Monday, January 31, 2011

Mandarin for Mummies

Are you an ancient pharaoh, embalmed thousands of years ago, who has been finding tomb life a bit lonely?  Has your humble pyramid (jīnzìtǎ 金字塔) recently been excavated by Chinese archaeologists who don't speak your dialect of Ancient Egyptian?  Then it's time to put down that mummified cat and pick up some Mandarin!

Before you say anything else to your new friends, you're going to want to apologize for the dust (huīchén 灰尘).  The years you've spent sealed up in that underground chamber have taken a ghastly toll on your dwelling.  Would it have killed you to have picked up a broom now and again?  Ah, wait - you're already dead (sǐ 死).  How unfortunate.

If your guests seem a bit put off by your appearance, keep in mind that aging isn't pretty.  In addition to all those wrinkles and petrified parts your sporting, don't forget that you've also lost a few organs (qìguān 器官) since your days as king, and unless these particular archeologists are also lawyers, they're probably not used to being around people who are hollow inside.  Once the shock of your hideousness has worn off, welcome them to Egypt (Āijí 埃及) and offer them something to eat (chī 吃).  Your offer will, of course, be a formality at most, as there won't be much, if anything, edible in your pyramid (scarabs anyone?), but it's the thought that counts.  Furthermore, after staring at you for a few minutes your guests will have likely lost their appetites anyway. 

If you find it difficult to strike up a conversation, start by sharing a little about yourself.  Tell them how old you are (I'm 2000 years old - liǎng qiān suì 我两千岁) and ask if they can share a little of what you've missed since you've been incapacitated.  You don't want to be the only mummy out there who is oblivious to the fact that "Benifer" is no more. How embarrassing!

Finally, be sure to invite your new friends to come back and visit again.  Promise them you'll find something more suitable to wear next time too (nemes and shendyts are so last millenium...).  If you're lucky, they'll come back soon with a whole army of museum curators in tow.  Now back to the sarcophagus with you!

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Did you enjoy this post?  Then you might also enjoy Chinese for Errand Boys.
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1. huīchén ("hway-chen") 灰尘 dust
Dust (huīchén) allergies can kill if you live in a tomb.

2. Āijí ("eye-jee") 埃及 Egypt
Egypt (Āijí) isn't the only country that boasts a collection of mummies, but the ones in China don't have pyramids to brag about. 

3. sǐ ("sih") 死 dead
When a person has been dead (sǐ) as long as you, there's sure to be an odor. 

4. chī ("chih") 吃 to eat  
I prefer not to eat (chī) anything that has been entombed, but thank you for the offer.

5. qìguān ("chee-gwahn") 器官 organs
I seem to have misplaced my organs (qìguān). Have you excavated them?

6. jīnzìtǎ ("jeen-zee-tah") 金字塔 pyramid
This pyramid (jīnzìtǎ) represents the blood and sweat of a whole mess of slaves that I smacked around for a couple decades.

7. liǎng qiān ("lee-ong cheeyen") 两千 two thousand  
Two thousand (liǎng qiān) years ago, writing the year took less time. 

8. suì ("sway") 岁 age 
When you're my age (suì) , petrifying is an improvement.   

Don't forget to check out this week's interactive vocabulary list.

For more help pronouncing Mandarin words, click here.

Image by StrangeInterlude via Flickr is licensed under CC.


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  2. Thanks Surkhab! Glad to know someone enjoys reading what I enjoy writing, and thanks for bookmarking!