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Clever uses of “意思” that might confuse you

意思.png


Simon is proud of the fact that his Chinese has improved by leaps and bounds since he first came to China. He has a drink with Xiao Lin and her friend Da Li; but he becomes frustrated with their conversation because he couldn't get in a word edgeways. Afterwards, Xiao Lin explains that the conversation is a classic joke used to confuse foreigners.

西蒙第一次来到中国,他的中文突飞猛进,为此他感到非常自豪。但是当他在酒桌上听到他的朋友大力和小林的对话时,他却感到非常沮丧,因为他根本搭不上话。事后,小林向他解释说他们的对话其实是一个迷惑外国人的经典笑话。

tīng shuō xiǎo wáng zhǎng gōng zī le, dàn wǒ de gōng zī méi zhǎng tài méi yì si le.

Da Li:听说小王涨工资了,但我的工资没涨,太没意思了。

I heard that Xiao Wang's salary has gone up, but mine hasn't. It's so frustrating.

nà nǐ men lǎo bǎn shí me yì si ā yào bú nǐ gěi tā yì si yì si 

Xiao Lin:那你们老板什么意思啊?要不你给他意思意思?

What's the meaning behind your boss's actions? How about giving him something to help move things along?

nà wǒ duō bú hǎo yì si ā.

Da Li:那我多不好意思啊。

It would make me feel embarrassed.

bú hǎo yì si wǒ suí biàn shuō shuō.

Xiao Lin:不好意思,我随便说说。

Sorry, it was just a casual remark.

In Chinese, a word may have different meanings according to the context, and "意思" ( yì si) is one of the most difficult and widely used words for which this is the case. It carries the basic definition of "meaning", but only when you totally comprehend all the usages can you comprehend the above conversation. 

汉语中,根据语境的不同,一个词可能有好几种不同的意思,而“意思”则是这类词中最难也是最常用的词。“意思”的基本英文意思为meaning,但是只有掌握了它所有的含义之后,你才能理解上述对话。

意思 (yì si): meaning/idea/opinion/wish/hint 

意思(yì si):含义/想法/观点/愿望/暗示

没意思 (méi yì si): boring/ not interesting, implying feelings of listlessness and discontent.

没意思(méi yì si):枯燥的, 无趣的,暗指感到倦怠或不满

有意思 (yǒu yì si): interesting/ridiculous 

有意思(yǒu yì si):有趣的,可笑的


小意思 (xiǎo yì si): small gift or small token of regards

小意思(xiǎo yì si):小礼品或小报酬

不好意思 (bú hǎo yì si): shy/embarrassed/sorry

不好意思(bú hǎo yì si):害羞,尴尬,抱歉

In the dialogue, when Da Li complains that his salary hasn't risen, he thinks this is unfair and feels a little angry and disappointed, but he is unable to do anything about it. Therefore, he says "真没意思" to express his feeling of listlessness and discontent.

在上段对话中,大力抱怨他的薪水没有涨,认为这不公平,为此感到有点生气失望,但是却无能为力。因此他说“没意思”以表达他的内心的低落及不满。

Xiao Lin responds normally: What's the meaning behind your boss's actions? so "意思" here means "opinion". Xiao Lin then suggests giving the boss some gifts or money or something to help move the promotion along. "意思意思" or "小意思" in Chinese means reward.

小林很正常地问道:“你们老板是什么意思啊?”因此“意思”在这里是指“观点,想法(opinion)”。小林然后提议给老板送些礼物或金钱,希望能推动这件事情的发展。“意思意思”或“小意思”在此时的意思是指“回报”。

Da Li thinks it is inappropriate or embarrassing to do such a thing, so he says "不好意思". This phrase is repeated by Xiao Lin, but the usage has changed totally. In the last sentence, it is used as a kind of informal apology for small issues, for example, if you accidentally shove someone on a crowded metro, you can say: "不好意思".

大力认为这样做不合适,令人尴尬,因此他说“不好意思”。小林也用了“不好意思”这个词,但是在此语境中该词的含义却完全不同。最后一句“不好意思”是表示因一些小事向他人道歉,是一种非正式的说法。例如,如果你在拥挤不堪的地铁上不小心推了一下他人,你就可以说“不好意思”。

Translated from: english.cri.cn

2016-06-21

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