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  1. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #11

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    It is, apparently, a definite cultural difference. In my country the polite thing to do when someone gives you a compliment is to say Thank you.
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    #12

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by tedmc View Post


    I think there is a miscommunication in the translation of the expression "where? where" (哪里, nali) in Chinese in reply to the compliment about the bride being beautiful. Chinese culture encourages modesty, humility and denial of praises or compliments. But in western culture, when someone gives you a compliment, it is polite to say "thank you". However, in Chinese culture, accepting a compliment like that is considered being proud, so one is expected to be modest and deny the compliment by saying "nali, nali". The literal translation is "where, where?" but it is actually an expression to deny a compliment, like saying, "not at all".

    Self-effacing is not self-denial. The gist of the traditional Chinese culture is the idea of "Being modest makes you progress while being proud make you regress."

    The translation - "not at all" has made the gist or implication lost and thus is much worse than "Where? Where?", which is a modest way or a humble gesture to show the gratitude in heart (because the speaker is delighted to hear it) - That is, Chinese says "Thank you" in heart while English says "Thank you" in both mouth and heart.

    The phrase "Where? Where?" reflects in a colloquial way the happy medium (中庸之道). The Happy Medium is at the core of traditional Chinese culture or Confucianism. It refuses going to extremes and thus the translation "not at all", which has gone to extremes, is a bust.

    It appears not transferable if limited to a few words. So far "Where? Where?" is one of the best, compromised though, translations because the uncertainty that the phrase shows trickily induces your good wishes.
    Last edited by GoodTaste; 30-Oct-2020 at 16:20.

  3. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #13

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodTaste View Post

    It appears not translatable if limited to a few words. So far "Where? Where?" is one of the best compromises though, translations because the uncertainty that the phrase shows trickily induces your good wishes.
    You totally lost your way with the last part of the last sentence.
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    #14

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodTaste View Post
    the translation "not at all", which has gone to extremes, is a bust.
    I don't see how not at all has gone to extremes. It is simply one way in English of showing a polite turning down of flattery.

    So far "Where? Where?" is one of the best, compromised though, translations because the uncertainty that the phrase shows trickily induces your good wishes.
    It is not a good translation; it means nothing in English.
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  5. tzfujimino's Avatar
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    #15

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Just out of curiosity, how do native speakers of Chinese respond to that ("Where? Where?")?

    (Edit) I've googled "nali nali" and found this:
    https://www.google.com/amp/www.langu...i%3fformat=amp
    Last edited by tzfujimino; 30-Oct-2020 at 17:48.

  6. Tarheel's Avatar
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    #16

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Those Chinese phrases do not, I think, translate well into English. Also, I would hope that if I took the trouble to give somebody a compliment that they would not tell me they do not deserve it. Just say Thank you.
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    #17

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarheel View Post
    You totally lost your way with the last part of the last sentence.

    I wrote compromised. Why have you changed it into compromises and then said “lost your way”? (Typo correction: I did think "translatable" in mind, somehow it appeared to be "transferable" there. But, even with "transferable"(of, or relating to the quality of information that transfers from one culture to another), this last part is still clear (though not immediately understandable to you).

    So I am sorry. Because you changed "compromised" into "compromises", it is you who have made it "totally lost the way".
    Last edited by GoodTaste; 31-Oct-2020 at 00:21.

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    #18

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    Just out of curiosity, how do native speakers of Chinese respond to that ("Where? Where?")?

    (Edit) I've googled "nali nali" and found this:
    https://www.google.com/amp/www.langu...i%3fformat=amp
    Since Western Culture has profoundly influenced today's youth in China. Traditionally excellent Chinese texts are in rapid decline in use in China (it seems to be next to none that today's Chinese youth can speak or write in excellent Chinese). I believe traditionally excellent English is suffering the same fate in English-speaking countries. Blame smartphones and computers, which offer easy ways to overwhelmingly publish poor Chinese or English.

    Traditionally, well-educated Chinese would respond to "哪里?哪里?" with "过谦了" ("Too modest (you are)". Responding with "谢谢” in the link you offered is completely a result of the Western Culture's influence.

  9. probus's Avatar
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    #19

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by GoodTaste View Post
    I wrote compromised. Why have you changed it into compromises and then said “lost your way”? (Typo correction: I did think "translatable" in mind, somehow it appeared a "transferable".)
    Even with " compromised" the paragraph is unintelligible.

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    #20

    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    Even with " compromised" the paragraph is unintelligible.
    Let's take a look at it again:

    It appears not translatable if limited to a few words. So far "Where? Where?" is one of the best translations because the uncertainty that the phrase shows trickily induces your good wishes. (For the convenience of analysis, I removed "compromised though").

    Since it is not translatable, so "Where? Where?" is simply a makeshift; a best makeshift that is achievable rather than a real translation.
    "Nali? Nali?" ("Where? Where?") in Chinese itself is deliberately vague in expressing; it tends to reflect the traditional Chinese idea of "中庸之道“ (the happy medium). Of course "not at all" is understandable to you native English speakers, yet it has lost the subtle way the original Chinese means to convey. So the cultural difference is not "transferable" from Chinese to English. Further, using "not at all" in the OP would ruin the humor of the story.


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