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Found in translation episode 5

ShanghaiCityGirl Apr 23.2015 20:53
Tags: Language & Culture Category:My Blogs

"You are crazy" this is the most frequent comment I receive from my friends in reaction to my weekly updates. And vice versa. Actually, at some point we started having those ‘arguments’ over whose craziness levels were higher, but there is nothing negative or judgmental about it. ’You think I am crazy but that’s not bad’ as Rihanna belts out in one of her songs.

See, the thing is that when you come to China, whatever your origins are, you will undergo more or less conscious transformation after a while. Not only will your WTF threshold go irreversibly higher but you will also become less inhibited. Whether it is wearing blue, knee-length Manggha style wig while entering a 5-star hotel, taking a walk downtown at 2 am with enormous, black-feathered wings on, or ‘ganbeing’ a police officer at the beer festival while wearing a hat temporarily borrowed from him – it is really difficult to beat yourself, let alone surprise the locals here anymore.

I have been wondering a lot recently: is it because of the mixture of all us laowais coming to China? Or is it this peculiar country itself OR maybe just mutual influence that makes this place the best incubator for all the inconceivable shenanigans that we witness or experience every day? One thing is for sure, though. The locals are aware of this fact and apparently have seen some epic fails by people here trying to challenge the borderline, so they coined this phrase, that even made its way to the American Urban Dictionary. It goes like this ‘不作死就不会死”(bù zuō sǐ jiù bú huì sǐ). 作死”zuō sǐ literally means ‘seek death’and 'zuō' itself can mean act silly or dangerousand the whole phrase means ‘If you don’t look for trouble, you won’t find any’. And since China is latest and greatest on the international stage, Western media picked it up practically overnight (this phrase received over 1,600 likes in our social media) and they couldn’t help but adopt it, just..they ‘Chinglished’ it, of course (which is, for those of you not in the ‘inner circle’ - directly translating Chinese expression into English, without paying much attention to logic). So the Urban Dictionary’s translation, that got a green light from Chinese people, goes ’No zuo no die’ with more ‘cool’ explanation ’If you don’t do stupid things, they won’t come back and bite you in the ass ( but if you do, they most certainly will).

 But the best part about ‘No zuo no die’ is that it even has its own anthem! Or actually a few versions of it, that can be sung with catchy songs or TV show themes like ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ or ‘Doramon’ to name a few. My favorite ones, passed on from my invaluable students, are: “No zuo no die, why you try?!No try, no high give me five!’ Or ‘ No zuo no die, why you try, you try you die, don’t ask why!’

Well, makes sense. Especially when I think back to my Mid – autumn festival trip to Moganshan with one of my best friends. At some point we found ourselves in a cab at 10 pm, headed to the top of the mountain. The driver turned out to be a die hard fan of ‘Fast and Furious’ because in the pitch dark he was taking the most daring turns on the edges of cliffs, leaving me completely speechless (and this is something that most people find impossible). Well, that’s what you get taking a cab in the middle of nowhere, in China, being a foreigner. BUT we tried! And sipping our well deserved beers at the top of the mountain , we ‘high gave each other five’ for another unforgettable adventure, as the lyrics of the One Republic song ’Counting Stars' were wafting around:’ I feel something so right, but doing the wrong thing, I feel something so wrong, but doing the right thing. I could lie, could lie, could lie, everything that kills me makes me feel alive!’




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About ShanghaiCityGirl

My name is Gosia and I come from Poland. I set up my blog - Shanghai City Girl - out of my passion for writing,Chinese language and Shanghai itself.My goal is to explain Chinese slang and peculiar local culture, give tips about health and saving money in this overwhelming city!

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