Monday, 13 September 2010

#256: Rediscovering My East/West.

When I first started learning Mandarin, one of the first things we learnt was that the Chinese word for 'thing' or 'something' was 東西 (Dong Xi), aka 'East West'.

This struck me as something quite quirky and poetic in that ancient Chinesey ethereal way. It became one of my favourite mental concepts as the image of two opposite directions that encompasses all things, both physical and abstract is a pretty profound knock on the head.

It was also something completely new to me, coz in spoken Cantonese, we refer to generic things as 嘢 (Ye).

That was until I was speaking to my Mum one day and I referred to a random object in the kitchen. Then I realised I'd just used the 東西 form of 'thing' in Chinese.

I speak to my Mum in Hakka, and in Hakka, we don't say 嘢, we say 東西.

I'd actually been using both forms all my life and to that point in time, I'd never realised that 'Doong Xee' in Hakka was in fact 東西, East West.

It took me coming to Taiwan and learning a third form of Chinese to make the connection.
Blew my mind.

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