“Contradictory” (Origin of the word in Chinese)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2-10-19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Background Info/Context:

A few friends and I were talking about different words in our own respective languages. For example, in Korean, a booger is called “코딱지 which literally translates to two separate words that mean “nose” and “sticky thing.” So my friend piped in saying that there was something similar in Chinese for the word “contradictory,” but needed to tell the story in order for us to understand.

 

Piece:

“In Chinese, the word for “contradictory” directly translates to “spear” “shield”– “mao thun.” Individually, the words mean “spear” and “shield,” but when you put them together, it means “contradictory,” and that’s because a long time ago, there was this Chinese salesmen, and he was selling like military armor and everything.

So he was walking down the street like “Hi everyone! Buy my spear! It’s the best spear ever! It can like pierce through anything in the world. It’s so strong” blah blah blah. And people would buy it. The next day, he would sell his shield. Like “Everyone, buy my shield! It’s the best shield ever, nothing can pierce through this.”

And then people are like “Hold on. Like you just said that you had the best spear in the world and it can pierce through anything. Would your spear pierce through your shield?” And so he was just kinda stuck like “Oh shoot, I don’t know.”

 

 

Thoughts:

I think this story is a nice way to help people remember this word in Mandarin. Many “compound” words in Korean actually mean what the words that are combined actually describe, but it was interesting to listen to this story about the word “contradictory,” and see how the meaning of this “compound” word in Chinese means something entirely differently to its parts.

I can see this story also serving as a lesson to people who are hypocritical or contradictory. More broadly, you shouldn’t say one thing and do another. For example, gossiping to one friend about someone else and then going to that other person and gossiping about their friend is bound to catch up to you.

Click this link to watch a different version of this story on Youtube: https://gbtimes.com/swords-shields-and-chinese-contradiction.