Friday, May 20, 2011

What does an avocado have in common with an alligator?

[Chinese traditional character connoting alligator]

The other day I looked up the Chinese word for avocado, which is 鱷梨 (èlí). As I stared at the first character (shown in large size above), I felt that from its component parts (the left side of the character is the fish radical) that it just didn't seem to be a "normal" character for a veg..., I mean, a fruit. Popular Internet answers indicate the avocado is a fruit, although I had long thought of it as a vegetable. Being mildly allergic to avocados, I never had much interest in them, until now (linguistically!).

I wondered if that 鱷 character was the same one which I could remember phonetically, but not visually, for alligator (鱷魚; èyú), and indeed it is. I was told that the avocado skin resembles alligator skin, which is understandable. I later realized that the right side of the character might be a stylized rendering of what an alligator's skin looks like.

The second character in avocado, 梨 (lí), means pear. Apparently "alligator pear" is a common enough name for an avocado, although that was new(s) to me.

9/22/13: In Taiwan, avocado is also apparently translated as 洛梨 (luòlí).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tape cartridge case given new life by iPod

This old plastic tape cartridge case holds earphones nicely.

[iPod earphones inside plastic tape cartridge case]

The case serves quite functionally as a landscape orientation iPod holder, facilitating video entertainment.

[Futurama cartoon scene on iPod in landscape orientation in plastic tape cartridge case]

The case also works as a portrait orientation stand. Perhaps I should say it works as a "lean", since the angle of leaning can vary not insignificantly in this orientation. At least you can still press the Home button, which you couldn't do with a freebie smartphone stand I recently saw. The Safari page below is self-referential, but the Google news was a little too negative to use.

[this blog displayed on iPod in portrait orientation in plastic tape cartridge case]

I have extra cases, if folks who know me want one/some.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The proper Chinese pronunciation of Chen (陳)

Note that the proper spelling of pronunciation has no o before the u; pronounciation is incorrect. Pro - (nèn in Pinyin) - ci - a - tion...

陳 (Pinyin: Chén)is a common Chinese last name, often spelled in English as Chen. The way that spelling is typically pronounced in English led me to pronounce 陳 incorrectly in Chinese for quite some time. In English, the "en" portion of Chen, is pronounced like "en" in ten, but that's not the way it's pronounced in Chinese, despite the English spelling being the same as the Pinyin spelling, save for the addition of the 2nd tone.

The "en" portion of 陳 is pronounced more like "un" in sun, as I tested with CED. That "un"-like English sound is the sound of most occurrences of "en" at the end of a Pinyin syllable, e.g., in 分 (fēn; to separate),門 (mén; door), 很 (hěn; very), and 笨(bèn; foolish).

The only exception is when r precedes "en" in the Pinyin, as in 人 (rén, person). There the "en" portion is pronounced like "en" in ten. That R in Pinyin can be quite a tricky letter, another case of which I wrote about here.

I stumbled upon this 陳 pronunciation issue when a native Chinese speaker asked me if I was saying 陳 or 錢 (qián; money, but also a last name), making me aware of my having improperly carried over an English sound into Chinese.