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Nutty Slang from a Guizi

June 9, 2011

It’s common knowledge that when you begin to learn a new language, you learn the most formal way it can be spoken.  Even though I have grown more comfortable speaking the language, I am still conscious of the fact that I don’t know the slang. This is what I have learned so far:

Guizi (鬼子) Meaning: Foreign Devil. This is what people on the subway affectionately refer to me when they talk about how tall I am. At least I saw it coming, my chinese teacher mentioned it offhandedly in class one day. But I didn’t expect it to be used so often!

Fuwuyuan/Laoban (服务员/老板)meanings: in chinese it means waitress and boss. However, in Shanghai they refer to all restaurant staff as laoban. They also say fuwuyuan….but it is often shouted in a way would be considered a little abrupt and impolite in the west.

Xiaojie (小姐)meaning: unmarried woman. Real meaning:prostitute. I learned this the hard way. well, maybe less of the hard way and more the awkward way.

hao de (好的)meaning: a form of confirmation to a question. In class, we always learn to repeat the verb  to answer a question. All we really needed to learn was hao de. It is also better to say it multiple times in fast succession if you really want to drive the point home.

wei(位)Meaning: what you say when you answer the phone. However, usually it is more of a guttural shout that sounds like “whar!” or “AH!” Honestly, its a bit unnerving. I cant tell you how many times someone has been walking a foot behind me and seems to randomly shout “waaar?”

but enough chinese. I failed to realize how much of my own slang sounds so completely strange to many of my foreign roommates. I have kept a running list of “american slang that no one except americans get”.  A few examples:

1. Chick Flick: I told one of my roommates that I had just started watching a chick flick, but that we could change the movie if he wanted. It was a few minutes into him watching when he looked at me and said “which one is chick flick?”

2. Nuts. as an adjective. for example, “this place is nuts” or “That Guy is a nutjob”. Disclaimer: When referring to crazy people among foreigners, don’t call them a nut job. They understand the slang word “nuts” in an entirely different context. same goes for job. I think you catch my drift. This was also an awkward language discovery.

3. Hype. when I asked someone if a bar was worth all the hype, they responded with “no, its actually pretty cheap to get high there if thats what you want to do”.

After more than a few miscommunications, I am learning to speak more formally. I’m also trying to kick that habit I have of trailing off mid sentence when I realize my joke is going to fall flat, it really confuses people here.

In other news- I enjoyed some dongbei cai for lunch today. Dongbei cai is underrated cuisine from the north east of China. Continuing to add to the “strange foods I have tried list”….

Pigs feet and chicken heart. Neither of which I will be having seconds on. While it is still unknown to me why the chinese eat chicken heart, I was told pigs feet helps combat aging skin because of all of the collagen in it. Good thing I’m twenty. Disclaimer: the rest of the food was amazing. so many baos, so little time. Also…sorry dad but I forgot my camera to take pictures of the food.

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