Just across the border from Hong Kong is Shenzhen 深圳 (“deep drain”), paradise of food, foot massage and tailors.
I really wish we had something like the Lo Wu Shopping Centre here in Palma. Three floors of restaurants, tailors, thousands of miles of fabric, three million Liberaces' worth of costume jewellery and fake art and handbags - oh! Not to mention custom made designer glasses and sunglasses. All for a fraction of the price elsewhere.
Several years ago I was having some clothes made and was standing chatting to my tailor, in one of the open style stalls surrounded by people having their nails done, when an American couple came up to me. They were black. Tall and big. The woman was in tears.
"You speak Chinese? I want to have some clothes made but they keep calling me nigger," she wailed. The husband was angry. "I had heard the Chinese were racist but this!"
I was glad to be able to comfort them, explaining that what sounds like the N-word in Mandarin, 那個，(romanised as 'na ge' but in speech often pronounced nega) in fact just means "that" or "that one" and is a kind of filler, like... well, "like"! Or er... or uh...
The Mandohooligans use it all the time. All the time. They have to, poor dears, because their language is impoverished by 70 years of communism where using words can land you in prison or a coffin, so the vocabulary is pared down to a safe minimum.
Who would think that the Land of the Free, USA, would become more and more like China, where uttering a word can get you in trouble? The University of Southern California has put lecturer Greg Patton on leave because he taught his students this filler.
What is wrong with these people? I mean, I try, I really try to respect the opinions of others, or at least not call them idiots in public. But this! It's not the first time news like that comes out of the USA. There was the government official (since rehired, perhaps they had a dictionary) who lost his job over saying the word 'niggardly', a sports writer fired for writing 'chink in the armour.'
In those cases it was their own language the ignorant baboons didn't know, which is bad enough. But in the case of "nega nega..." the students knew it was a completely different language, Mandarin, and that the word meant "that" and was a filler, and they STILL went into hysterics! There is a very apt comparison to be made here, and that is what went down in China during the Cultural revolution.
That's why I'm not laughing. It begins with people losing their livelihood, then comes book burning, then arrests. Then killings. Human nature doesn't change - it will oppress others when there is no risk of punishment, or better, when figures of authority (a baying mob) reward the atrocities.
Well, this - I mean the nega nega rigmarole, could all have been avoided if China had gone the smart route back in the 1920s and got rid of communism and then let Cantonese become the official language, if indeed that was necessary.
In Cantonese, 'that' is 嗰 個 goh go) and isn't used as a filler anyway; the language, being wonderfully rich and nuanced, is so stuffed with words that fillers become unnecessary. The words that are seen as fillers by some, actually have meaning and change the sentences or add to them. But you can hear all about that when you