Model Mandarin: June 2016

Model mandarin

BEAR IN MIND Learn by saying things you shouldn’t

Chinese titles for family members have always been a pain. And it is not the sort of thing you want to get wrong, either. We are here to help you avoid any embarrassing faux pas. So, let’s look at an interesting name given to a son-in-law: 毛脚女婿 (máojiǎo nǚxu), literally means son-in-law with furry feet. 女婿(nǚxu) is the more formal way of referring your daughter’s husband.

So, where do the “furry feet” come from? Well, it is believed that a young man will show up at his girlfriend’s house very often before getting married as he is eager to join her family and impress the parents.

Thus, 毛手毛脚(máoshǒu máojiǎo) means behaving nervously and hurried and always making mistakes. Therefore, 毛脚女婿(máojiǎo nǚxu) is the name used for a future son-in-law.

Do you want to be a毛脚女婿(máojiǎo nǚxu) in China? Well, you need to bag yourself a Chinese girl first! You better start earning money, fast.

女婿(nǚxu) son-in-law
毛脚女婿(máojiǎo nǚxu) future son-in-law
毛手毛脚(máoshǒu máojiǎo) behaving nervously, in a flurry and always making mistakes.

Do you want to learn more about family members in Chinese? Check out cool video


TALKING POINTS A supplement for grammar practice

Relationships with parent-in-laws have always been a delicate topic. How can we get along when there is gap between generations? And if you happen to date a Chinese girl and are about to get married, how should you behave in front of her parents when you meet for the first time?

It is necessary to greet the elders with the correct title. 叔叔(shūshu) uncle and 阿姨(āyí) aunt are the most appropriate ones. Therefore, try叔叔阿姨好(shūshu āyí hǎo) when you meet for the first time.

Bring some gifts with you, and say 这是一点小意思(zhè shì yìdiǎn xiǎoyìsi) meaning “This is a little gift.” Avoid refusing anything they give you to eat. Pretend you won’t take the red packet they give you at first and then accept it later (it makes you look polite).

It’s nice to say things like见到你们我很高兴 (jiàndào nǐmen wǒ hěn ɡāoxìnɡ), which means “I’m so glad to meet you.” And when it comes to age (it’s not impolite to ask about the elder’s age in China), you should say 您多大了(nín duōdà le).

CARTOON CHARACTERS Mnemonic devices that work

0616_model-mandarinThe character “见”(jiàn) means “see.” Because the top part
(目) of the traditional 見 means “eye” and the bottom part
(人) means “person/man.” So a Man (人) Sees (见) with his eyes (目). Goodbye means “see you again.” 再(zài) is again.
So 再见(zàijiàn) means goodbye.

The famous Chinglish phrase “long time, no see” was originally from the phrase 好久不见 (hǎojiǔ bújiàn). It has now entered the English lexicon as a perfectly regular idiom.
见(jiàn) has the meaning of to meet, as well.

Meet friends 见朋友 (jiàn pénɡyou)
Meet the parents (usually referred to your girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents)
见父母 (jiàn fùmǔ)

CANTONESE CORNER Guangdong conversation starters 

neoi5 sai3 (女婿) – This word is used to address a daughter’s husband. It shares the same character as in Mandarin, but with different pronunciation. When you introduce your son-in-law, it goes like this: “This is my son-in-law” (这个系我的女婿 ze3 go3 hai6 ngo5 dik1 neoi5 sai3) (For neoi, take it from mid to high. Take sai back to steady mid-low.)