Can you imagine a scenario where Mandarin Chinese were taught on television, in school, and even in public areas every day in your own country? The reason I ask is because the inverse is true: English is taught here, everywhere. It’s not just a huge private industry, but a state supported effort. Including . . .
The other day I was riding in a public bus. There is a television screen in the bus. Since I don’t read Chinese very well, it’s largely irrelevant to me what kind of entertainment is on the screen. Sometimes it’s cartoons, sometimes Power Rangers, sometimes other shows. But the other day I heard a word of English and to my surprise there was an English lesson on the screen.
A man was saying a sentence in English. The sentence was written in English on the screen, with Chinese written underneath the English. I looked up as the voice was saying, "It’s cold outside. It’s cold outside." Then the next sentence was, "It’s very cold outside. It’s very cold outside." There were more sentences, with each using a progressively stronger adverb to modify the word cold. "It’s freezing cold outside. It’s freezing cold outside. It’s bitter cold outside. It’s bitter cold outside." And then, the culmination of this progressive series.
I could read it, but I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. I didn’t think they’d really say it, but then the voice said, "It’s butt cold outside. It’s butt cold outside."
We see all kinds people who come over here to teach English. Now, there are a lot of really great people who do this. For some young people, it’s a way to see the world on a budget. But once in awhile we see some that you think to yourself, "What zoo did that one get out of?" You think to yourself, well, what kind of person comes to China to teach English? Often it’s a person whose personality is on the far end or more from "conventional."
Even among the expats on our social group, I notice that most of them have certain personality traits in common. As a rule, I’d say the ones who "make it" are extroverted, open to new experiences, curious and open minded, flexible, creative, resilient, physically healthy, and have a strong sense of humor. If you don’t believe it, try going to some of the parties. There’s nothing staid about them little events!
I’d even venture to say that we fall in the same basic category for the most part. I mean, how many of the more "conventional" people you know, could you imagine uprooting family and going to live in a foreign, unknown culture?
(This picture was taken at the restaurant where we
ordered an unknown dish, and it turned out to be
All this talk about the strange character of expats, and English teachers in particular (ha! gotcha!), is a prelude to say that once in awhile we see in print or in names the expression of a bit of the native English speaker’s sense of humor. A rather strange sense of humor. Now, the translation "cowboy leg" for "leg of beef steer" on a menu is probably the work of an unskilled translator. But some of the most odd translations are obviously forms of jest: "Slimy gross stuff on a bun," for instance. We also see this in the names of people whose English names are things like "Kissup."
Hmm. I couldnt’ help but wonder if "Butt cold" weren’t the result of some passive aggressive humor. Perhaps the work of some English teacher who felt they weren’t being paid enough? We’ll never know . . .
Right now in Guangzhou, it is indeed "butt cold outside!" For some reason, it feels cold even though it’s not very cold. Perhaps its the humidity. Perhaps it’s that heat is inadequate in a house designed to keep things cool (there’s no upper limit on the height of a ceiling in a three storey apartment with a glass roof). But yah, I’d say, "It’s butt cold outside! It’s butt cold outside!"