Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bao zhi (newspaper) vs bao zi (steamed buns)

One day, I made an appointment with a Chinese-speaking friend who agreed to meet me at the intersection of a busy street.

Since I had to find a landmark that: a) I could tell her in Mandarin and b) she could easily identify, I decided on the news agent, which is a big, square stand that sticks out amongst the crowd. Feeling pleased with myself, I told her: “Wo zai mai bao zi de dian qian mian den ni, hao bu hao? (I’ll wait for you outside the news agent, ok?)”

She said, “Mai bao zi? Hao! Zai jian!” We both hung up and I happily waited for her.

Luckily, I saw her coming but she couldn’t see me because she was looking right and left for me. Then, she picked up her phone and called me. I waved to her like a mad woman before she could start dialing. She saw me and quickly crossed the road. I asked her why she was looking for me when I was standing right next the news agent.

She said, “Wo zai zhao mai bao zi keshi wo zhao bu dao ah…”

Of course I looked puzzled and pointed to the news agent on my left. “Zhe ge bu shi mai bao zi ma?” 

She looked at the news agent with big eyes and then it dawned on her that this silly cow meant “newspaper” and not “steamed buns”. “bào zhǐ! (报 纸) (jaw clenched tightly, lips curled for emphasis) Bu shi bāo zǐ (包 子)(smiling without clenched jaw)”.

Oops!!! I apologized profusely to her but she laughed because she had been looking all around for steamed dumplings when I meant a boring newspaper stand all along LOL

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