Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

When languages collide

El Mango reports at the LiveJournal group Linguaphiles, “A young Chinese couple are heading up the aisle, between them is a young black guy. The girl is looking for a seat, and the boyfriend directs her repeatedly to a pair of seats. Except that in Mandarin Chinese, ‘this one’ [ie: these seats here] is pronounced ni gerr. So the black guy, hearing what sounded like ‘nigger…nigger…NIGGER’ from behind him is less than pleased and a tussle kicks off: angry black guy versus confused and increasingly angry Chinese guy. The Chinese guy invites the black guy to get off at the next stop, and he agrees, but fortunately, other passengers step in to calm them down.”

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Grant Barrett