28 Sep 2004
Overheard in the office:
> Girl A: 索性的索是…？
> Girl B: 索尼的索。
> Girl A: 哦，知道了。
> Girl A: Which 索 character is the 索 in 索性? [索性 is a not uncommon Chinese adverb meaning “simply.”]
> Girl B: The same 索 as in “Sony”.
[索尼 is the Chinese transliteration for “Sony.” Its characters are meaningless, chosen for phonetic value only.]
> Girl A: Oh, got it!
I recently had the 抽油烟机 in my apartment fixed. I’m not sure what it is in English. Literally translated, it would be “oil smoke sucking machine.” It’s more than just a hood and exhaust fan for the cooking range. Because Chinese cooking uses so much oil and the oil goes into the air during the cooking process, this appliance helps suck in that oil and collect it. As I have discovered, if you don’t have a “oil smoke sucking machine” or it doesn’t work properly, the area around the cooking range gets covered with a thin layer of sticky oil residue every time you cook. Nasty.
So yesterday my landlord showed up to collect the rent, and he brought a repairman with him. Some valve in the exhaust duct had gotten stuck shut. Easily remedied.
What amused me was the way the repairman checked to see if the exhaust fan was drawing in the air. In the past I had used a piece of tissue. He just lit up right in my kitchen and used the cigarette smoke to test it. Of course, after testing the fan he also finished the cigarette.
A Chinese friend of mine made this comparison recently:
America’s September 11th is like China’s 1989 incident. When the anniversary rolls around, security gets tightened big time.
I know it’s an innocent (and true) comment about security, but I felt emotional spasms of revulsion inside when I heard a comparison being made between the two incidents. I don’t think I have to go into why.
(Linguistically, there’s another similarity. As with several holidays and other historical anniversaries in China, the 1989 tragedy is referred to in Chinese by the numbers corresponding to its date. It’s called 6-4 — for June 4th — in Chinese. In the same way, the American tragedy is referred to as 9-1-1 in Chinese.)
P.S. Happy Moon Festival!