Sing “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” in Chinese

Tongue-in-cheek

Tongue-in-cheek

There are usually a few different ways to translate an English name to Chinese. Over the years standardized translations have evolved for many well-known names. For example, when I see 林肯 (Línkěn), I know right a way that it most likely refers to President Abraham Lincoln. (It would be interesting, though, for a Chinese guy with the last name Lin to give his son this famous name.)

The folk song “I Was Born Ten Thousand Years Ago” names a number of prominent figures from the Bible, or 圣经 (shèngjīng). I first came across this song in Jerry Silverman’s “Beginning Folk Guitar”. At this link is Elvis Presley’s spirited version of this song.

Now, Elvis Presley’s Chinese name is a mouthful that I don’t care to mention here. In Taiwan, he is simply known as 猫王 (Máo Wáng King of Cats). By the way, Ann-Margret was dubbed 女猫王 (Nǚ Máo Wáng Queen of Cats).

Anyway, one of the verses of “I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago” goes as follows:

Yeah, I was born about ten thousand years ago.
Ain’t nothing in this world that I don’t know.
Saw Peter, Paul and Moses playing ring around the roses.
I’ll lick the guy that says it isn’t so.

Perhaps you will be inspired to sing my translation in Chinese:

我出生在一万年前的时候.
Wǒ chūshēng zài yī wànnián qián de shíhòu.
I was born around ten thousand years ago.

天下没有一件事我不吃透.
Tiānxià méiyǒu yī jiàn shì wǒ bù chītòu.
There isn’t a single thing under the sky that I don’t know.

见过彼得,保罗,摩西,
Jiàn guò Bǐdé, Bbǎoluó, Móxī;
I met Peter, Paul and Moses,

他们一同玩著游戏.
Tāmen yītóng wán zhe yóuxì.
Who were playing games together.

谁敢說不信? 莫非他想挨揍?
Shéi gǎn shuō bù xìn? Mòfēi tā xiǎng áizòu?
Who dares to say he doesn’t believe so,
unless he is asking for a spanking?

出生 (chūshēng) as a verb means to be born. As a noun it refers to the status of the family into which one was born.

他出生卑微.
Tā chūshēng bēiwēi.
He was born petty and low.

吃透 (chītòu)means to have a thorough grasp of something.

The Pharaoh is called 法老 (fǎlǎo). King David is 大卫王 (Dàwèi wáng). Jonah is 约纳 (Yuēnà). And Noah’s Ark is called 诺亚方舟 (Nuòyà fāngzhōu).

莫非 (mòfēi) means the same as 除非 (chúfēi unless).

(ái), when pronounced in the second tone, means to suffer or endure. For example, 挨打 (áidǎ) and 挨揍 (áizòu) refer to taking a beating, 挨骂 (áimà) means to be chided, and 挨饿 (áiè) is to starve.

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You have my word

Trust (xìn)


(xìn) is the Chinese character for trust, faith or credibility. It is one of the popular characters used in Chinese given names. As a mnemonic for this word, think of your “shin” (a close approximation in pronunciation).

The character (xìn) is made up of the radical, (rén person), and the character for words or language, (yán). Good parents teach their children not to make loose promises, but to honor the words uttered. The traditional adage goes like this:

人言为信.
Rén yán wèi xìn.
A person’s word counts.

In the above, (wèi) is the formal word for “to be”, “to become” or “to act as”. In modern parlance, we use the word for “to be”.

When you always keep your promises, your words carry weight, and people will believe you and trust you.

As an adverb, (xiāng) means mutually. 相信 (xiāngxìn) is to believe or to trust someone. For example,

相信我. 我是為你好.
Xiāngxìn wǒ. Wǒ shì wèi nǐ hǎo.
Trust me, I’m for your well-being.
(Trust me. I have your best interest in mind.)

Here, (wèi) takes on the 4th tone and is used as the preposition “for”.

If you tell your girlfriend that you love her, but she gives you the following response, then you’d better try hard to find a good way to convince her.

我不信.
Wǒ bù xìn.
I don’t believe it.

信任 (xìnrèn) means to trust and have confidence in someone. 信赖 (xìnlài) means to trust and count on someone.

他老板信赖他.
Tā lǎobǎn xìnlài tā.
His boss trusts him.

Trust is of fundamental importance to any human relationship. Children need to trust their parents to feel secure. A loss of trust is often what breaks marriages. A trusted employee is a happy employee. Trust is the foundation of friendship. The great Chinese philosopher, Master Confucius, mentioned that each day he performs a self-examination by asking three questions, one of which was: “When dealing with friends, have I failed to keep my word?”

It used to be that a person’s words meant something, and a handshake made a deal.

好! 一言为定.
Hǎo! Yī yán wéi dìng.
All right! Our words seal the deal.
(OK. That’s settled then.)
You have my word.

Nowadays, you must call in your lawyer to put everything in writing and then have the document properly signed and notarized before you can have peace of mind. Needless to say, a bank won’t loan you money solely based on your promise to pay them back. But a little plastic card will do the trick.

信用 (xìnyòng) means trustworthiness or credit, and 信用卡 (xìnyòngkǎ) is a credit card. If a person has the habit of going back on his own word, people will say:

他没信用.
Tā méi xìnyòng.
He does not keep his word.

When you trust a higher being or a doctrine, you are said to have a belief, faith or conviction. The Chinese word for it is 信仰 (xìnyǎng). This word can also be used as a verb.

她信仰上帝.
Tā xìnyǎng Shàngdì.
She believes in God.

A person’s words can be represented by a letter. Therefore, (xìn) also means a letter. 写信 (xiěxìn) means to write a letter. The following two sentences can be used interchangeably.

写封信给我.
Xiě fēng xìn gěi wǒ.
Write a letter to me.

给我写封信.
Gěi wǒ xiě fēng xìn.
Write me a letter.

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