Yapping Yak

THINKING ALOUD

Daily Archives: April 3, 2011

A (stupid after second-thought) language post

If I am a(n information) sponge of any kind,  language will be on top of the list.

So as I was reading Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang (with whom I would trade life with, not that matters), she wrote:

The partners printed up name cards in Chinese and English that said…. Corporations. There was no such entity; at this point, all that existed was a store. “‘Corporation’ makes us sound bigger,” Chunming explained.

Somehow my eyes glued on the word, corporation.

So in English, you incorporate a corporation. You get some business entity incorporated.

Interestingly (not), in Chinese, there is no such a verb that’s equivalent to incorporate.  You chengli (establish) a gongsi (corporation). The verb chengli is totally generic and has nothing in particular to do with a corporation. You can chengli anything, any kind of organization, state, government.

So I wonder, when people use this word, corporation, in China, does it entail the same mind process as people use it in an English setting? Since when people are in the process of chengli this corporation, the Chinese language may reinforce the idea that we are getting something established; make it happen, that’s what’s in the mind. But in English, when people want to incorporate some business into a corporation, when the verb incorporate is being repeatedly used, would people be reminded more of the nature of this process, since it is not a generic term, but some verb that denotes quite a few characteristics that are unique to corporation.  (If I stretch far enough, I can use this to account for the disorderliness and lawlessness there! They don’t know what they are “establishing” anyways. But I need to be careful. So erase what I said above from you memory plz. :))

Do I make sense? Maybe I am over analyzing this simple fact, this simple distinction in the philosophy/structure behind the language, given my training in both languages and corporate law, and making a big deal out of it.

But languages do matter. I almost want to start think that I have different personalities in different language environments. But quickly I realized I was going too far.  Nevertheless, another interesting fact:

In Chinese, we divide food into 2 categories: zhu(main) shi (food), and fu(supplementary) shi (……yes it is food, you got it. pat on the back). Zhushi covers stuff like, rice, noodles, steam buns …basically carbs stuff. Fushi is the rest, meat, veggies, fruits.  But omg, rice, noodles, and their close kin, mashed potatoes, are SIDE DISHES here. What happened?

So I guess I am over-analyzing and speculating. Of course the vocabulary grew out of a certain culture. Chinese people (at least Han people) are agriculture oriented, so this agriculture based culture will lead to a diet that puts emphasis on what come out of the agricultural activity, naturally,  rice, wheat, sorghum. The carbs stuff. That’s the main thing, the filling thing, the one thing that you are hoping for during a big famine, and the one thing you would need to feel full.  People survive on a bowl of rice for days, or a diluted version, called porridge. And the opposite things happened to the apparently less civilized countries where people have to hunt and wander to get food. Tsk tsk, a very unsteady source of food.

BUT, we now all have access to all sorts of food. So we can live on grapes for days if we want to and aren’t afraid of dying of malnutrition (like this one — self-pointing).  Why people from different places still have different ideas of what’s filling….aside from the upbringing (mommy said, eat more rice, you didn’t have enough rice, you will be hungry later). Maybe, subconsciously, people think, hmmm, I need to have more of the main food, focus on the main food,  you know, after all, it is the main food….

Everything is filling to me now. Another reason why you should learn another language. If I work hard enough, I will survive on foie gras ;).

Ah, I just remembered, I just did some repetitive work. There were studies on how people living in the north pole have tons of words for different shades of “white”, hence they appreciate the snow world much more than our mono-white-shade detecting eyes. uh-oh. :-x.

Also, about the book. I resonate with the book so much, that it is plain wrong not to do a post on it later.

Let’s start with the taboo. Not.

[An old post from mid-Oct. last year (Oct. 19). Too much have happened since then. Alas. Let's dig out and brush up the debris, and try to, ah-hem, move on.]

The Intro-:

When I try to think up a tagline for this blog, a word that I saw on some “family friend”‘s facebook profile popped out in my mind: the world is “warped”.

I bet you would agree. Everyone loves a negative comment these days.

Don’t get me wrong. As much as I roll my eyes on a regular basis, I love this world, partly because I feel unjustified not to love it after it has caused so much bitterness and resentment inside  me. And it is just easier to be an optimist.

The Body:

Anyways. So I am currently reading “Out of Mao’s Shadow” by Phillip Pan, a Washington Post correspondent who used to station in Beijing for 8 yrs and is now in Moscow, and it is a rather heavy book, not only because it is hardcover with 350 pages (yes this is heavy for me thankyouverymuch), but also its subject matter.

The Inconvenient truth:

As a China-born Chinese person, the ways I stick to my heritage include, not not limited to: mimicking the proper Chinese version of English as you may have heard from our beloved Russell Peters, keeping pennies in a tinfoil wrapped roll, and being humble. So despite all the blood, sweat and tears I put in my past three years of law school, I still feel that I am not, um, educated enough [insert jokes on re-education here].

Why? Well if I were you I would imagine someone like me would know in and outs about the enaction of AZ immigration laws; nope, and not until today that I find it fascinating and decide that I would later post something on it; and I imagine that I should know more about Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen, um, Incident (?), and SARS; nope, nada, well I mean I know it is BAD, but how? Aren’t we suppose to know how and why through education rather than blindly listening to others, so we can make an “educated” decision?

If you are Chinese or a foreign lawyer who knows a whole lot about either of the above or know a substantial number of people who know quite a bit about either of the two, please let me know and I will take down this stupid post.

My goal today is not to write a long winding piece to criticize the law school education or the Chinese education system. Who am I to talk here. But one line from the Phillip Pan book I would like to quote here, which basically inspired me to do this post:

“The unspoken rule is that loyal Chinese should never say anything to an outsider that would make the motherland look bad”.

Oh my, well put, Pan. I bet Ms. Wang at Duke can’t agree more. As the young people in China become more liberal minded, often times I am baffled about how strong the reaction can be in certain touchy issues, such as Rangzen. Chill people. Chill.

And interesting that I recently talked to a friend about my experiences during SARS. It was my senior year in high school, when everyone in my class was fervently preparing for the formidable college entrance exam

But again, don’t laugh too early yet, American folks, over your Arizona sweet tea. [I don't quite understand this last line. What about the Arizona tea? Me wanna some Arizona tea right now. YK is weird]

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