Feb 10, 2019

Chinese words that you don’t learn in textbooks (I)

How often do you look through your Chinese textbooks and try to find the words that you want to know how to say in Chinese? Look no further because here we compile some words that are unlikely taught in most Chinese textbooks. So why learn them? You might ask. Because learning some unusual words makes your learning journey more unique and fun, and you may use them in one of your intriguing dialogues you have with your Chinese peers.

So, are you ready to learn them now? Read on!

火 (Fire) + 星 (Star/planet) = 火星 (Mars) [literally] (fire star)

The origin of the name 火星 came from that our ancestors once believed that the planet was alight and looked like it was on fire (火)!

If you are a sci-fi fan, you would know that Mars (火星) has been the subject of many sci-fi stories. Have you ever read any sci-fi novels written by Chinese authors? Why not picking up one of the books from the selection here: here: https://topscifibooks.com/best-chinese-science-fiction-books/.

火星 pinyin: huǒ xīng; Mars

火星 (Mars) + 人 (Person) = 火星人 (Martian)

By adding the character 人 (person), we get a popular internet slang: 火星人. It is used to describe someone who shares outdated trending news, who clearly doesn’t keep up with the pace of society – just like a Martian (火星人) from Mars (火星) who doesn’t know what’s going on the earth!

火星人 pinyin: huǒ xīng rén; Martian

月 (Moon) + 球 (Ball) = 月球 (Moon)

On July 20, 1969, 500 million people around the world watched live pictures on their black-and-white TV sets as two American astronauts walked on the moon for the first time. And, that’s the Apollo 11 mission. The Moon in Chinese is 月球, also known for 月亮 (yuè liàng).

The building block for moon (月) originally derived from a pictogram of the crescent moon. It has now evolved to be a visual counterpart to sun (日). The character 球 combines the components 玉 (jade) and 求 (excessive demand). Originally, it depicted a beautiful and much-desired jade sphere. Today, 球 has evolved to mean “ball” or represent spherical objects.

Literally, the Moon is combined with “moon” and “ball.” Easy to remember, isn’t it?

月球 pinyin: yuè qiú; moon

女 (Woman/Female) + 巫 (Witch/wizard ) = 女巫 (Witch)

One of earliest forms of 巫 (wū) depicted shamans dancing around a pillar and this origin also possibly influenced another character: 舞 (dance; wǔ), which shares a similar pronunciation of 巫.

We like this association – “witches” “dance” to call for help from the gods! After all, witches don’t always need to be portrayed as evil beings, right?

女巫 pinyin: nǚ wū; Witch

Have you ever read a storybook featuring a wicked princess and a kind-hearted 女巫 (witch)?

公 (Honourable) + 主 (To host/master) = 公主 (Princess)

The Chinese word for “princess” (公主) originally referred to the daughter of the emperor married to a noble family. Back then, Chinese noble families generally referred to as 公 (honourable), and the wedding would be hosted (主) by the noble family, not by the emperor himself.

Only from the Han Dynasty, the term 公主 started to be used as the title for any girls who were born in the emperor’s family, even before she got married.

公主 pinyin: gōng zhǔ; Princess

What phrases do you want to learn? Share with us via the hashtag #ChineasyBlog on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram!

By Kelly Chen | A Super Chineasian

Kelly is a dreamer and a traveler, who loves to study of individuals, groups, or organisations and all the activities associated with the purchase behaviour, including the consumer's emotional, mental and behavioural responses.

Instagram @kelly_c_91

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