Monday, February 14, 2011

I've Got a Feeling: 12 Chinese Emotion Words

Up for an in depth discussion about our feelings?  I thought so!  In this post we're going to discuss emotion words, and, in case your one of those people who doesn't have emotions (for example, if you work for the IRS), we'll talk a little about how these emotions are used within the context of everyday circumstances.


You might have heard the saying, "If momma ain't happy (gāoxìng 高兴), ain't nobody happy (gāoxìng)."   If not, there's a chance that you're sitting around scowling like a socialite whose botox didn't take because your wife is in "one of her moods".  The solution is simple - buy her some flowers, tell her she's never looked more beautiful (lie if you have to!) and offer to pretend to be her the next time a member of the PTA calls wanting to complain about something like the color of the tables in the cafeteria or the arrangement of the chairs at the last PTA meeting.  Chances are, she'll crack a smile, and if you're lucky enough to actually get her feeling happy (gāoxìng), she might forget about your cholesterol for one night and let you have that extra serving of steak.


Sad (bēishāng - 悲伤) is how you felt when you realized that parachute pants would not be making a comeback anytime soon.  Yes, those looks you've been getting at the bank are simply the concerned stares of your peers who are wondering if you fell out of the eighties and couldn't find your way back.


If you've ever eaten at a Taco Bell then you probably understand what it's like to feel scared (hàipà - 害怕).  Will your meal come back to haunt you in a few hours or not?  Who knows!  But one thing's for sure - you're scared (hàipà).


Silly (yúchǔn - 愚蠢) is how you felt when your mother made you wear that horrendous sweater that Aunt Sophie knit for you to the family Christmas party.  You stomped your feet and promised to hate everyone forever, but dear Mom didn't budge and now you're sitting on the couch next to crazy old Cousin Lou and you've had the horrifying revelation that at this present moment in time you look more like him than he does (his wife let HIM wear a t-shirt). Yep, you really must feel silly (yúchǔn).


Surprised (gǎndào chījīng - 感到吃惊) is how your wife felt when you told her you'd go clothing shopping with her on Saturday.  Little does she know that you're planning to sneak away while she's in the dressing room and make yourself comfy in one of those massive plush chairs in front of the big screen TV's in the electronics department.  Boy won't she be surprised (gǎndào chījīng)! 


Remember when you got that ticket in the mail for running a red light on some street in Seattle?  Remember how you felt when you realized you've never been to Seattle?  You felt confused (hútu - 糊涂).  We won't discuss how you felt when you remembered that your brother-in-law borrowed your car that day - on second thought, why not?


So he made you angry (shēngqì - 生气).  What are you going to do about it?  You can't just sit around and pretend it didn't happen (though that's undoubtedly what he's trying to do) and you can't do anything too severe - he is family after all.  Perhaps inviting he and your sister over for a nice dinner is the answer.  Leave several hundred copies of the ticket laying around the house in places he can't help but see.  A dart board with his face as the target might also help to get the point across.  At the very least, it'll give you a way to release some aggression later if your plan fails.  You can't stay angry (shēngqì) forever - especially since you'll need to save up all your energy to deal with the next stunt he pulls!


Proud (jiāoào - 骄傲) is the feeling you got when your son brought home his first ever A on his report card.  Now if you could just get him to start dressing like a "normal" human being.  You just can't seem to figure out why he insists on wearing only black cargo pants that are holier than water blessed by the pope.  If only he'd exchange them for some nice parachute pants.  Then you'd really be proud (jiāoào).


You sure felt excited (xīngfèn - 兴奋) when you found out that you could get a camouflage tuxedo.  You were even more excited (xīngfèn) when you found out there were matching shoes!  Your wife, however, was not excited (xīngfèn) when you announced you'd be wearing them to your daughter's wedding.  It was a nice dream while it lasted.


You might feel a bit suspicious (huáiyí - 怀疑) if you notice that your name is nowhere to be found on the new birthday calendar at work.  You'd probably feel even more suspicious (huáiyí) if you overheard your boss referring to you as "that girl who used to work here".  And what if you saw your boss holding a pink slip while talking to two security guards and gesturing towards you at the end of the day on a Friday just a couple weeks after you completely mangled the most important business presentation of your career?  Suspicions confirmed.


Anxious (dānxīn - 担心) was how you felt when the doctor said "Wait a minute - I think there's a second baby in there!"  You also felt anxious (dānxīn) when he said, "...and they're both girls!  That means you get to pay for two weddings!"  Relief is what you felt twenty-five years later when you found out that one of your daughters had eloped.


Been to the Department of Motor Vehicles lately?  Being frustrated (huīxīn - 灰心) at the DMV is just a part of American life.  Is it the way they make you wait in line until you can't remember why you're there in the first place?  Maybe it's the way they seem to lose your checks each time you try to pay via the mail.  It could also be their "highly skilled" employees who never seem to spell your three letter name correctly.  There are so many fun reasons to be frustrated (huīxīn) with the DMV, and there will likely be a multitude of new reasons cropping up continually for years and years to come.

1.  gāoxìng - 高兴 happy

2.  bēishāng - 悲伤 sad

3.  hàipà - 害怕 scared 

4.  yúchǔn - 愚蠢 silly
5.  gǎndào chījīng - 感到吃惊 surprised 

6.  hútu - 糊涂 confused

7.  shēngqì - 生气 angry 

8.  jiāoào - 骄傲 proud

9.  xīngfèn - 兴奋 excited

10.  huáiyí - 怀疑 suspicious
11.  dānxīn - 担心 anxious
12.  huīxīn - 灰心 frustrated 

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

If you missed it, be sure to check out Friday's post: Hearing and Understanding: Big Bird and Little Bird for some great practice understanding what you hear in Chinese!

If you liked this post, you might also like Self Loathing Broke My Think Box: How Self Esteem Affects Second Language Learning.

Image by Jtneill (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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