One of the things I like about Chinese is that it tends to be quite module-like. There are lots of little structures that you can just modify with new nouns, adjectives or what have you, to create entirely new meanings.
A couple examples:
è¶Š … è¶Š …
è¶Š(æ¥)è¶Š(å¥½) | yuÃ¨ lÃ¡i yuÃ¨ hÇŽo | better and better (lit. more come more good)
è¶Š(æœ‰é’±)è¶Š(å¥½) | yuÃ¨ yÇ’u qiÃ¡n yuÃ¨ hÇŽo | the more money the better (lit. more have money, more good)
åˆ … åˆ …
åˆ(é—·)åˆ(çƒ) | yÃ²u mÄ“n yÃ²u rÃ¨ | stuffy and hot
åˆ(æ‡’)åˆ(é¦‹) | yÃ²u lÇŽn yÃ²u chÃ¡n | lazy and gluttonous
But my all-time favourite of the bunch is the “… to death” structure.
ç´¯æ»äº† | lÃ¨i sÇ le | extremely tired (lit. tired to death)
é¥¿æ»äº† | Ã¨ sÇ le | starving (lit. hungry to death)
æ’‘æ»äº† | chÄ“ng sÇ le | stuffed (lit. full to death)
å“æ»äº† | xiÃ sÇ le | scared to death
Well, all of that is a little lesson lead up to the newest modification of this Chinese phrase to enter my vocabulary:
ä¸¢æ»äººäº† | diÅ« sÇ rÃ©n le | embarrassed to death
It was the end of class Thursday and as the other students were filing out to go find lunch I noticed I had a message from the Mrs. As wives (or husbands for that matter) are prone to do, she sent me a short list of things to pick up on my way home. These lists can contain all sorts of items… milk, bread, duck hearts … just your typical shopping list.
However, my wife, knowing I’m trying hard to use Chinese as much as possible, sometimes includes items in Hanzi, or if she thinks I might not know the characters, in pinyin. The last item on the list was one that even in pinyin I couldn’t recognize. As I was in a Chinese class with a rather kindly Chinese teacher just a few feet away, I figured I’d solve the mystery and ask her.
And so it was I found myself asking my teacher what “bi yun tao” is. She screwed up her face and said she didn’t know, while quickly leaving the class. With a couple classmates, I pondered over its possible meaning, but couldn’t come up with it. We got as far as “tao” possibly meaning ‘peach’.
BÃ¬yÃ¹ntÃ o, as those brighter than me are sure to know, means condoms.