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September 18, 2006

Filed under: culture»asia»china»mandarin

Missed Opportunities

I know I shouldn't be expecting much when watching SciFi Channel movies, but when the old "Crisis is danger and opportunity in Chinese" chestnut came up during Painkiller Jane, I was reminded of just how ridiculous that myth is. Not only is it completely false, but it's commonly used by cultural sub-literates like Tom Friedman to, say, relate their taxi-driver's support for globalization.

And here's what really got me: they didn't even use the right character. Instead of weiji, they wrote the hanzi for yi, which means "easy." Then the actor pointed at the top half--that's danger, he said, and the bottom half is opportunity. Well, no. According to, yi is a pictogram meant to resemble a lizard. The top half is a radical that usually stands in for the sun and signifies a day (ri), and the bottom can be a negative command (wu).

Is it really that hard to find a single Mandarin-speaking Chinese-American and run this kind of thing by them before you put it on TV? Especially when you're filming in Vancouver?

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