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Monday, March 30, 2009

Peace Out

A couple of weeks ago, in Chinese class, I came across a character I couldn’t quite get. I knew the meaning – or at least what I THOUGHT was the meaning - but I couldn’t understand how that particular word fit within the sentence I read. Mandarin is so fluid, with meanings changing depending on context, so I asked Beijing Boy for some help.

TONGGU MOMMA: Beijing Boy, what does this character - - mean here?

BEIJING BOY: You mean “he2?” That means "and."

TONGGU MOMMA: And? AND?!!!!?!!I thought it meant "peace!"

BEIJING BOY: No, it means "and."

TONGGU MOMMA: No! I can’t believe it means "and." Are you SURE?

BEIJING BOY: (puzzled at my over-the-top freak out) I’m sure.

SHANGHAI SWEETIE: Let me see.

TONGGU MOMMA: (points to the character )

SHANGHAI SWEETIE: It can mean peace, too, Tonggu Momma.

BEIJING BOY: It can? Really? Are you sure?

SHANGHAI SWEETIE: Yes… like in 和平… you know, “he2 ping2?”

BEIJING BOY: Oh… right. It CAN mean peace. Or unite. Hence the "and" meaning. Chances are, though, when you see this character, it means "and." But, yes, it can mean peace or unity.

TONGGU MOMMA: (immensely relieved) Oh. Thank goodness.

BEIJING BOY: (still puzzled) Why was that so important?

TONGGU MOMMA: Umm… (totally flashing back to home)

TONGGU MOMMA: No reason.

Let this be a warning to y'all. Beware when tattooing your body. Beware when decorating your home. Otherwise you might be proclaiming "AND" to all who enter.

45 comments:

Steffie B. said...

Oh dear....I have theought about a tattoo.....but the hubs doens't like it.....and I wouldn't want the word AND.....on me! lol

Buckeroomama said...

Chinese confounds me still and it's only now that I'm starting to truly appreciate the beauty of the language. :)

Aunt LoLo said...

Hahaha From a girl who can't READ, I totally thought "peace" when I saw the character, too!

Dawn said...

Just one of the many reasons why I'll never have a tattoo!!!

Blessings!

The Source said...

Too funny! I always wonder how many people who wear shirts or have tattoos in other languages actually KNOW what they say or just THINK they do.

mama d said...

Just like the 母女 necklaces on Red Envelope. Two characters that mean "mother and daughter" only when placed together.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

So funny! It really is a beautiful character.

sara said...

HA!!!!! Well, at least in your case it was a garden rock, right?? And not body art? That is awesome!!

I was always wary about that, cause I KNOW a tattoo artist would mess with me :) MY lovely character tattoo would say "I"m a loser" or something classy like that!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

For the life of me... I could never figure out the whole Chinese Characters thing but I guess if you practice...

Sarah said...

If I ever find anything in Mandarin decorative I'll come to you first. Deal?

Marla said...

LOL, how funny is that. I plan on having the character for family tattooed on me soon, and I did check it out with a Mandarin-speaker first to make sure I had the character right. :)

Patricia/NYC said...

Well, that can get a bit dicey, that's for sure!!

And for the record, when I saw that character I immediately thought of PEACE!

Glad you have some PEACE with it all now! ;)

Rhonda said...

That's really funny! You know why? I have a peace mousepad too, but the character is completely different.

I got it a while ago, when the wait was lengthening (insert eyeroll...or making rainbows here), I wanted to find some inner peace while I looked at RQ (HA!) Knowing my luck it means mouse turd.

Hmm...

Lula! said...

This is brilliant! And totally reminds me of the time a friend of mine from high school had Genesis 2:24 inscribed on her husband's wedding ring, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife..."

Except she had Genesis 2:25 inscibed, by accident. "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."

Seriously...it happened.

Sherri said...

Do you think they laugh at our translations to Chinese the way we laugh at the translations to English in China?

I'm guessing yes.

Patty O. said...

ok, between you and lula's comment i have gotten a really good laugh today. thanks!

Valarie Lea said...

My daughter had her friends mother, who is Japanese, write out the word strength, and she had it tattooed on her hip. She is 18 she reminds me of that constantly. Anyway, I just really hope that it actually says strengh!

Beth said...

I have the Chinese symbol for "heart" tattooed on my ankle. It's always in the back of your mind, wondering if that's what it really means. I was so happy one day when we were at the local Chinese restaurant, and the guy working there said something about the "heart on your ankle." Now I know that's really what it means!!

Kiy said...

When we lived in Japan I had this Japanese friend who thought it was hilarious to see Americans walking around with Japanese characters tattooed on their bodies. Then, she started telling me what the meanings were and what she thought they thought the meanings where. Not even close to the AND and PEACE here. I have never been a tattoo person, but this just goes to show - if you must tattoo, use a language you know, intimately!

Good to know about the peace though. Although, welcoming someone into your house stating AND could cover so much! As in, you never know what can happen when walking into this house. Dinner AND ..., play date AND .... . Really, the possibilities are endless. :)

Cheers!

Kiy

Suzy said...

Thanks SO much TM! I needed a giggle right about now.

happygeek said...

Well, if it only meant and you could tell people that it was referring to the mythical baby in China. As in and...

prechrswife said...

Too funny. I did get a necklace with Chinese characters when I lived in south GA, and the first time I remembered, I took it to the owner of our local Chinese restaurant who confirmed that it was translated correctly. I've heard too many stories about things that didn't. :-) I remember being at a college football game and a girl was wearing a necklace with a Mandarin character on it. A Chinese student, who was also a friend of ours, looked at it and told her she was wearing it backwards. Of course, he was the only one who noticed. :-)

Misty said...

um, yeah, i DO have a chinese tattoo on my ankle as well. i always get ppl asking if i really know what the words mean, but i'm confident b/cs the girl who wrote them for me is taiwanese and was happy to make sure they were the right characters!!! i just wish i could still pronounce them. this is going to sound dumb, but i got my tattoo kind of before the whole world started getting obsessed w/ asian characters, so sometimes i wish i hadn't gotten them, but it was right aftr my mission trip to china and it meant so much to me. besides, it was my first tattoo! :)

Janet said...

Oh, that is soooo funny! I betcha he was puzzled.

PS- How come you didn't show us your tattoo?

Gail said...

Oh...I needed a good laugh. Thanks TM!

Gosh I admire you for taking the class...

mumma to many said...

Yes it is always a worry and here we have loads of Cantonese speaking families so they have to check what the Mandarin is!
:)
Hugs Ruth in NZ

Lisa (Briana's Mom) said...

"And" to you and your family. ;)

Beach Mama said...

Good lesson! I have learned to be careful when buying clothes, or anything with "asian" charaters on them without making sure I know what they mean!

Donna said...

That totally cracks me up! :)

Donna
Our Blog: Double Happiness!

Blogging Mom said...

LOL! I know how difficult it must be to learn Mandarin. I love Chinese characters on figurines, shirts etc..but indeed your warning makes sense. Sometimes I can't seem to figure out what they mean, and I'd end up not buying them. Sometimes I wish the store personnel knew more about the stuff they are selling.

Colleen said...

LOL I am so impressed with you learning Mandarin. I have trouble with english. I would flunk! I think I would of flunked spanish but the teacher hated our class so much she quite : )
Peace out!

CC said...

Good thinking. ;) My friend had "diamond" put onto her neck in Korean. My immediate thought was "oh my gosh, did you have that triple checked for spelling and accuracy before some European put it on there forever????"

Lanxi said...

You see so many inked with chinese characters, and I really just want to ask them if they know what they mean, or if some dude with a needle told them it would be great.

Lanxi said...

Btw, I gave you an award. Stop by and see :)

Cheri said...

Way too funny. Some of these replies have me cracking up too!

The Byrd's Nest said...

LOL...you always make me smile.

Kerry said...

Oh so funny- a girlfriend of mine got a tattoo of a Chinese symbol and thought it meant one thing and I had to break it to her that it had another meaning! Boy- she was not happy- but is living with it and is not going to trust a tattoo artist's again!

Michelle said...

Oh, you remind me that I SO need to get started on learning Chinese. I really, REALLY do!! Could you please come teach me? I mean, it's only a few states away. Pretty please?

Mei-Ling said...

hey, that's what my blog is named after. :)

RamblingMother said...

LOL and "And" to you too!

Kayce said...

I'll be sharing this with my mom who already has a peace sign on her body and has thought about adding the the Chinese character as well...she'll have to think twice about it now. ;)

You always make me smile by the way...your writing style is the BEST!!

Holly said...

While faceless, you are very amusing!
Thanks for sharing!
I don't think I will be splurging for a tattoo until they start offering epidurals!
Blessings,
Holly

discombobulated said...

:)

alece said...

speaking of mandarin and tattoos...

i'm thinking of getting the word "enough" inked on me somehow. i'd love to see what it looks like in mandarin. any chance you can help a sister out?

autumnesf said...

That is pee-your-pants funny!!