Monday, April 6, 2009

Newlyweds and nearly deads

Having trouble learning Chinese? Cat got your tongue?? NO! The èmó's got it! Dongyue Temple, Beijing Jan. 2005 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

When I was a teenager my family happened to spend some time in St Petersburg, Florida. We quickly understood the epithet the city had: "The home of the newlyweds and nearly deads". It was a place where people went on their honeymoons and where they - at the end of their lives -  moved as retirees and eventually kicked the bucket (wuhule 呜呼子).

As you all know my mind is like a galactic pinball, careening around the universe in search of knowledge to crash up against and alight on. Thus in the recent few days of Chinese class I have acquired some strangely useful vocabulary. I get to steer my language study quite freely so I often choose the subject we talk about. I try and intertwine my new vocabulary with what is going on in my everyday life and what is at the moment happening in China. In an attempt to keep up with: what my son has been reading lately (the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers); a Swedish movie about vampires that AnBr sent me from Sweden (Låt den rätte komma in, Eng: Let the right one in. Recommend it highly, but disturbing); the recent Chinese observance of Qingming (the Grave Sweeping Festival) and a tourleading job that I have in Beijing in a few days (a wedding party) I have learnt the following:

vampire: xixuegui (sucking blood ghost) 吸血鬼
corpse: shiti 尸体
zombie: 僵尸
demon: èmó 恶魔
ghost: gui 鬼
spirit: jing shen 精神
fox: huli 狐狸
fox woman/fox demon: huyao (a woman who was once a fox but comes back in human form, most huyao are bad)
fox spirit: hulijing (a real woman with the behavior or enticing demeanor of a huyao) 狐狸精
grave: fenmu 坟墓
wedding: hunli 婚礼
wedding couple: fuqi
go on a honeymoon: du miyue 度蜜月 (honeymoon: mi yue 蜜月 = honey month)
parents: fumu 父母
freelance: ziyou zhiye zhe
neighborhood committee: juweihui
like to gossip/busy bodies: ai guan xian shi
very gossipy (slang): hen bagua (bagua from the daoist eight trigrams)
some gossip (slang): yige bagua
spy: jiandie 间谍
the walls have ears: ge qiang you er
rubberneckers: kande ren

(Sorry that the pinyin doesn't have tones - how do I do that? - and that not every expression has Chinese characters, maybe Encyclopedia Li can help with that in a comment??).....

The hard part is getting this mental bank of new words, odd facts and unfamiliar customs and habits to somehow attach itself to my rapidly aging brain cells. It's hardly surprising that the weirder the vocabulary the easier it sticks in my consciousness.  You the reader might find this glossary of gore, gossip and goo an unusual mix but in some weird way it is perfectly natural in my mind for a honeymoon to lead to freelancing vampires and blood sucking ghosts that spy on their neighbors and work in neighborhood committees.

You can easily see that during each lesson my teacher (wode 我的 laoshi 老师) and I laugh (xiao乐le) a lot (hen 很 duo 多).


  1. Ingrid:

    Thanks for the new vocabulary. To type in Pinyin, go to MDBG Chinese Dictionary at and choose the option on the left for "Type Pinyin." You can add tones by typing 1-2-3-4 after each syllable, and cut and paste the results into Blogger when composing your posts. Voila!

  2. Roger! Thanks SO MUCH, this will be a great tool, without tones the words aren't that useful (if you are dying to use vocabulary like "vampire" that is!). Great to see that you are still reading the entries ;-)