Archive for May, 2008

Sichuan Mix-up

Ever heard of that mix-up where a Middle Eastern man asked the lady at the train station for a ticket to Turkey but ended up in Torquay? Part of the fault lies with the lady at the counter for not double-checking with the man. The other part falls on the man for his bad pronunciation.

This could well happen in China where so many of its provinces sound similar. Take for example Sichuan which was devastated by the earthquake. Most newsreaders call that place Xichuan. However I feel that allowance for errors can be tolerated to a certain extent.

And then there’s Sanchuan in Kuching. No it’s not a county but the name of a restaurant. The English equivalent is The Banquet which doesn’t do justice to its real meaning “3 rivers/tributaries”.

The challenge therefore for all of us is to learn the basics of Romanised Hanyu Pinyin. Do you think that’s possible?


May 31, 2008 at 10:08 am 2 comments

Baby Talk

STP was telling me that I was getting too serious with each new post. So to address that problem, I have decided to look at something ‘light and easy’ (his exact words).

Do you still remember the baby talk that you were showered with when you were a wee kid? If you can’t, the following will help you if you are parents-to-be and if you speak Hokkien:

  • Oh-oh (sleep)
  • mum-mum (eat)
  • nen-nen (milk)
  • pong-pong (time for a bath)
  • shee-shee (urinate)
  • uk-uk (defecate)
  • bok-bok (toys)

You notice that the duplication of the same word helps the child to remember the thing mentioned. Some of these items are even onomatopoeic. Uk-uk speaks volumes, don’t you think?

Do take some time today to play with your bok-bok and before you oh-oh, do mum-mum.

May 30, 2008 at 9:27 am 4 comments

Floral reefs

Periwinkles told me recently that she read about this burial site which was full of floral reefs. To be fair to her, she got that piece of news from a local daily. What got me all excited was that this happened in Sarawak, a state which has always been dear to my heart. This novelty would surely draw a lot of tourists, so I thought.

It turned out that there was nothing unusual about the whole thing. If it were coral reefs, that would still be something. But as you must have guessed by now, those were floral wreaths.

May 29, 2008 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

Thanking and Wilting

When I went for Mass this morning, I was drawn to these words when the first reading was proclaimed:

All flesh is grass and its glory like the wild flower’s. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains for ever. What is this word? It is the Good News that has been brought to you. (1 Peter 1: 24-25)

You know what thoughts came to me? The character (pronounced as xie4). In Mandarin, this word/character can either mean thanks or wilt.

It was only until recently that I came to know that xie4 has another meaning which shows the ephemeral nature of things. I’ve always thought that it meant only ‘thanks’ as most learners of Mandarin can attest to. Imagine my shock to learn that such a good word can have a negative side to it.

But today’s reading helps me to see this in a more positive light. If flowers never wilt, then we’ll grow complacent and think that earthly delights can satisfy us. If grasses remain evergreen, then we will never know that there’s a better place after we leave this mortal world.

The Good News is that it is not so. I should be thankful when I see earthly beauties fade for it is then that I’ll be able to see the essence that brings forth true beauty. To me, the essence is the Creator who shows us glimpses of Himself in this world.

And I’m thankful that the Chinese came up with this homophone Xie4 which is a reminder to us that when we see things wilting, we should be thankful because there’s something much better after this. Don’t you agree?

May 27, 2008 at 11:54 pm 2 comments


If someone asks for a torchlight

Instead of a torch

Then you just shine the light at him.

If someone insists That’s mean

is similar to That means

Then you know you need to learn the new lingo.

And if that someone says Wine

sounds the same as vine

You can retort–I hop not.

But if you know it matters

How words are pronounced or used

Then you’re meant to be a teacher.

May 26, 2008 at 6:55 am 3 comments


There once was this lady named Siaw Phing who decided to get for herself a bicycle. So off she went to this shop in Padungan. Being Hockien, it was natural for her to ask the shop owner in that dialect.

Lu e ka chia tat juat cheh?” (Translation: How much is your bicycle worth?)

Cheng sa

A si mai cheng sa, kui lui leh?” (Translation: What if there’s no shirt, how much then?)

May 26, 2008 at 4:55 am 2 comments

Hard and soft Gs

When I first heard the news on our local radio that Myanmar was struck by the dreadful Cyclone Nargis, the newscaster called it najis. So what came to my mind were tons of droppings (be they from humans or animals) sweeping across the nation.

That’s the problem with English. There are times when words should be pronounced with a hard g as in get but a soft g as in gestation. Do you think it matters?

May 26, 2008 at 1:30 am 2 comments

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