Sino-Gaelic relations, score one for Ireland

[See the first part of my adventures in Mandarin here]

I'm an Irishman, my lovely ladyfriend is Chinese, and to say this means some fun cultural differences would be to say that transporting ming vases coated covered in butter during an earthquake is an interesting technical challenge.

The established points so far:
  • Chinese cooking can be an orgasm for the sense of taste, while "Irish cuisine" is a phrase that has to be held in parenthesis lest the two words annihilate in an explosion of irony. In my defense Gaelic cuisine is based entirely on "rendering whatever you scraped together that day edible", giving rise to the stew - the only method of food preparation intended to remove flavour and texture from its parts.
  • The Chinese created a Great Wall visible from space, while the Irish made some small piles of rocks. I win this round by pointing out that everyone who worked on those piles went home in the evening, and people were only buried under them if it was their tomb to begin with. Building the Great Wall is estimated to have killed 2 to 3 million Chinese workers and slaves, and feel free to go back and read that sentence again if you need a minute to stop going "Jesus fuck". That's more people than the Emerald Isle had for most of its history. Call us crazy underacheivers, but when we have the choice between "lasting monument" and "the survival of our entire race", us lazy bog-boys will choose the latter.
  • Irish people can drink far more than the Chinese. Strangely, we both count this as a point in our favour.

Once those arguments were used up it became increasingly hard to defend against her allegations that Ireland is a tiny little rock in the water while her country has cities we've never even heard of with more people, industrial capacity and art than my entire nation. Arguments based in fact are tricky - UNTIL NOW! In my efforts to learn the ways of the enemy I've been studying Mandarin, and found evidence that will detonate her "stupid farmers" argument forever:
That's right: the Mandarin word for 'beautiful' (mei, fall and rise in tone) is made of the characters for 'big' (da, falling tone) and 'sheep' (yang, rising tone). And I don't mean in a "I find it looks like the characters in a childish manner" way, I mean in a "that's actually how it's made" way. The character is built from the radicals 'big' and 'sheep' - radicals being the building blocks of many characters, and also how you identify and locate a character in the kaleidoscope of heiroglyphs that is a Mandarin dictionary. It doesn't get more official than that.

Even during the coldest night of winter, the loneliest man from the most socially retarded village in Kerry would not say that a nice big sheep is synonymous with beauty. The Chinese have it as a basic assumption built directly into their language. Game, set and match to the Celts - for us and New Zealanders sheep-shagging is an insult, not a literary construction.

Some might accuse me of making Mandarin look more fucked-up than it is (which wouldn't be hard, I admit) - but it isn't so. Looking up a character by its radical doesn't always work, so even native speakers have to look up various radicals in the hopes of getting it right. FACT: Mandarin dictionaries include a section for "Words that are hard to find". That's right - even the people who write the things don't know how the hell to organise the alcoholic spider scribblings they call a language, and have defined a section as "we give up, it's in here somewhere".


David Curran said...

Back in the day the Chinese may have been sheep admirers but I see two fatal flaws in your thesis
1.There are billions of them indicating they are well capable of non inter species nookie
When it comes to countries intersted in sheep nookie the chines do not even rate.

Anonymous said...

Definitely the farmer will appreciate and enjoy the beauty of a growing sheep so much. They ARE beautiful in all senses(hot pot, stew, barbecue, you name it),especially on a chilly winter day.
As a meat-lover, I greatly respect and appreciate the beauty of the big sheep, and admire Mandrin's accuracy.

(By Blossom)