couldn’t believe it. First off, it’s two syllables for Christ’s sake. To my mind, fillers should be an economical one syllable: Hungarian “Haht”, French “hein”, “ben”, “Errrrrrr” (shrug shoulders), German “doch”. Though there are doubtless some languages where the main vocal filler is five syllables or something. Anyone know? But also it’s just such an unfortunate coincidence that one of the most common words in Mandarin should cause a cringe for most anglophone listeners.

My Chinese wife knows this and tries her best not to use “nei ge” when speaking Mandarin in England. On one occasion in a “Chinese circle” in Brighton she got quite uncomfortable when a white British girl kept on using it. “Doesn’t she know she shouldn’t say that in England?” she asked me later. Too sensitive? Perhaps, and I told her I thought so, but at least she’s trying not to offend people.

And I can’t help wondering whether it has as yet caused offense in America. Some Chinese yakking away near a group of black people who keep on overhearing the word “nigger” and decide to do something about it? Total incomprehension and indignation on the part of the Chinese; conflict ensues…perhaps. A silly scenario, but that, or something similar, does not seem so implausible to me.

And “the N-word” can cause real trouble, even when embedded in another word! One notorious example is when “David Howard, a white city official in Washington, D.C., resigned from his job in January 1999, when he used niggardly in a fiscal sense while talking with black colleagues, who took offense at his use of the word.” (Wiki)

It’s still a loaded word then, and I hope the Putonghua filler doesn’t cause trouble. I also hope that if any disputes do occur over this, the parties concerned will later check out this post and see that no offense was meant.

Hah! And I also hope to be made President of North Korea when Kim Jong-il pops his platform clogs.


As a loosely connected postscript, here’s a Jackie Chan anecdote from


Everybody I know shares the same favorite moment from the movie Rush Hour starring Chris Tucker (who’s as black as the ace of spades) and Jackie Chan (a slanty-eyed type). Tucker’s character has entered a bar and is passing out some friendly greets to his brothers, slapping palms and using the phrase “whaassup, mah nigger?” Later in the scene, Jackie’s character—who is fresh off the plane from Hong Kong and new to this American jive—attempts to perform a common maneuver practiced by mankind for millennia: imitate someone else’s culture to fit in better. He flashes a silly grin at the bartender, says “what’s up, my nigger?”, and almost gets a barstool broken across his teeth.

April 29, 2007

Where is the chinabounder?

Filed under: blogs,China — Kim @ 4:50 pm

Oh, what a bally bounder he is!

And where is he of late?

I definitely suspect that a lot of his sexual escapades are fantasy fulfillment. But if not, then it makes no difference… I mean I still respect his opinions, even if he does get laid/sleep around a lot.

And I loved his last post, “How to get fucked in China”.

And I was intrigued (and alarmed!) by the whole stupid scandal when he got picked on by some absurd rabble rousing psychology “Professor” with a SERIOUS case of “Physician heal thyself”.

And I worry for his safety.

It’s been more than a month since you posted. I miss you. Come back. Tell us you’re alright.

Yours aye


April 25, 2007

Dalian goes BOOM!

Filed under: China,Dalian — Kim @ 4:58 am

Since I arrived in Dalian 3 months ago they’ve struck oil just off the coast, confirmed a $2.5 billion investment from Intel, and now I read in the online Dalian News: Dalian expected to be world’s top tourist destination So…Paris, London, New York, be on your way. Dalian is here!

Actually, the headline was a little misleading. The city fathers of Dalian are “hoping” not “expected”, to win a global tourism award. But what the hell, Dalian is going to fill up come summer with mainland sun and sea seekers plus a whole bunch of Russians, apparently. Not exactly the Cote D’Azure then, but it fills up the city coffers.

There’s no denying this place has a buzz to it. There are new malls and swanky apartment complexes going up left, right, and centre. Intel is coming. The Koreans and the Japanese are already here in quite large numbers and have brought their wonderful food with them. This is a prosperous, attractive, and almost cosmopolitan city.

It’s also, debatably, China’s third largest port, and they’re expanding it. The Dalian New Shipyard is the largest modernized ship assembler in China. Not that I really care…for me the important thing is that the seafood here is plentiful, cheap, and good.

Looking out from my apartment block I can see the sea on one side and mountains on the other. Spring is here. My baby girl upstairs is 2 weeks old and because of the income gap between city and country in China we can easily afford a maid to help us look after her and clean and cook for a few months.

All in all, not a bad place to be.

April 23, 2007

Do you want to unbosom yourself?

Filed under: language — Kim @ 8:24 am

One of my courses at Dalian University of Foreign Languages is called “Academic Writing” and in one recent essay, about blogs and blogging, a student wrote that many bloggers “unbosom themselves” when writing their blogs. I laughed to myself and corrected this to “vent”/”unburden themselves”.

But no! My student picked me up on this and showed me her dictionary. There it was: “to unbosom oneself (v).” Hmmm, crappy electronic dictionaries, I thought to myself and made a mental note to look at a “proper paper dictionary”. It was still there. Well, it’s a codified word I can’t deny. So how many people use it? How many”google” hits does it garner?

The phrase “to unbosom myself” gets 200 and has been uttered by such worthies as Jefferson, Mark Twain, and Daniel Defoe. “He unbosomed himself” gets 506 hits, mostly from 19th century novels it seems.

But still and all, it sounds silly. I mean, dear reader, do you really want to unbosom yourself?

Would you correct my student?

What a great party!

Filed under: China,politics — Kim @ 7:01 am

 Came across this in a recently hao-haoed article.

 Article after article pores over the potential economic reasons for the increase in income inequality in China. We ignore the fact that of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13 million) or more, 2, 932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions in the five industrial sectors—finance, foreign trade, land development, large-scale engineering and securities—85% to 90% are held by children of high-level cadres.

Hey, this is the best party in the world! Rich, contented, beautiful and intelligent people all gathering together and having a party! I can just imagine all the champagne and big houses. How do I get invited?