算 suàn, means to count, calculate, plan. It is found in many common words of the same semantic field: 算帐, suàn zhàng, to do the count, to settle the score, to settle the score with sb. 算盘, suàn pán, abacus 打算, dǎ suàn, project, plan (to do sth), consider 预算, yù suàn, budget.
We add the particle 了 and stop calculating. 算了 takes the meaning of forget it, forget it, let’s not talk about it anymore! 了 is a particle that is used to indicate that an action is carried out and that a change is taking place. Here, we don’t do the math anymore! An expression widely used in the spoken language.
In the scene below, Professor Hou has just been assaulted by a thug. His colleague tells him to let it go: “侯老师算了算了, Hóu lǎoshī suànle suànle, Professor Hou, let it go, let it go! »
Today, let’s take a look at 笑, xiào (laugh, smile, ridicule), one of my favorite characters. To understand its structure, it is useful to look at the old spellings. is composed of two parts : 1. 竹 zhú bamboo 2. Originally, yāo meant swinging, bent. Other scriptures showed a man who seemed to walk fast and even run with both arms swinging to the sides. We find 夭 in characters related to running or body swaying. Stylization has changed the spelling, the top of the vertical line is leaning across: . By extension, it gave the idea of dying. The meaning of tender came later. How did the meaning of laughing and smiling come with 笑? The image of a man who swings or bends when he laughs. The idea of character is this: when the wind blows on the bamboo, a sound similar to laughter comes out.
This new example shows that for some characters, it is essential to know their history, their original etymology in order to understand and better remember them. Indeed, 夭 has lost its original meaning and with the current meaning, it is difficult to find a relationship.
Note: the form of 夭 is often confused with that of 天,tiān, sky, day. The upper line of 天, tiān, is a horizontal line drawn from left to right, whereas for 夭, yāo, the line is descending from right to left:
The verb 明白 míng bai is a very practical word, it means to understand. Before going further in its use in the spoken language, let’s have a look at the structure of 明 and 白.
明 is composed of the sun 日 and the moon 月，il means clear, bright, the combination of the two luminaires is eloquent. Other spellings include the moon and the window, which gives another explanation. Here we have the light of the moon entering the room through the window, an image of inner illumination, and to return to meaning, inner understanding. The various writings of 白 exceed a hundred and many interpretations intersect. Here are some of them: 1. penetrate and yin 2. The upper line indicates the top of the sun that is beginning to dawn, giving a pale white light. 3. A clenched fist, symbol of the united family, with the thumb raised, symbol of the head of the family. 4. A pocket of fish eggs. 5. A grain of white rice, opposite the grain of black rice. Examples of ancient writings from 白 :
The spoken language and 明白
明白 means understanding. In the spoken language, associated with other verbs, it brings nuances. For example, with 看 to see, we will refer to something we have seen in a text, a document, an event, a situation 我看明白, I understand (what I see). The negation will be put between the two verbs, 我看不明白, I don’t understand. With 听 tīng, listen, 我听明白 (I understand – what I listen to), place yourself in a conversation to show that you have understood the oral explanation, for example. In the picture below, Ming Cheng is talking with his director who explains what he has to do. He says, “I also understood 我也听明白了. »
With 想, xiǎng, thinking will be the order of the day. 我想不明白 will give : I can’t understand/think or I can’t understand. 弄 is a catch-all verb, quite used. It means to do, you can associate it with other verbs. With 明白 we will look at the context to translate. Often, 我弄明白 will mean I understand or I understand how to do.
For the character 明, see Cyril Javary in ” 100 mots pour comprendre les Chinois” (page 46) and 白 , Kyril Ryjik, in “L’idiot chinois” (Volume 2, pages 4 to 6)
中 is the center, the middle. Pronounced in the 4th tone, 中 zhòng has the sense to hit right. Its origin goes back to the first graphs showing an arrow in the middle of its target. Linked to this meaning, it has the function of a complement, it gives additional information about the verb, the result of the action. With 猜 cāi, guess, 中 will bring the nuance on the correctness. We will translate 猜中 by guess right. Often used with 看, 看中 means to have a preference. In the dialogue of an episode of 都挺好, Ming Yu tells her father that she guessed correctly the reason for her visit to the hospital.
果然被我猜中了 guǒrán bèi wǒ cāi zhòng le, Indeed, I did guess it . 果然 guǒ rán, indeed / as expected 被 bèi, par / (used in front of a verb or in front of an agent complement to express a passive action)
Some verbs with 中 : 猜中 cāi zhòng, guess correctly / find the right answer 选中 xuǎn zhòng, choose / pick up / settle on / decide on a candidate / be selected for a role / select, highlight (inform.) 击中 jī zhòng, reach / touch syn. 看中 kàn zhòng, to have a preference for/ settle on 打中 dǎ zhòng, hit (a target)
Let’s stick to the 行 character. We saw 就行了 last week. 就行 can be used without 了 and the aspect of change will disappear. 好好好 回去就行 hǎohǎo hǎo huíqù jiùxíng. How to translate the sentence in the image below?
The emphasis on 好, said three times, in the context of episode 5 of the series 都挺好, rather marks satisfaction. The husband calls his mother-in-law to find out if his wife, who has left in anger, has returned to her parents’ home. The sentence will give: “Good, good, good, she’s back, fine!”
We’ve seen the expression 就行了 in the last two days, but where does the 行 xíng character come from? The first spellings of the Jiaguwen era evoked a crossroads:
The reform of writing undertaken by Li Si in the 2nd century Av. J.-C. modified the writing as follows:
The idea of crossroads disappeared. Xu Shen 许慎, who was unaware in his time of the first Jiaguwen spellings, noted, four centuries later, in the Shuowenjiezi 说文解字, that the character came 彳et from 亍, two spellings evoking small steps. 行 became a verb and the meaning of crossing disappeared. ( 彳chì is a key meaning small step, to walk)
行 xíng has a lot of meanings: walking / acting / doing / practicing / applying / okay / packing / leaving home / walking / traveling. It has other pronunciations and other meanings.
After yesterday’s 差不多就行了, let’s stay with the second part of the sentence 就行了 and a new sentence 弄点米饭就行了Nòng diǎn mǐfàn jiùxíngle in the serie 都挺好 episode 4 to 24’51.
The context, the father lives with his children for what should be a short period of time and the generation shock makes cohabitation difficult. The couple works a lot and don’t have time to cook. The father has apparently never learned to cook. The son calls his wife to order dishes to be delivered, braised pork and tells her at the end: 弄点米饭就行了. When you know the vocabulary, you can easily understand: 弄, nòng, make / commit / play with / get. 弄 is very much used orally, it is a bit of a catch-all. Here, it means to take in the sense of ordering. 点, diǎn, a little 米饭 mǐ fàn,rice (cooked) Yesterday, we saw that 就行了 has the meaning of “and it’s all right”. The translation will read “Take a little rice and it will be fine! »
Since I returned to France at the end of 2017, I miss hearing Chinese spoken in various accents. As a result, I do what I have rarely done, I watch Chinese series, which is a real linguistic delight. Following a discussion with several readers, I open a spoken language section. I will point out expressions, phrases, or words that are very “spoken” that I come across in the episodes I watch, and that you don’t necessarily learn in class. I will not give a language course. I will just give some indications that will help you.
Let’s start with one of the only series I watched when I lived in China, 蜗居, Dwelling Narrowness. The story begins when a couple moves to a city that looks like Shanghai. They clean their house, and after long hours, Sun, the husband, has had enough and says: 差不多就行了 chàbùduō jiùxíngle.When we know that 差不多 means ”almost” and 行 “it’s okay, it works,” ，one can quickly understand. On the other hand, 就 allows us to link the two verbs and to translate 就行了 as, “and it will be fine.” 了 indicates the change here. We will translate it as “ It’s good enough this way ! ” The context shows that Su Chun is talking about cleaning the house. It implies that we have cleaned up pretty much, and we will be fine! Note the very “elliptical” nature of Chinese. In six characters, the message is very clear.