Lead as a Chinese Polyphone

When you see the word “lead” out of context, you might interpret it to mean a clue or the action of guiding. Or you might conjure up a piece of heavy metal in your mind. Words that look identical but are pronounced differently and have different meaningas are called polyphones. In Chinese these are called 破音字 (pò yīn zì).

It just so happens that the Chinese word for “to lead” is also a polyphone. However, as you will find out below, its “alterego” is not a heavy metal.

(shuài) as a verb means to lead or to guide.

率领 (shuàilǐng) means to lead or to head a group. The leader is called 领袖 (lingxiù).

Xiàngdǎo shuàilǐng wǒmén zǒu guò mù qiáo.
The guide led us across the wooden bridge.

统率 (tǒngshuài) means to command and lead (a troop). 统率三军 (tǒngshuài sānjūn) is to command and lead the three armed services. This duty usually falls on the shoulders of the president of a nation.

率先 (shuàixiān) means to take the lead in doing something.

Tā shuàixiān biǎoshì fǎnduì.
He was the first to voice his objection.

表率 (biǎoshuài) is an examplar. This word is used as a noun. It is synonymous with 好榜样 (hǎo bǎngyàng a fine example) and 模范 (mófàn a model).

(shuài) as an adjective means to be hasty or to be forthright. So, 轻率 (qīngshuài) is being rash and careless.

率真 (shuàizhēn) means candid and sincere, and 坦率 (tǎnshuài) means candid and straightforward, while 率直 (shuàizhí) means straightforward and blunt.

Wǒ xǐhuān tā tǎnshuài de wéirén.
I like her candid and straightforward ways.

(lǜ) is a rate, a ratio or a proportion.

速率 (sùlǜ), or 速度 (sùdù), is the speed or velocity.

频率 (pínlǜ) means frequency. It can be the frequency of radio waves, or the frequency of occurrence of an event.

成人的正常呼吸频率约每分钟 12 次.
Chéngrén de zhèngcháng hūxī pínlǜ yuē měi fēnzhōng shí èr cì.
The normal respiratory rate in adults is about 12 breaths (times) per minute.

效率(xiàolǜ) is efficiency.

Tā zuòshì quēfá xiàolǜ.
He lacks efficiency in doing jobs.

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