Chinese Corner

Meowing in Mandarin

Cat Memes, Cat Life – Liz Carter

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that cats meow the same in China as they do everywhere else – the onomatopoeia for their sweet siren call is miāo 喵. The word for cat practically mewls itself: it’s māo 猫, which is also a close homophone of the word for fur or hair, máo 毛, all of which is just as ubiquitous as their miāoing. In addition to meowing, cats can also cèng 蹭, which is when they headbutt/rub up against you (or a table, or a door, or anything as yet unmarked).

Chinese Corner

Love You to Death and Back

How to Romance in Mandarin – Liz Carter

Love is in the air, or at least all over social media and the candy aisles of your local convenience store. Valentine’s Day is occasion for many a confession of love or vow of faithfulness, including in most of the Mandarin-speaking world. So how do you woo in Mandarin?

The answer is, in much the same cliché way as in English. You can fall in love at first sight (yí jiàn zhōng qíng 一见钟情) or come to love someone over time (rì jǐu shēng qíng 日久生情). You can love for someone for the rest of your life (yī shēng yī shì 一生一世) or even to death and back (sǐ qù huó lái 死去活来).

Chinese Corner

Animal Associations

An introduction to the Mandarin menagerie – Liz Carter

When you say someone’s foxy, you would expect your listener to know that you meant he or she was very good looking. But like many things, these associations don’t always translate in Mandarin, where calling a woman a total fox can get you slapped. Animal associations and metaphors, which vary from person to person and place to place, can be tricky for the language learner. To that end, here are a few fauna-related expressions to give the lay of the land in the Mandarin animal kingdom.


Drama Roll

Liz Carter reviews Tom Mullaney’s The Chinese Typewriter

Ever since the rise of personal computers in the 1980s, the typewriter has become an object of nostalgia, and commitment to one the mark of a luddite, ranging in likeability from Frank Navasky, the eccentric reporter in You’ve Got Mail (1998), to the Unabomber, who composed his letters on a Smith Corona. The Chinese typewriter, which has been even more displaced by modern word processing, is less well known, especially to those unfamiliar with the language and script.

Chinese Corner

Full of Bean Curd

Tofu metaphors in Mandarin – by Liz Carter

Nothingburger. Pizza face. A bun in the oven. Food is ever present in our lives, nurturing us as well as our metaphorical expressions. It should come as no surprise that Chinese cuisine, with its different ingredients and techniques, has inspired very different spread of food metaphors. In particular, one category exists in Mandarin that is virtually absent in English: tofu quips.