July 19th: Midweek Lessons

It’s Thursday night: we’re supposed to be at a yacht club eating canapés and drinking cocktails.  Instead, we’ve finally admitted defeat.  Tired after 4.5 hours of language lessons in two days, and Tuesday’s somewhat disastrous attempt at a new pub quiz, a night in was needed.
Camel BarFollowing the closure of the much-missed (well, a bit missed) Bulldog, Bron and I rounded up John, Richard and Haydn on Tuesday evening to form a new team to enter The Camel’s quiz.  Sadly, even though we knew who Ghandi was, we didn’t know the exact spelling of his tailor’s middle name and so didn’t do so well.  And a team of 5 playing against teams of around 20 were always going to struggle.  I have many other excuses for our dismal performance, available on demand.

In an analogous way to the English language’s use of collective nouns for groups of things usually to be avoided (a scourge of mosquitos, a superfluity of nuns, a file of civil servants, that type of thing), the Chinese language has specific measure words for pretty much any group of people/places/things.  So you can’t simply say “Look at those cats”, “I would like two beers”, etc.  It has to be “Look at those {measure word for animals} cats” and “I would like two {measure word for bottle or glass} beers”.  Not knowing those measure words (and instead replacing them with the all-encompassing “gè”) reveals one to be somewhat ill-educated and pretty much guarantees identification as a foreigner (were it ever in doubt).  Since there are about 140 measure words in total (including one specifically for camels), I don’t think we’re going to get through them all.  Whilst “gè” is perfectly acceptable in some cases, I think we need to learn a few more.

And just as we get comfortable with the letter “x” in Chinese being pronounced a bit like “sh”, we are introduced to phrases such as (in a homesick sort of way): “I often think about eating sausages”.  Which is, of course, spoken in Chinese as: “Wǒ chángcháng xiǎng chī xiāngcháng”.   Oh, and the Great Wall of China is “Chángchéng”.  We’re in trouble if we ever consider eating a processed meat type meal there.

So the picture: it’s a photo of the urinal (well, trough) in The Camel’s toilets.  Complete with TV in the trough.  Not my photo – I think (hope) this was taken just before the bar was opened in 2010.  Since things are not as clean as they once were…

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