Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe (Inke). If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.
First off, I don’t know who Tyler is.
But more importantly (read: amusingly), let’s talk about wheat. As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, one of the most frustrating things about learning Chinese is that words can’t simply be adapted the way they can in an alphabet-based language. Once upon a time, we wanted to start talking about 功夫 (gongfu), so it became the slightly-mispronounced “kung fu.” Same basic sound, same basic meaning.
But, it you want to turn something into Chinese, you have to choose some characters, every single one of which has a specific meaning – and the odds that you’ll find a combination of relevant characters that also happen to sound like the word you’re attempting to adopt are, shall we say, not great.
Take “microphone,” for example. Now, there is a real word for microphone: 话筒, or huatong. It literally means “speech tube” and meant megaphone and/or telephone transmitter before microphones were a thing – but you can certainly use it to mean a modern microphone.
However, a lot of people tend to use the phoneticization of microphone instead: 麦克风 (mai-ke-feng). And as with so many phoneticizations, the actual meaning is utter nonsense: literally, it’s wheat-gram-wind. You can make the claim that the characters are irrelevant, but that’s not super helpful to someone reading it for the first time with nothing else to go on.
[For real-world applications, I’d invite you to imagine trying to read a newspaper when every name and place from outside of China is this sort of nonsense-character-combination]
So anyway, I’ve mentioned the PK feature before, but Inke also allows viewers to essentially call in to a streaming room. If you accept their call, they get a little box in the bottom of the screen. In essence, it gives you the ability to host a talk show. It’s something I’d like to do more of, especially considering how many people are watching me because they want to practice their English. More on that another time.
For now, back to the wheat.
Inke calls this feature 连麦: 连 (lian) meaning “connect” and 麦 (mai) being an abbreviation of 麦克风 (see above). It simply means to link up microphones – but of course, 麦 doesn’t actually mean “microphone,” it means “wheat.” So if you, say, go to Baidu translate and plug in “连麦” because you want to tell me to accept your call, you’re going to get “even the wheat” instead of “connect microphones” (连 also means “even” sometimes).
For the sake of my word count, I’ll stop pre-rant and let you draw your own conclusions.
This is my “if you say so” face
No, seriously, though: I can think of a dozen utterly ridiculous problems with English off the top of my head. The spelling makes no sense. The grammar rules have so many exceptions they’re basically pointless. And do you realize how many of our words literally also mean their own opposite? It’s a mess. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that the thing you were born into has flaws.
But hey, if you want to “even the wheat” with me, I’d be happy to chat about how perfect Chinese is.
Ok, so first off, have you seen Jim Carrey lately?
Regardless of what’s going on inside Ace Ventura’s head, I love seeing yet another Chappelle-style reaction that demonstrates just how insane we all are (that is to say, a previously wacky celebrity decides to disappear and becomes a lot more serious and contemplative and we consider that to be “going nuts.”)
But whatever you think of his seemingly new outlook on life, there’s no question his appearance has taken a bit of a turn for the odd. And I’m not sure my two-day-old stubble quite gets me there.
I suppose he’s saying I look like a younger, less-bearded Jim Carrey, in which case…I dunno, thanks? I mean, he’s not a bad-looking guy, but I’m sensing this might be more related to my mannerisms than my facial features.
Ouch. See, I told you I don’t look like Jim Carrey.
As I constantly find myself repeating, it’s not a beard; it’s the product of a day or two of my being too lazy to shave. Message received – I shall fetch a razor.
Quick bonus rant: it’s always amusing me when someone who doesn’t get a joke will tell me that “OUR cultures are different so WE don’t get your jokes.”
No, friend. YOU don’t get ‘em. Don’t apply your lazy unwillingness to think something through to your billion fellow citizens.
You might also like:
Zhibo: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Livestreaming in China
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