Day 137: Talking hands

Day 137: Talking hands

Thursday, May 18, 2017

If you truly believe in multiculturalism, you’ll embrace the idea of looking past your native culture as the centre of the universe.

That’s all I could think of when I explained that in ‘dai sau’ (提手) and ‘tai gong’ (提肛), ‘dai’ and ‘tai’ actually mean the same thing, that being to ‘lift’ (提); and the person I was explaining this to snorted, “Why does Chinese have to be so bloody complicated?”

Why indeed?

A simple change to the pitch and inflexion applied to the pronunciation, and 提手 (lifting hand) becomes:

  • 大手 – big hand
  • 剃手 – shaving hand
  • 低手 – lower hand
  • 弟手 – brother hand
  • 太手 – too much hand

I’m happy to explain these differences because I understand that the monotonic delivery of English does not account for pitch and inflexion. That’s a quality reserved generally for music, which is why I tell people that speaking Chinese is like singing a song.

But hey, if you’re not interested, and you believe the English language should sufficiently capture the meaning and nuance of any Chinese 口訣 (verbal formula), then good luck to you.


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