The Tiger and the Chicken

Today was an interesting lesson. It is Friday the 13th and so I was trying to explain how 13 meant unlucky (bu ji li) just like the number 4 means unlucky in Chinese. One thing led to another and we expounded upon many an American and Chinese story that has dual meanings. Examples include:

  • giving a Green hat
  • a Black cat crossing your path
  • Walking under a ladder
  • saying, “youle”
  • etc…

As I finished class I needed to pay for some more hours at reception and thus the following conversation ensued with ANOTHER teacher, not mine. Bear in mind that all of this was all spoken in Chinese in a room full of female Chinese teachers:

Me: Hey, I think that teacher is 24 years old, do you know?
Receptionist: I don’t know, why do you think that?
Teacher: Hey, why do you think I am 24?
Me: Oh, you know. In China, now is a time for people who are 12, 24, and 36 years old to take care.
Teacher: yeah, the year of the golden pig!
Me: Yes. What animal are you?
Teacher: I can’t tell you (tee hee) and that is not the way to say it. You must say to which animal do you BELONG?
Me: Oh sorry, to which animal do you belong?
Teacher: I can’t tell you. What about you?
Me: I am a tiger!
Teacher: You “belong” to tiger. What is your Chinese name? Oh yeah. I remember you. I am going to call you tiger and not your Chinese name.
Me: Ok, sounds good. I like all things tiger. Harbin tigers, tiger beer, etc..

Me: So, I think you are/belong to either Pig or Dog because you are 24 or 25.
Teacher: No, why do you think that?
Me: Because when you are 24 you need to wear red to protect yourself from all the other animals because it is your year and they want to harm you.
Teacher: Wow, you are the clever tiger. That is correct, but my t-shirt is yellow and not red. If I was wearing a red belt you could say that.
Me: Yes, but you are wearing red underwear which is hanging out of your pants!
Teacher: What!?! Oh. Oh no. We have to watch out for you clever tiger. I am a chicken (ji), but don’t tell anyone.
Me: Oh, chicken. Like ‘ji rou de ji’ cool. So, I will call you chicken!
Teacher: What? No, you cannot.
Me: (to room) Bye friend, bye my teacher, bye chicken
Teacher: What! No, don’t say that, wait come back!


At this point I just thought it was a strange conversation, so I told the story to my driver who ’bout drove us off the road laughing. I thought we was going to die he was crying so hard. He then explained that calling someone “ji” which sounds like chicken is the same as calling them a prostitute. Doh! I had no idea. She called me tiger, I called her chicken. Fair’s fair, right? Not when you are saying, “Bye, Bye, Hooker.”

My bad ‘G’ guess I have some ‘splainin to do come Monday.

1 thought on “The Tiger and the Chicken”

  1. And that, my dear, is a great example of how knowledge of the original language and cultural context is key to understanding.

    Whore.

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