The Riches of the LanguageWritten by Julen Madariaga on December 18th, 2008
Busy week. Yesterday I had to cancel my Chinese lesson in the last minute due to an unexpected request from one of my hardcore Chinese clients. It made me feel miserable, partly because I always feel like a 9-to-5 bitch when I have to break my word for a client. But most importantly, because I know how well my teacher prepares her lesson and how she cares.
To try to make up for it (and to prove that I do study my lessons sometimes) here comes a long overdue post for the Learning Chinese section, dedicated to the most patient of Chinese teachers, FuTing.
Today’s lesson is called: The Riches of the Language.
There are many ways to measure “richness”, and whether one language is richer than other is usually a dumb discussion that I don’t like to enter. However, I can’t help being fascinated by the way some languages seem to have infinite variations and nuances for what in my own tongue is just one word. At the risk of exciting some patriotic readers from all sides: This is the lesson where I discover the amazing richness of the Chinese language.
During our last vocabulary review, I was struck by the number of characters that express different options for taking/carrying things. I asked Fu to help me put them all together, and after a short brainstorming session we came up with the list below.
Here are my 18 20 different ways to carry things in Chinese (and I’m only intermediate level):
- 带 - dai4 - to carry in general
- 拿 - na2 - to carry in your hand
- 抓 - zhua1 - to carry in your hand holding strongly
- 夹 - jia1 - to carry between two long things (like chopsticks)
- 捏 - nie1 - to carry with finger and thumb (like you carry a bogey)
- 挟 - xie2 - to carry under your arm
- 牵 - qian1 - to carry sb (holding hands)
- 挽 - wan3 - to carry sb around your arm (holding arms)
- 攥 - zuan4 - to carry in your hand tight (like a fly you just caught)
- 捧 - peng3 - to carry with both hands facing up (like an idol)
- 端 - duan1 - to carry holding it from the sites (like a big plate)
- 抱 - bao4 - to carry something hugging it (like a baby)
- 拎 - lin1 - to carry something that hangs (like a handbag)
- 挎 - kua4 - to carry a bag with a band across your shoulder
- 背 - bei1 - to carry on your back (like a sack of potatoes)
- 提 - ti2 - to carry in your hand with the arm down
- 举 - ju3 - to carry in your hand with the arm up
- 抬 - tai2 - to carry something heavy, usually 2 or more people
- 驮 - tuo2 - to carry on a donkey/horse/red-nosed reindeer’s back
- 扛- kang2 - to carry on the shoulder, like the 7 dwarfs carry shovels
- 荷 - he4 - to carry on the shoulder or back
- 挑 - tiao1 - to carry using a stick with two baskets hanging from it
This is only single characters, excluding combinations of them and excluding words that don’t bring a difference in meaning, like (握 and 抓). I am sure there are still more ways of carrying, and I would like to add them to my carrying list. I would be grateful for any contribution or correction in the comments.
Non-students of Chinese: now you understand what is taking us so long to learn this language!
NOTE: if you are reading this and you are struggling with the characters like myself, you should absolutely try Skritter, a new software that has been developed to help memorize the characters by having you write them yourself, instead of just looking at them on a flash card. I have been trying it this week, and although it is in beta, it works really well. It is stunning the things some people can do with a computer.
UPDATE!: Come on, we got up to 20 already, thanks to XiaoLu, who has earned thereafter the status of VIP commentator. I am sure there are still lots of “carry” characters left, any suggestions?