Stupid or Stay?
26 Jan 2007
As academic director at ChinesePod, one of the things I deal with is the language questions of the users. Some of the questions are easy, and others are incredibly difficult. One of the types of questions I enjoy answering most are the ones that I had myself a few years back. Here is one such question (from this lesson):
> Just curious. Why does the transcript use the character 呆 dāi and not the character 待 dāi? Doesn’t the character 呆 dāi mean “stupid” and the character 待 dāi mean “stay”? Am I missing some fine distinction or something?
> The character 待 (dāi) would seem to make a lot more sense, meaning “stay/reside in a place,” but 呆 (dāi) is actually the character used. If you look it up in a dictionary, you’ll see.
> And yes, 呆 (dāi) does also mean something like “stupid.” But that’s an adjective [technically, stative verb], and it’s a verb when it means “to stay.”
> Are you imagining the following exchange?
> Chinese Person: 你呆了多久了？
> You: 一年。
> Chinese Person: Hahaha!
> You: What?
> Chinese Person: You just admitted that you’ve been stupid for a year!
> You: No, wait! I thought you were using the “stay” meaning! Let me take it back!
> Chinese Person: No way, stupid!
> You: NOOOOooooo…
> Don’t worry, that doesn’t happen. 你呆了多久了? (Nǐ dāi le duōjiǔ le?) will always be interpreted as “how long have you stayed” rather than “how long have you been stupid.”
Anyone know why the character 呆 is used to mean “stay?”