mardi 7 juin 2011

Bear-Cat or Cat-Bear ?

I've been asked yesterday what made a Taiwanese different from a Mainland Chinese. 

I would say... A different philosophy of life.

When a Chinese sees a panda, he calls it a 熊貓 = Bear-Cat. The Taiwanese? 貓熊 = Cat-Bear 

Hence the misunderstandings I have with my colleagues. Each time I say “我要打車過去”, they ask me: “搭什麽車”?Though differences in vocabulary may appear in all kind of fields and registers, they seem to be the most frequent in modern and technical fields. A good example are the computer-related words: Software, Hardware, Printer, Notebook Computer, Default Settings, Mouse, etc. All different!

The article shows that only 2% of the Chinese speakers use traditional characters. What is not mentioned is that most of the well-educated mainland Chinese can also read the traditional characters. Traditional characters are also widely used in Mainland China on street or shops signs: It looks upper-class. It is also the language of the KTV... On the other hand, Taiwanese people look at simplified characters with disdain.

I laughed when I read in the article that Taiwanese people wonder "how the simplified word for love can be missing the character for heart, and the word for noodle the character for wheat.". I laughed because there seems to be a consensus in Taiwan to use these only two examples when arguing that simplified characters lost their meaning in the simplification process!

But let's come back to the heart of the problem: should panda be called bear-cat or cat-bear? After discussion with a few locals here a few days ago, we finally agreed that a panda looked a lot more like a bear than like a cat. Point for Taiwan.

Nevertheless, we then realized that pandas and cats had so little in common that 貓熊 was still a really inappropriate name for pandas. We thought 黑白熊 (Black and White Bear) would be a lot better. We’ll make a proposition for this!

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