Chu/Zhu1 (mom’s surname) is the 16th most common Chinese surname, and Tuan/Duan4 (dad’s) is the 118th most common Chinese surname, according to http://zhongwen.com/xingshi.htm which I found from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_family_name

i like this part of the wiktionary: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Chinese_Pinyin_index though i haven’t found a good way to go from english to chinese? it seems that some of the wiktionary entries have translations to many european languages but no asian languages… though some do… and when using the google full-text search no entries come up for “pomegranate,” which is disappointing, becauase I’m not going to go through all of the entries under “shi2” to find “pomegranate,” and…. wait, what am i doing? i have a physical chinese-english and english-chinese dictionary i can look in. but it’s a concise one, and i was disappointed with it ever since my students couldn’t find “zhang1 lang2” (cockroach) in it, but they could in their little electronic ones. let’s see if pomegranate is in my concise oxford chinese-english english-chinese dictionary.

haven’t found it yet, but “P.C.” is in the dictionary. P.C. stands for Police Constable.

ok. pomegranate IS in the english-chinese part of the dictionary. the chinese is “shi2 liu.” no tone is given for the “liu” part, which i find slightly odd. and the “shi2” is indeed the character for stone. so then i looked under the chinese-english part, under “stone,” and “pomegranate” (and the characters shi2 liu”) are not listed there, which is slightly odd also. so then i looked under the chinese-english part for “liu,” and indeed, under “liu4,” there is the character listed in the english-chinese part for pomegranate, and the translation is pomegranate.

maybe “liu4” and “shi2 liu” are both used interchangably for “pomegranate.” it annoys me that it’s listed as “shi2 liu” in the english-chinese part and as just “liu4” in the chinese-english part, though. because it’s confusing. like, i can understand that the “liu4” part of “shi2 liu” is what makes it refer to pomegranate, but like, why not just include it under the listing of phrases for the character under “shi2” for stone?

it is really confusing to type out why i am confused because i keep having to explain that there are lots of homonyms, and that is why i have to say “the character for stone that is pronounced shi2/listed under shi2” because just “shi2” is not enough, but saying “the character for stone” is not enough either cuz there might be other phrases or words that mean stone

also, i might as well explain that in chinese, you have lots of “compound words” that i call “phrases.” i call them “phrases” because in chinese school, we had “zhao4 ju4” which meant “make a sentence with this word,” and “zhao4 ci2” which meant “make a phrase/word with this word” (and actually i think ci2 really means “vocabulary word” or something, but since it was always more than one word, i always thought of it as a “phrase”).

so anyway. “compound words that judy calls phrases.” like, the word for car, as in “something that transports other things in a compartment on wheels” is “che1.” an automobile is “qi2 che1” (vapor/gas car). a train is “huo3 che1” (fire car). a truck is “ka3 che1” and i don’t know what “ka” means. ok, i looked it up. it means to block or check something. wierd. so a truck is a “blocking car.” weird. but anyway. so in many chinese “compound words” that i think of as “phrases” because they have more than one character are actually “words” because they must go together to correspond to a single english word, like how “huo che” is “train.”

so the point of me going through all these circles was that the word for stone added to the word that holds the meaning for pomegranate makes the word pomegranate. and i have no idea if you could just say “liu4” to mean pomegranate. you probably cannot.

i think chinese is a cool language because i think it makes sense in a lot of ways. new word? ok, make it up out of existing words that mean that. this car runs on fire? call it a fire car. once ramon said that that’s what you do with japanese, too.

hey i bet this causes problems for people making dictionaries. cuz when you have a “compound word,” especially on a hypertext dictionary, do you make a separate entry for the “compound word,” which is actually really another word, or do you also link to the individual characters themselves too? like, how would you easily represent this? i just looked up “banana” in the wiktionary, and they do have the characters in Chinese (xiang1 jiao1), but nobody has made an entry for “xiang1jiao1” the “phrase/compound word/word” yet. and they do not link to the individual words “xiang1” and “jiao1.” i think they should link to entries for both… like, i guess you would have to list it twice. no no no that’s retarded… just link to the “phrase/compound word/word,” and then from there, link to the entires for the separate characters of the “phrase/compound word/word.” yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh.

like i know the xiang1 in banana means “smelling good.” yeah, i found it, it’s this one: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%A6%99

oh, shoot, the wiktionary doesn’t do the phrase thing. oh yeah, i was going to explain, in chinese dictionaries, you’ll have the word, and then under the word in smaller font they will list a dozen “phrases/compound words/words” that begin with that word, and that’s how you find a lot of words. and then you can go and look up the other individual characters in the “phrase/compound word/word” to see what it means, and see that it makes sense, like a train is a fire car.

and then you can look at the pieces of the characters to get an even better sense of the etymology. words–nono, not words, characters–are usually made up of a meaning section and a pronounciation section, the meaning section usually also called the radical (every chinese character has a radical. this just makes sense to me, so it’s really hard to explain to someone else what it is. i think of “radical” as the word’s “root” or the word’s “core meaning” or “the general category of meaning that this word falls under” or something. like, the word for “plum/plum flower” has the radical “tree,” which makes sense because plums and plum flowers grow on trees, but the word–not word! character!!!!–for “orchid” has the radical “grass” just like the character “flower” has the radical “grass.”

also, chinese dictionaries used to be in order of radicals and numbers of strokes, before pinyin. my trusty concise dictionary includes a radical index in the front with all the characters plus how to pronounce them in pinyin so that you can then look it up via pinyin in the dictionary (in case you see a written character but have no idea how to pronounce it but want to look it up. because with pinyin-ordered dictionaries, there’s obviously no way to look up a word if you don’t know how to pronounce it)

so in that sense chinese doesn’t make sense to me, because the way to pronounce the word isn’t (always) encoded in the word. by “isn’t always,” i mean… well, sometimes it is, in the sense that a piece of this character is this other character, and this character takes its pronounciation from that other character, even though they mean really different things. for example, damn i can’t think of examples that i actually know off the top of my head, but here’s one i saw on wiktionary: ok, here is my last name, right? duan4: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%AE%B5 …and here is this other word, also prounounced duan4: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E9%8D%9B

if you look at the two words (ARGH! not “words!” CHARACTERS!!!), you will see that the second one has all of the first one (my last name) in it, except on the left side (which is where the radical usually is), there is the radical for “gold.” so the meaning of “gold” plus the sound of my last name (which, incidentally, has the meaning “section” or “piece of” or “length of”) gives you this new word, with the meaning “forge metal.” probably no meaning from the character that is my last name. very odd, huh.

yeah, and to make things even better, you have to guess which part of a character is the radical, cuz it’s not alllllways on the left side. it really usually is, but sometimes it isn’t… like in my last name, the radical is actually the RIGHT side of the word. the radical for my last name duan4 means weapon. i have no idea what the other part that looks like a feather or a brush (to me, at least) (the left side of the character) means. i don’t see it very much. actually i think i have never seen it except in the character thati s in my last name. i mean, i’ve seen things that kind of maybe look like it, like in the traditional way to write school/learn.

oh goddamn, the simplified chinese thing totally pisses me off. i guess it’s for the best, but it’s so confusing when taiwan and hong kong use traditional and china uses simplified (except for some signs for big department stores or hotels or something in china that use traditional cuz it’s stylized or whatever). once jenny said “that is why there needs to be a benevolent dictator.” so yeah, some Power That Is (Power That Be-s just sounded too wrong, even wronger than Power That Is. I can only hope that you are smart enough to realize I am invoking the phrase “the powers that be” when i say “a power that is”) needs to force everybody to quit whining that simplified chinese looks ugly and stupid and empty and just use it. (i am one of the ones that whines that simplified chinese looks ugly and stupid and empty. like, the guang3 in guangzhou is really, really, really empty in simplified chinese. and really huge X’s do not belong in chinese! it just looks silly!) i guess that makes me a FACIST TAIWANESE SEPERATIST THAT DESERVES TO ROT IN HELL or something.


  1. OK, I don’t know too much about Chinese, but why do some of the chinese words have numbers after them? Like “duan4” – what’s the 4 for?

    1. In Chinese there are four tones. 1 is a straight tone, high in pitch (straight line). 2 is a “rising” tone that goes from low to high (diagonal line, sloping upwards to the right). 3 is a low tone that kind of goes middle-low-middle in pitch (looks like a checkmark). and 4 is a “falling” tone that goes from high to low (diagonal line, sloping downwards to the right). (Ok, and then you have the “dot” thing, which is kind of another tone, and then you kind of have “no tone” which is another thing, but I won’t get into those cuz I don’t even really know that much about them.)

      In real pinyin, the tones are denoted by “accents” on top of the vowels. But I am too lazy to go to the character map and find the right accent, so putting the number of the tone after the pinyin is my ghetto way of telling what the tones are. (Cuz the tone of the word is a crucial part of the word’s pronounciation. If I showed you four characters, and they were pronounced Ma1 and Ma2 and Ma3 and Ma4, they would all be very very different words with very different meanings; not only that, there are many different characters that are pronounced Ma1 and such… yeah).

      Though in documents and passports and stuff, they don’t put the accents in, just the pinyin romanization.

      My last name in English is Tuan. That’s because I guess my paternal grandfather used the Wade-Giles romanization (before pinyin became the standard… and anyway in Taiwan they don’t all use pinyin, some of them still use W-G and some of them make up their own bastardized romanization for stuff). But it should be Duan (well, if pinyin is how things “should” be romanized, and that depends on who you ask). And Duan is what it sounds like in Chinese, anyway. Just like how “Beijing” (pinyin) sounds more like how it’s actually said in Chinese than “Peking” (W-G) does.

  2. PinYin is currently the fashion du jour for translating Chinese Words into English, though the Wade-Giles method is still in use amoing some academics (especially Brits). For place names, however, there is a different form called simply the Postal Form in place of PinYin rules.

      1. Just for place names and USUALLY (but not always) matches the PinYin.

        I HATED going between w-g and PinYin.

        Like, what the fuck? If it’s pronounced “Dung” write that way, not “Tung”!

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