Which day is Father’s Day?

In the United States and a number of other countries the second Sunday of May is designated Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day follows one month plus one week later. In Taiwan, Father’s Day is celebrated on August 8th, because 八月八日 (bāyuè bā rì) can be abbreviated as 八八 (bā bā), which sounds similar to 爸爸 (bàba father, dad).

六月的第三个星期日是父亲节.
Liùyuè de dìsān gè xīngqīrì shì Fùqin jié.
The third Sunday of June is Father’s Day.

Traditionally mothers assume all the chores of raising the kids, but the landscape has changed. Nowadays fathers are able to form a close bond with the children and earn a large share of their affection. There are also single-parent families with the father doing double-duty to provide both paternal and maternal love and care. Here is an interesting playlet “My Father”, which I think you will be able to follow with the help of the English subtitles. Following is a discussion of some of the words and expressions used in the video.

单亲家庭 (dān qīn jiātíng) is a single-parent family.

As an adjective, (dān) means single, alone, only, plain or weak. As a noun it can refer to a sheet, as in 被单 (bèidān a bedsheet), a list, as in 菜单 (càidān a menu of dishes of food), or a bill, as in 账单 (zhàng dān a bill or an invoice).

作文 (zuòwén) is to write a composition on a subject assigned by the teacher. The title of the composition is called 题目 (tímù), which also means topic or examination questions on a test.

The kid in the video is to write a composition titled “My Father”. His father also happens to be his school teacher.

身材 (shēncái) is one’s stature or figure.

她的身材很苗条.
Tā de shēncái hěn miáotiao.
Her figure is quite slender and fine.

和蔼可亲 (héǎikěqīn) is commonly used to describe an amiable person. The kid describes the father he knows as nice and humorous, or 幽默 (yōumò). However, his father, being his 级任老师 (jí rèn lǎoshī home-room teacher) and a 训导老师 (xùn dǎo lǎoshī) in charge of disciplining the students, is a rather different person during school hours.

罚站 (fá zhàn) is a form of punishment often employed by teachers (and some parents). Standing in a corner and barred from the normal activities, the child is apt to feel humiliated.

相处 (xiāngchǔ) means to get along with someone.

我们相处得很好.
Wǒmén xiāngchǔ de hěn hǎo.
We get along very well.

(jiāo) has multiple meanings. 交功课 (jiāo gōngkè) means to hand in one’s schoolwork. If you fail to do so, you get disciplined.

人类 (rénlèi) means humankind, 灵魂 (línghún) is one’s soul, and 工程师 (gōngchéngshī) is an engineer. The kid humorously refers to teachers as 人类灵魂工程师 (rénlèi línghún gōngchéngshī), or engineers of the human soul.

自从 (zìcóng) means “since a certain time in the past”. 自小 (zì xiǎo) and 从小 (cóng xiǎo) both mean “since an early age”.

承担 (chéngdān) is to assume the responsibility of a task. 责任 (zérèn) means duty or responsibility.承担责任 (chéngdān zérèn) is to be responsible for a duty or a problem. 辅导 (fǔdào) means to give guidance to someone.

缺乏 (quēfá) means to be lacking in something.

因此 (yīncǐ) means therefore or consequently.

公司缺乏资金, 因此不容易经营.
Gōngsī quēfá zījīn, yīncǐ bù róngyì jīngyíng.
The company is short of funds, and is therefore not easy to operate.

We learned in December of 2012 that 算了. (Suàn le.) means “Never mind.”, “That’s okay.” or “Let it be.” The kid is unhappy about being punished by his own father, but then he acknowledges that he himself is partly to blame. He loves his father nonetheless.

父亲节快乐!
Fùqin jié kuàilè!
Happy Father’s Day!

Sing “I am a Cloud” in Chinese

Cirrocumulus Clouds (Mackerel Clouds)

Cirrocumulus Clouds (Mackerel Clouds)

The traditional Chinese character for clouds is (yún). Like (diàn electricity), it lost the “rain” radical in the conversion to the Simplified Chinese character set.

In classical Chinese (yún) means to say or to state. In the Simplified Chinese character system, it means clouds.

The clouds, suspended in the sky or moving freely above, out of reach, ephemeral and unfathomable, is often compared to the transitory nature of certain human affairs. It also represents freedom and a carefree state of mind. The term 风云人物 (fēngyúnrénwù man of the day) likens prominent personages that command people’s attention to the powerful movement of vigorous winds and clouds.

(xiāo) means clouds or the sky. Therefore, 云霄 (yúnxiāo) refers to the skies. 九霄云外 (jiǔxiāoyúnwài) means beyond the highest heavens or skies.

有你在身边, 我把一切烦恼抛到了九霄云外.
Yǒu nǐ zài shēnbiān, wǒ bǎ yīqiè fánnǎo pāo dào le jiǔxiāoyúnwài.
With you by my side, I cast all my worries to outer space.

戒心 (jièxīn) means vigilance. Therefore 把戒心抛到九霄云外 (bǎ jièxīn pāo dào jiǔxiāoyúnwài) means to throw caution to the winds.

烟消云散 (yānxiāoyúnsàn) means to vanish into thin air. You could use this phrase to describe an interest or desire, the memory of a certain event, or the disintegration of an entity.

The phrase 过眼云烟 (guòyǎnyúnyān) likens worldly possessions, such as riches and fame, to transitory clouds and smokes.

我们的那段情不过是过眼云烟..
Wǒmén de nèi duàn qíng bùguò shì guòyǎnyúnyān.
That love affair of ours was nothing but a passing waft of smoke.

天有不测风云 (tiānyǒubùcèfēngyún) means something unexpected may suddenly happen just like a storm may abruptly arise out of nowhere. This line is paired with 人有旦夕祸福 (rényǒudànxīhuòfú), which means that one may find good fortune or go to ruins overnight. When you hear of a misfortune befalling a movie star or an acquaintance, you would shake your head and say:

天有不测风云, 人有旦夕祸福.
Tiānyǒubùcèfēngyún, rényǒudànxīhuòfú.

All right, here is a popular song, titled 我是一片云 (Wǒ shì yī piàn yún I am a Cloud), sung by 凤飞飞 (Fèng Fēifēi). This short song expresses in simple wording a common sentiment. Don’t we all wish to be as carefree as a cloud?

The lyrics in Simplified Chinese can be found here.

(zhāo) is the classical word for morning or day. (mù) is the classical word for evenings or sunset. We’ve come across these words in the phrase 朝朝暮暮 (zhāozhāomùmù day and night, or all the time).

If you remember from one of our early lessons, (shēng) means to go up or to elevate.

自在 (zìzai) means at ease and being comfortable with oneself. 潇洒 (xiāosǎ) means carefree and unrestrained, like a splash of water.

我的男朋友英俊又潇洒.
Wǒ de nánpéngyǒu yīngjùn yòu xiāosǎ.
My boyfriend is handsome and cool.

(shēn) is the abbreviation of 身体 (shēntǐ body or health). In this song, this word refers to the body.
(suí) means to follow.
(hún) is the soul or the spirit.
(mèng) are dreams.
(fēi) means to fly.
无牵挂 (wú qiānguà) means without worry or care.

You might also be interested in watching a couple other related videos. In this one, the singer dedicates the song to a fan. In the introductory remark, the singer told her fan that although her album may have given the latter the courage to continue with life, it was the doctor’s skills that saved the fan’s life. The tears in the singer’s eyes reveal genuine feelings from the heart. At the end of the performance the singer encourages her fan to continue to be courageous and strong – 继续勇敢坚强. (Jìxù yǒnggǎn jiānqiáng.)

The video at this link shows a number of the singer’s fans singing this song together. Why not join in the fun?

Chinese spooks join in on Halloween

万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié) Halloween


What will you be this Halloween, or 万圣节 (Wàn Shèng Jié)? A witch, 巫婆 (wūpó), a sorcerer, 巫师 (wūshī), or Dracula, 吸血鬼 (xīxuěguǐ vampire)? You may have thought that your macabre makeup and outfit would scare the wits out of everyone, until you come face-to-face with a ghastly apparition that makes you cringe. This is what the Chinese describe as 小巫见大巫 (xiǎowūjiàndàwū), or little sorcerer meets the great sorcerer. Figuratively, it means that one is dwarfed by another person who is much more capable and powerful.

(guǐ) and 鬼怪 (guǐguài) are general terms for ghosts, spirits, apparitions and devils. 鬼魂 (guǐhún) are spirits in the form of ghosts or apparitions.

A pair of ghosts, named 无常鬼 (wúcháng guǐ), are often featured as tall figures on stilts in some Chinese religious processions or ghost festivals. In keeping with yin and yang, folklore provides for a 黑无常 (hēi wúcháng) and a 白无常 . 黑无常 (hēi wúcháng) always brings disaster, while 白无常 (bái wúcháng), although also scary and feared, is believed to bring wealth sometimes. In any case, 无常 (wúcháng) means changeable and unpredictable. Understandably, it would be terrible to have to deal with someone or something that’s devoid of constancy and reliability.

(guǐ) also means terrible, damnable or tricky. In this sense, this character has many light-hearted applications.

鬼鬼祟祟 (guǐguǐsuìsuì) means being sneaky, and 搞鬼 (gǎoguǐ) is playing tricks.

他们鬼鬼祟祟的在搞什么?
Tāmen guǐguǐsuìsuì de zài gǎo shénme?
What (mischief) are they up to?

你们在搞什么鬼?
Nǐmen zài gǎo shénme guǐ?
What the hell are you doing?

有鬼 (yǒuguǐ) means “There’s something fishy.”

鬼话 (guǐhuà) is literally the devil’s talk. It is used to accuse the speaker of telling a lie.

鬼主意 (guǐzhǔyì) is a clever or wicked idea or scheme.

做鬼脸 (zuò guǐliǎn) means to make a grimace or a funny face.

他向我做了一个鬼脸.
Tā xiàng wǒ zuò le yī gè guǐliǎn.
He made a face at me.

死鬼 (sǐguǐ) is literally a “dead devil”. However, it just means “That wretch!” You’d be surprised how many housewives refer to their husbands by this term, in jest or in anger.

小鬼 (xiǎoguǐ) is a goblin or little devil. This is actually an endearing term people use to refer to young kids.

胆小鬼 (dǎnxiǎoguǐ) is a scaredy-cat.

酒鬼 (jiǔguǐ) is a drunkard or a person addicted to drinking.

活见鬼 (huójiànguǐ) is a phrase used to discount someone’s words as being preposterous or totally incredulous.

(hún), or 灵魂 (línghún), is the soul or the spirit. When preceded by such a gloomy word as (yōu dim, secluded) or (yīn shaded, sinister), the spirit turns into a spectre, namely, 幽灵 (yōulíng) and 阴魂 (yīnhún). A requiem is called 安魂曲 (ānhúnqǔ).

Any word containing the character (mó) involves something demonic, mystical or magical. 魔鬼 (móguǐ), 恶魔 (èmó), 妖魔 (yāomó), 妖怪 (yāoguài) and 妖精 (yāojing) all refer to demons, evil spirits or monsters. Temptresses are often called 妖精 (yāojing). A tyrant or despot is sometimes referred to as a 魔王 (mówáng), or the top monster.

着魔 (zháomó) means to be possessed or bewitched.

他为珍妮着魔.
Tā wèi zhēnnī zháomó.
He is enchanted by Jenny.

魔术 (móshù) is magic or a magician’s trick.

What to do with a host of demons and evil spirits surrounding us? Fear not. According to Chinese mythology, there is the King of all Demons, 钟馗 (Zhōngkuí), whom we may call on for help. Many traditional Chinese households and businesses have the image of this guardian spirit painted on their main gates. Others may put up a poster of his image during the New Year celebration.

In real life, there are fiends that we truly must fear, namely the hackers on the Internet. Kudos to whoever came up with the Chinese transliteration for hackers. (hài) means shocking or to be appalled. (kè) is a visitor, a guest, or a person engaged in some particular pursuit. And voila! 骇客 (hài kè hacker).

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