from the Hong Kong Transit Blotter

2006.04.27 23:00 Route #68X toward Yuen Long

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  1. Fascinating.

    Perhaps it’s the translation (I note, by the way, OK=Okay in Chinese – glad that was cleared up!), but the terse dialogue seems a weird three-way hybrid of Beckett, Hemingway and Mamet.

    Also, love the Socratic sense of untimely tangents into relations with one’s mother, etc. (which a la Plato a la Strauss hold the real meat of the argument, so to speak, no?).

    Nicely done on the fold-in with Finnegan’s blotter, and Lickona’s Dantesque bits (isn’t the bus a modernized version of Charon’s bark) and even Lickona’s query into the Percyesque repetition-per-artem (howsoever accidental the performance might be between “uncle” and “boy”.)

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Re: ‘OK’ in Chinese

      First, a little background; I promise this is going somewhere mildly amusing.

      In Chinese, ‘good’ is a single-character word, 好 (pronounced ‘hao’ in Mandarin, or ‘hou’ by the Cantonese-speakers on this Hong Kong bus). If you want to ask someone, ‘Is this good, or not good?’, you might say, ‘好不好?’ (pronounced ‘Hao bu hao?’ in Mandarin, or ‘Hou bat hou’ in Cantonese). That second word, 不 (‘bu’; all further Romanizations in the present comment will give Mandarin pronunciations) means ‘not’. Thus, the question literally means, ‘Good not-good?’. This same structure works for other single-character words, as well: ‘對不對?’ (‘Dui bu dui?’, ‘True not-true?’), etc.

      Some words, however, are compounds of two characters. For example, a word for ‘possible’ is the compound 可以 (pronounced keyi). To ask someone, ‘Is this possible, or impossible?’, you might say, ‘可不可以?’ (‘Ke bu keyi?’). Note that the question is not ‘可以不可以?’ (‘Keyi bu keyi?’). Rather, to use this structure with a two-character compound word, the formula is:

      [(first character) + 不 + (first and second character)].

      All of this background is to explain a nugget of translinguistic grammar-nerd humor that I, for one, find pretty funny — namely, that a few Sinophone wags, when they wish to be understood as asking, ‘Is this okay, or not okay?’, write:



      Re: ‘a weird three-way hybrid of Beckett, Hemingway and Mamet’

      Amen and bravo!

  2. Great post and comment by JOB.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Recalls the best of Zhang Yimou.

    Thanks, Angelico.

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