Read an artical yesterday regarding a very common question among my foreign friends in China, "Why do Chinese often use Lǎowài老外 ” to refer to foreigners?"
It's interesting, let me share with you here.
Does only show old age? There’s a few things you should know about “老Old” in Chinese culture.
When you’re in China, you might notice just how often the word is used all around you. The frequent use is actually on account of its various meanings and the flexibility in its usage depending on situation. Literally, means "old age or a long time."
However, once it’s put together with other characters, the meaning varies. Let’s take a closer look at this necessary and versatile word.
1. To show respect
In Chinese, we usually put after the surname of the elderly to express respect, [and are three common Chinese surnames.]
Additionally, putting in front of a person’s title conveys the same degree of respect as shown above, for examples, (teacher), (aged expert ), (aged professor), and ( old doctor of Chinese traditional medicine).
Sometimes, we use not only to show respect but to also add a hint of reverence for those we mention. For examples, ( God or Heaven), (manager), and (boss) all have that added tone of esteem when spoken.
Moreover, if you have plans to visit China in the future, an important note to keep in mind is that the Chinese term for foreigners, is used to show a kind of respect with hospitality.
2. To convey the idea of a close relationship
For peers and colleagues, denotes a certain degree of warmth and confidence.,,,, and all express this point by placing in front of a surname.
Similarly, a wife might call her husband , and a husband might call his wife . Children call their dad and their mom . An elderly couple may also call each other .
3. To express the meaning of old or original
Common Chinese words to convey the meaning of old or original are (an old acquaintance), (old neighbor), (an old classmate), (old friend), ( an original/usual place) and (old weakness/trouble).
4 .To express very or extremely
This usage originated within dialects of northeast China, but today is in wide use in other regions as well, for examples, (such a long way), (very very early), (extremely good) etc.
5 .To indicate order
We can put a number after the word to express the order or rank among brothers and sisters, for examples, the eldest child, the second oldest, the third oldest and so on
6.To mean "always"
Last, can be used to describe the high frequency of a situation, such as (constant illness), (always late) etc.