Monday, January 31, 2011

Interpreting Hidden Meanings... and Chinese New Year Greetings...

Just saw this via Mad Dog's shared items, seems like a fun one to try :) (I've translated the entire passage, and had thrown in a couple of stage directions even!)

某老外苦学汉语十年,到中国参加汉语考试,试题如下:
请解释下文中每个“意思”的意思
  
阿呆给领导送红包时,两人的对话颇有意思。   

领导:“你这是什么意思?”   

阿呆:“没什么意思,意思意思。”   

领导:“你这就不够意思了。”   

阿呆:“小意思,小意思。”   

领导:“你这人真有意思。”   

阿呆:“其实也没有别的意思。”   

领导:“那我就不好意思了。”   

阿呆:“是我不好意思。”

老外泪流满面,交白卷回国了
My translation of the above is as follows:

There was once a foreigner who spent ten long years studying Chinese, and at the end of his painstaking scholarship he went to China to take a language test. The test question was given as follows:

Please translate the word "meaning" as it appears in various places in the below passage:

When Mr. Joe Bloggs handed one of the local party leaders a laisee (Cantonese transliteration, also known as "huangbao", literal meaning: "red pocket". A red paper packet containing a small amount of money that is given out to wish others good health and prosperity, usually at a time of festivity, such as the Chinese New Year), the conversation that took place between them was full of unspoken meanings:

Leader: What do you mean by this? [looking at the bulging laisee being handed to him]

Joe: Oh I don't mean anything by it at all, just a small gesture really.

Leader: Well in that case you really shouldn't have.

Joe: Oh please it's only really small.

Leader: You're really an interesting fellow.

Joe: Actually I really don't mean anything by it.

Leader: Well then if you *really* wouldn't mind...

Joe: Oh no I wouldn't at all, and I rather hope that you wouldn't mind either... [smiling as the leader accepted his proffered laisee]

[And scene]

The foreigner was left in tears after reading the above passage, and went back home after handing in a blank page to the Chinese examiner.

The End.

Translated by Snowdrops, 2011. All rights reserved.

Further reading:

新中國政治不是一般人能吃透的。簡單一句話包含的意思可以是完全的正反兩面,語意學在這裏施展不開來。這必須要有點能耐才能把片言隻語背後的深層意義剖 釋,SARS和禽流感爆發之後,中共一些部門發出指引,對於呈報類似疫症有幾條大原則,包括要上報及時、不得隱瞞,末了是「不得亂報」。放在這套文字框架 下的語意,誰都以為既是要求及時上報又不許隱瞞,不得亂報只是附例,是敬告而不是警告。過了一年,細心的人覺得疫症忽然都像少了下來,但每次爆發卻都已是 鋪天蓋地死禽無數,這才想到「不得亂報」這四字是話中有話,實是拐個彎把「不得報」這三個字隱在千把字的通告裏。新中國的人民都是語意專家,只一瞄便知道 黨中央國務院的文件精神在哪,倒是我們特區上下沒有人能看得懂。
From here


2. The Oxford University Press very recently put up a whole list of English terms derived from Chinese words in celebration of the Chinese New Year. It's really brilliant! Like I never knew that "chin-chin" -- the phrase we'd say here when clinking glasses (whether wine- or pint-) together -- is actually from the Cantonese phrase "請請". How great is that eh?

Link here: Hopping into the Year of the Rabbit

Which is also cue for me to say: 祝大家兔年好運!身體健康!萬事勝意!

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