Characters and Shapes
14 Oct 2005
One of the fun things about studying a foreign language is learning the new angle from which that language approaches the world. Part of that angle is a language’s orthography. Below are a few differences of how the English language names shapes (using letters) compared to how Chinese names those shapes (using Chinese characters).
- What shape do migrating ducks fly in?
- English: a V-shape
- Chinese: 人字形 (a “人 character” shape; “人” means “person”)
- What is the symbol of Christianity?
- English: the cross
- Chinese: 十字架 (a “十 character” frame/rack; “十” means “ten”)
- What do you call an intersection of two perpendicular streets?
- English: crossroads
- Chinese: 十字路口 (a “十 character” intersection; “十” means “ten”)
- What do you call a street which ends at another street at a perpendicular angle?
- English: a “T,” a T-junction
- Chinese: 丁字路口 (a “丁 character” intersection; “丁” has a somewhat obscure meaning, but it originally meant “nail”)
- What do you call a street which diverges into two streets?
- English: a “Y,” a fork
- Chinese: 丫字路口 (a “丫 character” intersection; “丫” means “fork”)
Of the types of intersections, 十字路口 is the most common, and 丫字路口 is by far the least common (a Google search confirms this).
I’m sure there are more of these orthographically based shape descriptors, but I can’t think of any more at the moment. If you can, please chime in in the comments.