Tuesday, 14 October 2008

How to say "I" in Chinese

My brother sent me this.
{translation in brackets like this}

(A foreigner, wanting to learn Chinese, travels a long distance to China to find a Chinese Literature professor. On first day, the foreigner wants to start with a simple term. He asks the professor the Chinese equivalant of "I".)

(Teacher explains: Chinese respects status. As your rank or status changes, “I” also has the different form. For example:)

(Like adjectives in English has different comparative degree, so is I. For instance, you being just came to China, do not have any status, you may use to an average person: “我、咱、俺、余、吾、予、儂、某、咱家、洒家、俺咱、本人、個人、人家、吾儂、我儂。”)

(If you see a teacher, an elder or a person at a higher authority, then should use:"區區、僕、鄙、愚、走、鄙人、卑人、敝人、鄙夫、鄙軀、鄙愚、貧身、小子、小可、在下、末學、小生、不佞、不才、不材、小材、不肖、不孝、不類、走狗、牛馬走、愚小子、鄙生、貧生、學生、後學、晚生、?學、後生晚學、予末小子、予小子、餘小子。")

After you become an official, when you see the higher authority and emperor, then should use: "職、卑職、下官、臣、臣子、小臣、鄙臣、愚臣、奴婢、奴才、小人、老奴、小的、小底"

(When you meet other colleague, you can use: "愚兄、為兄、小弟、兄弟、愚弟、哥們")

(In front of the subordinate, then may say: "爺們、老子、大老子、你老子、乃公")

(If you become the amperor, you say:"朕、孤、孤王、孤家、寡人、不轂")

(If you are not willing to be an official, and become a buddhist priest or taoist priest, then should say:"貧道、小道、貧僧、貧衲、不慧、小僧、野僧、老衲、老僧")

(Last, once you have retired, then all of a sudden you have lost the right and the status, you had to call yourself: "老朽、老拙、老夫、愚老、老叟、小老、小老兒、老漢、老可、老軀、老僕、老物、朽人、老我、老骨頭")

(The above 108 kinds of 'I', is for the male only. More ' I' explanation tomorrow.)

(After hearing all these, the foreigner feels like a bucket of cold water has poured all over him. That night, he cannot sleep. Next day, he says to the professor: "學生、愚、不材、末學、走。" Checks out from the hotel, buys an airplane ticket, returns home.)

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