Those of us that learn Mandarin according to the Beijing standard typically learn the expression 二百五 pretty early. While it seems to be the innocent number “250,” it actually has a slang meaning: “stupid” or “idiot.”
Zhao Wei: 十三点
Those of us spending time in China’s south eventually come to a realization: you don’t hear 二百五 that much around here. What you do hear, especially in Shanghai, is 十三点 (“13 o’clock”). While it means basically the same thing as the north’s 二百五, it’s milder, often approaching something more like “silly” or “dopey” (in Chinese, 傻得可爱, or “cutely silly”).
Interestingly, Baidu Zhidao even gives us a poster child for the 十三点 look: a character once played by actress Zhao Wei (赵薇).
Baidu tells us that when it’s used between two people of the opposite sex, it’s often used in flirting (and most often comes out of the girl’s mouth).
As for origins of the expression, Baidu Zhidao gives us two main theories:
1. It’s a reference to an illegal move in a gambling game (6 and 7 can’t be played at the same time, and they add up to 13)
2. It’s a reference to an hour that traditional clocks do not strike (no military time back then!)
13 o’clock: the shirt!
I thought 十三点 might be a fun thing to put on a shirt (more fun than “250” anyway), so I made this new one. I think it’s the kind of thing that laowai would enjoy wearing to see what kind of reaction it gets out of the Chinese, whereas the Chinese can’t fathom why a foreigner would possibly want to wear a shirt with that on it. (Good times all around!)
The Sinosplice shop has other conversation-starting Chinese-themed t-shirts.
This picture, taken over the weekend, shows Barack Obama with his secret evil twin, “Evil Obama,” in Shanghai. (Evil Obama is recognizable by his mustache, goatee, and evilly slanted eyebrows.) Careful study of this photo shows that no Photoshop work has been done.
I’m not sure what Obama is doing in Shanghai at a crucial election time like this, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Evil Obama donning an attractive Sinosplice sweatshirt.
Now, as regular readers of this blog know well, I do apolitical China commentary. In this case, however, it’s Obama advocating Sinosplice. Nothing political about that!
The graphic should be familiar to those that know their American history. The Chinese says 食蛇补身, which means something like “eating snake nourishes the body” (i.e. “snake is nutritious”). I’ll let you figure out what it means when you put the two together.
OK, so you know a thing or two about China. You may even speak great Chinese. You’ve been called an “Old China Hand” on more than one occasion. The real question now is… are you arrogant enough? Well, this t-shirt should help you along on that path. If someone’s 普通话 (Mandarin Chinese) is not 标准 (standard), then they need to know!
Your Chinese Is Not Standard
Possible uses for this shirt include (but are not limited to):
– Humiliating your fellow students of Chinese that are below you. They probably don’t realize that their bad tones and poor palatals hurt your ears. This will tell them.
– Humiliating the nice, hard-working peasants from the countryside. You can understand your Chinese teacher just fine, but you can’t understand these folk when they speak “Mandarin.” They need a wakeup call!
– Humiliating everyone in the south. Because you could walk through any city south of the Yangtze, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone this shirt’s message doesn’t apply to!
– Humiliating yourself. Wouldn’t it be great to wear a shirt that tells people their Chinese sucks (in Chinese), but you don’t even speak the language yourself? I think you should do that.
Anyone who wears this shirt in China is plenty to end up with a story or two. Be sure to share them with me.
[The opinions expressed here may or may not be real, but this is a real shirt. Please support Sinosplice by buying it or something else in the Sinosplice Shop. Thanks!]
If you have ever taught English in China, you have mostly likely heard the saying, “happy every day” (天天快乐) from your students. This ridiculously cheerful saying was my inspiration for this simple t-shirt design:
Is it being sarcastic? Ironic? Wear it and find out what everybody else thinks.
“Happy every day” is available in the Sinosplice Store for less than past t-shirts sold for. (Extensive research has revealed a shocking truth: people like cheap stuff!) Thank you for the support.
Sure, you may enjoy your dog’s company, and maybe he can lift your spirits when you’re down in the dumps. But what does your dog really do for you? Precious few dogs even fetch their masters’ slippers these days (not to mention the morning paper). It’s a disgrace.
So it’s time to put your dog to work! Make your dog into a flashcard. Buy this shirt and put it on your dog, and then instead of merely prancing around in empty-headed glee, he’ll actually be educating you, continually exposing you to the character 狗 (in the perfect context) and how to pronounce it: “gǒu.”
If you’d like to take it a step further, your dog could even educate you on the characters for dog meat: 狗肉. Your Chinese houseguests are sure to love that. (Just be sure they realize it’s a joke.)
Note: After creating the “dog meat” t-shirt I did a check, and indeed, I am not the first person to make such a shirt. Gou-rou.com had already thought of it (shocker!). Their shirt promotes their website, and mine promotes education, though.
…or your indifference, or your befuddlement, or your joy of pushing people’s buttons. Wear one of these shirts:
The simple design in the t-shirts above is based on one I did in 2002 and called “Sinoamerica.” I like it largely because its meaning is so ambiguous. It’s unity, it’s harmony, it’s neutrality, it’s loss of identity. The colors stay blithely out of nationalism’s grasp.
For a long time I’ve liked the idea of designing t-shirts. Last year I did a tiny experiment in the form of a “Please speak Mandarin” t-shirt. I wanted to know if anyone would buy a t-shirt I put up. I figured if anyone went for something that simple, then it might be worth putting a little more effort into it. Well, some people did buy that design, and now that the weather is warm again, this is my second baby step in the t-shirt direction.
Anyway, I appreciate the support. I’ll be putting out a new t-shirt every Sunday this summer. Here are the links to buy this design: purple, green, brown, gray, the Sinosplice Store. Thanks!
Some of you may have noticed that when I put up my new Tone Pair Drills I added a new Products section to this website along with it. I’ll introduce one of the items here from various fascinating sociopolitical angles.
The shirt says 请讲普通话 which means “please speak Mandarin” (rather than some other local dialect). The inspiration for this shirt can be seen at countless bus stops all over Shanghai: completely ineffectual “请讲普通话” propaganda. The Shanghainese continue blissfully barking at each other in their dialect regardless.
Simply by wearing this one shirt, you can:
– subtly poke fun of the PRC’s language policies
– inform Chinese people around you that you want to talk to them in Chinese
– inform Chinese people around you that you don’t want to engage them in whatever crazy dialect they speak (especially useful in Shanghai)
But I also created this shirt for another special reason. My roommate Lenny plans to move to Taiwan in December. He has made it clear on several occasions that he won’t put up for the degenerate dialect of Mandarin the Taiwanese call 国语, and he has made it his personal mission to reform the speaking habits of the whole island.
While I’m sure he will have no problem at all with that task (maybe he can even get Prince Roy to help, although Mark and Poagao may be thorns in his side), I thought he could use this shirt to aid his righteous crusade in some small way. The shirt is great for Taiwan because:
– The Taiwanese never say 普通话 (Mandarin), as that’s a politicized PRC word; they say 国语 (also Mandarin).
– Three out of five of the characters on the shirt are simplified. Simplified characters are, of course, an aesthetic affront to the Taiwanese which offends every fiber of their being.
Obviously there are many reasons why you need to order this shirt now. (Oh yeah, also: I ordered some merchandise before deciding to go with CafePress, and I can confirm that the quality of their stuff doesn’t suck anymore.) For more Sinosplice merchandise, check out the Sinosplice Store (more stuff to come soon).