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Chairman Mao he not Cat

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426314.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 1:39 pm Reply with quote

I feel the need to post an erratum to the explanation for "why Big Beard Wang regularly shaved his Pussy." Eventhough one of the meaning of "mao" in Mandarin is indeed "cat," this is not the case with Chairman Mao's surname. As rightly pointed out during the episode (number 2, series C), there are a number of meaning for "mao," such as "cat" and "hat." Mao Zedong's surname means "hair" or "fur." That character is also used in words which mean "brush" (for painting) and "jumper."
Further to note, there is in fact no way that Mao Zedong's surname can be mistaken to mean a cat even in a spoken form. As commonly understood, there are a number of tones used in Mandarin Chinese, and quite often different words can have the same sound AND tone. The word meaning "cat" bears the first tone, which is a flat intonation, and the word meaning "hair" bears the second tone, which is a rising intonation. The latter can be mistaken with words meaning "spear" and "anchor," but most definitely not "cat." Incidentally, the word meaning "hat" bears the second tone. So the cat won't be mistaken with the hat, either. :)

426387.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 3:35 pm Reply with quote

Ahh, but what if it's a foreigner who does not speak Mandarin, would they know how to use the right intonation? :)

426463.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:05 pm Reply with quote

CB27, that's a cruddy justification! You could justify messing up almost any two Mandarin words like that.

máo is a hair;
māo is a cat;
is a pussy.

They're not the same.

426481.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:19 pm Reply with quote

Thanks - this matter has been brought to our attention by a number of people, and we're duly humble about it. It just shows the trouble you can get into when you don't check on something that can be safely contradicted by a quarter of the World's population.

426505.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:47 pm Reply with quote

Hey, what can I say, I'm cruddy. Must be a lack of tripe in my diet :)

426559.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:38 pm Reply with quote

Just the other day I ran this past a friend in the pub (who happens to be a specialist in Chinese International Relations at Warwick Uni) and he got really quite indignant about it. I felt a bit guilty to be honest that I was trivialising a matter of some importance to him.

The subject came up as a result of an absurd conspiracy theory he had recently heard suggesting a 'Chinese leadership as Bond villian' scenario so of course the connection with white cats was made and thence...

426574.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:43 pm Reply with quote

Apologies for having posted an erratum regarding a matter that (I did guess undoubtedly) has previously been raised. I did check the postings under "Series C" before posting and did not see a mention of this wee error. Thanks for noting; it would be much harder from now on to pedantically spot errors, then - darn! :)

I am embarrassed to have found an error in my own posting. The "mao" word which mean "hat" bears the fourth (falling intonation) tone. Note to self: should not post after 2 am...brain only half-working...

CB27, well, what can I say? You definitely should add pig-offal soup, stewed pig's tail, snake soup, and scorpion kebab to your diet pronto to reduce the degree of your cruddiness! ;)

Celebaelin, I am interested to know... which aspects of the conspiracy theory offend your friend? I am aware that some dictatorships can indeed be benevolent, but I am not convinced that this is the case with Chinese leadership. Even if they no longer wear "Mao suits," are they not still ruthless, almost in the manner of Bond villains, with or without the fluffy white cat. The heavy-handed treatment with regards to travel conditions and visa to pre-olympics China does not quite advertise their benevolence. And there is also a matter of their record of death penalty, for what in the West (even in Texas!) would not be considered crimes punishable by death. I think it is a rather cute, and not quite so absurd, comparison. :)

All these aside, people involved in politics should be able to take jokes in any case! Comedians and satirists do need some sources for their material. Otherwise we can justifiably declare them comparable to Dr Evil, no, Dr No. :)

I personally feel that there are matters at hand somewhat more urgent than the reputation of Chinese leadership, such as projected food shortage and rising temperatures (which also threatens some species to extinction as well as rising sea levels), but we are indeed entitled to our priorities.

426577.  Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:54 pm Reply with quote

I think he is exposed to ignorance and wild speculation about China and the motives of its leaders (albeit that he is undoubtedly well disposed to the Chinese and his theoretical stance reflects that*) so he reacts if nonsense is being spouted, as it often is in pubs, even in jest.

* not sure which element came first but I suspect it was the theory

As regards ruthlessness, I guess that comparison depends on how cynical/realistic you're prepared to be about Capitalist methodologies (and I don't necessarily mean on a national level here).

Pallas Athena
617102.  Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:45 am Reply with quote

I have found some sound files on the Internet which can hopefully illustrate the tone differences in Mandarin.

“Cat” is (māo) (first tone):

“Hair” is (máo) (second tone):


“Hat” is (mào) (fourth tone):

These are the three words mentioned in the episode. There is also a third tone in Mandarin:

(măo) (“still water”):

The first tone is a flat tone, at roughly concert-A pitch. The third tone is also a flat tone, but at a lower pitch (roughly middle C). The second tone is has a rising intonation, like our expression of suprise, “Oh?” And the fourth tone is the opposite of the second tone, with a falling intonation like the interjection, “Hey!”


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