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27 June 2003 @ 09:21
useful mandarin redux redux...  
So, in celebration of the first draft of Lex Talionis being sent off to be whipped into shape by betas, I have updated my glossary of "Useful Mandarin for Firefly authors" and if anybody out there actually, you know, speaks Mandarin, and can point out all of the lovely fuck-ups, I would greatly appreciate it, as much of this was culled from the web, as well as from Insight Pocket Travel Dictionary: Chinese (ISBN 1-58573-200-1)

ài rén   sweetheart

bâobèi   precious (item); ie: precious jewels (endearment)

bà bà   daddy (familiar)

bèn dàn   [you] idiot!

bì zuî   be quiet/shut up

cào   v/t screw, fuck

cào nî zûxiān shí bâ dai   fuck 18 generations of your ancestors

chûn   stupid

chûnrén   fool, jerk (familiar)

chùsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo   animal fucking bastard

dà gē   big brother (formal); also way of addressing non-relation, similar to "Sir"

dòngwù   animal

dāì ruò mù jī   dumb as a wooden chicken

dong ma?   understand?

duìbùqî   I'm sorry/excuse me

fèhuà   garbage (nonsense)

fùqin   father (formal)

gāxìng jìandào nî   pleased to meet you

gē ge   big brother (familiar)

gôu pì   bullshit

gôushî bùrú   lower than dogshit/lowest of the low

gûnkāi   fuck off

hâo ba   okay (reluctant)

hâo de   okay/will do!

hâo le ma   that's enough, okay?

hâo le   okay (contextual "Okay, that's enough. Stop right there." can be considered rude)

hâo   okay/sure

húndàn   asshole/bastard

heishôudâng liúmáng   gangster asshole/bastard(s)

jiao-zi   pan-fried dumplings

juéduì bù   (exclamation) no way!

lâotou   old geezer

lìngrén jingyì   stunning, amazing

liúmáng   bastard/asshole/criminal/gangster

mâshàng   on the double/quickly/right away/immediately

mà mà   mommy (familiar)

méi gu&257;nxi   it's nothing/it's okay

méiyôu mûqin de xiao gôu   motherless cur

mêilì   beautiful/pretty

mèimei   little sister

m&257;de   (exclamation) fuck

mu qin   mother (formal)

nî bù dông ma   don't you understand?

nî bù dông   you don't understand

nî hâo mêi   you're so beautiful

nî shòu shäng le   you're hurt

ni meí shì bà?   are you okay?

nuòfu   coward

pōfù   bitch

qù tāmāde   (exclamation) fuck him/fuck that!

qù tāmāde   (exclamation) motherfucker

qin ài de   dear, darling

qingwa cào de liúmáng   frog-humping sumbitch

shénme?   what?

shìde   yes/right

shuài   hansome/snazzy

sishengzi   bastard (not an insult)

tāmāde húndàn   fucking bastard

tìan xiâo de   God knows (heaven/sky only knows)

tiānna   (exclamation) Oh God

wô hâo   I'm fine

wúnéug de rén   trash (despicable person)

wo nén qin ni tiào wu ma...?   may I have the pleasure...(of this dance)?

wode tìan   oh sky! (colloquial: Oh God!)

xíao dì   little brother (familiar); used with a blood relation

xiâo dì dì   little brother (familiar); can be used with someone not related to you

xiâo mèi   baby sister; used with a blood relation

xiâo mèimei   baby sister; can be used with someone not related to you<

xiâo péngyou   little friend (familiar), kid, children

xiâoxin   [be] careful

xièxie nî   thank you

xièxie   thanks

xin gan   sweetheart, darling

xin nian kuai le   happy new year

yúchûn   stupid/ignorant

yaoguài   monster

zài-jiàn   goodbye

zôugôu   yes man (derogatory)

zhàngfu   husband

zhè bìng bù huài   it's not that bad

zhùzuî   be quiet/shut up

needless to say, I am still tracking down the hanyu pinyin for a lot of the Mandarin used on the show, and still annoyed at the fact that half the diacritical marks I need aren't supported in HTML *sigh*
mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Furious Ming: all under heaventhepeopleseason on 27th June 2003 08:16 (UTC)
The list looks great. There's a number of items I can't really verify, as my Mandarin is rather spotty.

jiao-zi pan-fried dumplings (New Year specialty)

Just being a bit pedantic, but jiao-zi are generic dumplings, usually referring to ones which are steamed or boiled. Guo-tie are the pan-fried variety, literally "Metal Pot" with "Adhere," hence the common term "Potstickers."
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 08:56 (UTC)
Will fix :) You rock! I've been kinda compiling stuff incredibly randomly over the last six months *lol*
Amezri: smile!amezri on 27th June 2003 08:17 (UTC)
Too much information? :-/
Oh! ::raises hand:: I speak Mandarin.. poorly. Heh.

guo nian happy new year

Guo nian is more like process of celebrating New Year; the celebration of the New Year.

You can say Xin Nian hao, but that's more in the context of conversation (ie, after New Years, if you call or meet someone, you greet them with "Xin Nian hao"). Happy New Year would be Xin Nian kuai le.

Alternately, you can go with gong xi fa cai which means "may you be prosperous."

hao ba

hao by itself means "yes" or "okay." You can add ba, de, le to the end of hao to change the implied meaning:

hao de implies: Okay, no problem! It's a deal! Will do.
hao ba implies: Well, alright. If that's what you want. The speaker shows reluctance.
hao le implies: That's enough. Stop right there. This can be rude if used improperly.

juéduì bù (exclamation) no way!

I have to check on this, but I'm sure this is not used on its own as a complete expression.

nî bù dông
"You don't understand" or "You wouldn't understand."

wô hên hâo
"I am very well." hên means "very"

wo nén qin ni tiào wu ma...? may I have the pleasure...?

... of this dance? :) Lit. "May I ask you to dance?"

As an aside, adding "ma" to the end of a sentence generally turns it into a question:
nî bù dông ma - Don't you understand?
Hao le ma - That's enough, okay?

Well.. those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I can have my mother check it over later tonight if you'd like :)
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 08:56 (UTC)
Re: Too much information? :-/
Ask me how much I LOVE YOU right now?


Amezri: the appleamezri on 1st July 2003 21:09 (UTC)
More glossary corrections
I is back! ^_^ Had my mom finally sit down and go over the list for me. She had a laugh at some of the curses. *hee*

bà bàn - should be bà bà

bao bei - precious (item); ie: precious jewels

dà ge - big brother (formal); also way of addressing non-relation, similar to "Sir"

gôu pì - bullshit (lit. "dog fart") [I just thought that was amusing.. heh]

gunkai - not as strong as "fuck off," more like "get lost"

Correction on hao le - also used as "it's done". Hao le ma? more often used as "Is it done/finished?" However in context, it can be rude - "Are you done?"

jiao-zi - dumplings
guo-tie - pan-fried dumplings (lit. stuck to pot)
sui-jiao - boiled/steamed dumplings

juéduì bù - definitely don't ______
by itself, this is an incomplete phrase.

For example:
ie: "Do you want this flaming bag of poo?" "juéduì bù yao. ([I] definitely don't/definitely not)"

liúmáng - criminal (wrong-doer); gangster

mâshàng - on the double/quickly/right away/immediately

qù tamade - motherfucker (tamade is the shortened slang version of this)

sishengzi - [proper] bastard; a statement of fact rather than an insulting slur

xíao dì dì - (lit. little brother) used to address those not related to you. For males younger than you.

xiâo péngyou - (lit. little friend) children; Elementary teachers would call their students xiâo péngyou. Parents also refer to their kids as xiâo péngyou. Obviously, this can be used in a derogatory way.

xiâo mèimei - (lit. baby sister) form of adress for females younger than you and not related to you.

xin gan - sweetheart, darling (lit. heart liver)

yúchûn - ignorant/stupid
this is the difference between calling someone "ignorant" and calling them "stupid" - one would use this to show they were more educated.

Hope that was helpful! ^_^ Let me know if there are any more :) I would be glad to help!
Amezriamezri on 1st July 2003 21:12 (UTC)
Re: More glossary corrections
oops.. forgot...

xíao dì would be used to refer to a blood relation. The same with xiâo mèi. However, it doesn't have to literally be your brother or sister. You can call your little cousin xiâo mèi, for instance.
ljctaraljc on 2nd July 2003 08:31 (UTC)
Re: More glossary corrections
you rock!

Okay, then what would be an equivalent expression of disbelief (i.e. "No way!" or "get out!" or "You never did!" in English)?
Amezri: gollumamezri on 2nd July 2003 12:04 (UTC)
sort of what you want, with extra info
You can use fèi huà. [note spelling - I didn't catch it before]

"That guy just fell out of the sky."
"Fèi huà."

You can also use luàn shuō (to make irresponsible remarks) or hú shuō (talk nonsense; drivel; speak lies)

"I heard you robbed a bank."
"Hú shuō."

bù kê néng - impossible; never going to happen

"I need to borrow your car so I can blow it up and throw it in the river."
"Bù kê néng. (That is never going to happen. / No way.)"


"I just saw a pig fly!"
"Bù kê néng! (No way!)"

bù néng - can't, with the possibility of argument

"Can you drive me to Texas?"
"Bù néng."
"I'll give you $1000."
"... okay."

I know, my examples are all extreme ^_^* LOL
ljctaraljc on 2nd July 2003 12:13 (UTC)
Re: sort of what you want, with extra info
Well, the scene I have Kaylee expressing shocked disbelief about is Simon leaping off a catwalk to tackle a guy with a gun, so extreme works :)
Amezriamezri on 2nd July 2003 12:18 (UTC)
Re: sort of what you want, with extra info
Oh! ^_^ bù kê néng would be perfect :)
ljctaraljc on 2nd July 2003 12:25 (UTC)
Re: sort of what you want, with extra info
which was exactly the one I used :)
Amezriamezri on 2nd July 2003 12:21 (UTC)
Re: sort of what you want, with extra info
LOL You are gonna kill me for spamming you. I just realized that in that situation, "Ai ya!" would be perfect :-D

Ai ya - Damn/Ah/My god/Holy shit
Amezri: oh noooos!amezri on 2nd July 2003 12:16 (UTC)
Shang Sheng
It's just been brought to my attention that the tone marks for Shang Sheng are wrong. They should be ǔ and not û >_< D'oh.

Not sure of the html for that, but snagged them from this site.
ljctaraljc on 2nd July 2003 12:25 (UTC)
Re: Shang Sheng
Shang Sheng?

Also? You are a veritable font of information, and the mandarin in the devilbunny now rocks, thanks to you and your mother.

I will now do the dance of happy tonal languages.

Amezri: smile!amezri on 2nd July 2003 13:24 (UTC)
Re: Shang Sheng
Nevermind. I just noticed that you addressed the fact that the circumflex is the closest thing you could get to the right Shang Sheng accent mark ^_^

And you're welcome for the help :) It actually helps me expand my knowledge of my own native language so I'm glad for the experience. Feel free to IM if you need other assistance ^_^
resmin: airesmin on 27th June 2003 08:22 (UTC)
Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
Well since I actually happen to have my Chinese primer right beside me...

ba ba= also equals dad.
ben= stupid
chun= with - across means spring.
fu mu= formal parents
Ni bu dong= would be You don't understand (?).. but you're missing the ma at the end.
Ni hao mei= Mostly should be Ni haokan... You're good-looking.
Ni shi hen piao liang= You are very pretty.
Wo hen hao= I'm very good. ((hen is very))

peng you= friend
nu peng you= girl friend
nan peng you= boy friend
Wo de ming zi...= My name is...
hai shi= or
Ni shi nan xue sheng, wo shi nu xue sheng= You are a boy student, and I'm a girl student.
gui= expensive

Hope I was helpful. *g*
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 08:55 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
woo! can you include the diacritical marks? I know how important th tones are *lol* So I wanna make sure what I'm writing is what I mean to be writing...
resminresmin on 27th June 2003 08:57 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
How does one go about doing that?
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 09:10 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
Well, here's how to do it in HTML:

&circ; would add a circumflex (which, granted, is upside down, but the closest thing you can find that matches) so &ucirc; gives you û

&grave; would add an accent grave, so &ugrave; gives you ù

&acute; would add an accent acute, so &uacute; gives you ú

If you need a macron (that straight line on top a letter) you're hosed--that's not supported in HTML currently :(
(Deleted comment)
Amezri: gollumamezri on 27th June 2003 09:38 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
Hm. I don't even think most English type-sets support the macron. I know Arial and Verdana don't have them.
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 09:58 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
It's frustrating as HELL. I mean, it's a cmoon diacritical mark in a whole slew of languages!
(Deleted comment)
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 11:45 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
crap! I knew I was gonna have to check that *sigh* Thanks for not letting me bugger up my title! I should be allowed to type Latin from memory...
ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 11:47 (UTC)
Re: Hell of an issue with the tones... sorry.
Ah--I see the problem. It's mis-spelled on the website where I originally found the reference (Google search reveals 40 instances of "lex tallionis" but 5000+ "lex talionis" so I shoulda known better...)
Taiamutaiamu on 27th June 2003 18:15 (UTC)
A (fairly long and useless) post about Mandarin

My Mandarin is really shaky(two years of it in uni, and I don't remember much of that, so take it for what it's worth), but I believe that 'ma' is always added to the end of a sentence if you intend it as a question.

Ex: (Ni)chr fan ma? Do (you) want to eat?

Lit: 'You eat food?'

A few other odds and ends:

Wo: I/me
Ni: You
Ta: He/She (note: 'Ta' is one of those wierd words. If you are speaking, you have to kind of guess if the person being referred to is male/female by the context. If it's written, there are different characters for male/female, so it's a bit easier.)
Tamen: They
Nimen: You(plural)
Women: We
Lao Hu: Lit: 'Wild Woman' I.E. Prostitute. You might want to check this, as I'm going from memory.

As I remember, Mandarin doesn't really conjugate much. They just add another word into the sentence.This makes for very long sentences. ;)

Um...let's see. Mandarin is tonal. This is something you probably won't see when you're using it in a story. But it is an interesting fact to keep in mind. Ex: When asking a question, our voices usually rise at the end of a sentence. IIRC, Mandarin doesn't do this. The 'ma' ending should be sufficient. The tone is very important--you could think you're saying something totally innocuous, and end up calling someone a frelling bastard. ;)

Like I said, not much info, and most of it is about the structure of the language, which may not be of use to you. ::shrug::

I didn't really get into Firefly--I don't generally like the western genre, so a show set even partially in that genre has to really be something special. But, in my meanderings across the eps, I did wonder:

Why Mandarin? I mean--very cool. But I caught myself wondering how/why it came to be used as a slang language in the 'future'. Any real reason? Or did Joss just think it was cool?

Oh, and hey, can I friend you?

ljctaraljc on 27th June 2003 19:44 (UTC)
Re: A (fairly long and useless) post about Mandarin
Sure you can friend me!

I think Joss' logic was that, 500 years from now, America and China would have formed an Alliance. hence the Anglo-Sino Alliance, and all the characters being bilingual.
Taiamutaiamu on 27th June 2003 18:34 (UTC)
Okay...well, I should really do more than just skim comments. Much of what I've said has been said already...sorry. :)

Oh: "Ni hao ma?"--how are you?
"Wo hao."--"I'm fine."

But, people will often leave off the 'to be' verb. Especially if you are close to the individual.

Hongzi-Red(the color)


didi--'Little brother', familiar.
Xiao Je-- 'miss', 'young lady'. Ex: Bai xiao Je
Sir--Xian Sheng
Jie Jie--Sister(older)

And I found a fairly accurate dictionary here:


::sigh:: I should really find a Mandarin class again. I enjoyed leaning the language.