rcintheprc

I have editors!

August 3, 2014
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If you like reading my thoughts but are annoyed by my frequent typos, I have good news for you! I’ve been invited to write for The Concepts Project, and the things I write there get checked by copy editors (fancy stuff). The Concepts Project is a blog that provides clear, interesting explanations of concepts. I was invited in as a health writer, so if you think that medicine is a bunch of concept-less memorization, let me (try to) prove you wrong! Here’s my first post: it’s about feedback.


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Making a tongue twister

August 3, 2014
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During my first month in China, I wrote about my amazement that the phrase “我常常去长城” (wo chang chang qu chang cheng) could actually convey meaning.  At the time, it frankly sounded to me like someone doing a bad impression of what they think Chinese sounds like.  In fact, it means, “I often go to the Great Wall.”

Well, I’ve come up with another phrase.  It’s longer and more preposterous sounding, and it means, “brother, are we gonna be able to catch a cab or not?”

弟弟,到底打得打不到的?

I kid you not, that would be read, “Di di dao di da de da bu dao di?”

You just don’t get sentences like that in English.


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Crazy, weird, and culture

August 3, 2014
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Today, I saw a man slapping a tree. He was about fifty or sixty years old, and was standing by the side of the road repeatedly smacking both of his hands against the smooth bark of a sycamore. He is neither crazy, nor weird.

As Chinese people get older, they start hitting things. They slap their arms, slap their legs, slap inanimate objects. They do this to bring circulation to those areas, to relieve joint pain, and, perhaps in some cases, to keep the bones strong. These things all, in fact, make sense. Therefore: not crazy. Although those of us with American inclinations might elect to take a slew of medications, even we, if we really think about it, must admit that (gently) hitting yourself in your old age can be logical.

But this man was not only not crazy, he was also not weird. If what you’re doing makes sense, you’re sane, and if it’s accepted in your culture you are normal. Slapping trees is not weird in China. Most people do go into a park to do it (there they are surrounded by other retired folk doing similar things for similar reasons) rather than standing by the roadside, but no matter where you do it, only a foreigner would do a double-take.

To raise a similar example, when I use my umbrella on sunny days in America, I am not crazy (I have very good reasons, and frankly, I advise others to adopt the practice), but I am certainly weird.


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