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La duzi, 拉肚子

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A quick story that our Classical Chinese teacher decided to relate to us today:
He’s a very nice man, quite old, but his sense of humour is really quite strange. He chuckles somewhat creepily after almost every other sentence, when it wasn’t even the least bit amusing, but today he said something which we’d probably be able to call half a joke by his standards, cos at least there was a punchline of sorts. So, without further ado, Chinese sense of humour for you, readers:

Teacher: Once, an American student who was also studying abroad here came and asked me if it was the Chinese water that had given him 拉肚子 (la duzi) = diarrhoea. *creepy chuckle*.
I said to him, “No, it’s not… maybe it’s because your stomach is an American stomach! Hahahahhaaaaaa..!”.

I’m sure you’re all just rofl-ing. We found it hilarious too. Genuinely… Almost genuinely.

He then proceeded to chuckle to himself and, still laughing, told us that when he went to America and drank milk, he got 拉肚子 (la duzi, diarrhoea) straight-away. More chuckling here.

Turns out he told us that story as a personal(ish) example, for the purpose of explaining a phrase, 水土不服, shui tu bu fu, meaning “not acclimatized”.

Although it may seem unusual for someone to casually go around talking about their bowel issues, 拉肚子 la duzi, is a really really common ‘topic of conversation’, so to speak. Kinda like the way the topic of weather is for the Brits…
We’ve all been told numerous times that eating this and that will give you la duzi, and that you better drink warm water after eating this in order to avoid la duzi, and don’t eat that food at that particular time of day otherwise you’ll get la duzi, and oh! What happened to you last night..? I bet you got la duzi, right?!
Uhh, no actually, and if I did, it’s not exactly the sort of thing that people typically broadcast.

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About Ibtehaal

I graduated with a degree in Chinese and Economics, which involved spending a year studying Chinese in Beijing. This turned out to be the hardest but most rewarding thing I think I have ever done. I've now returned to China for another year, to study in Shanghai and figure out my next steps.

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