Thursday, February 3, 2011
Heisig: my just desserts
This is already an idea I know well, I certainly mentioned it a few times in my series on learning to read using the Heisig system, and I've left numerous comments on others' blogs to that effect.
Nevertheless, I felt this example was 'extreme' enough to be worth sharing.
As you can see from the photo attached, there is an item on this late-night dessert place, which says:
(By the way, I did screw up a bit by initially confusing the 杏 character with 否. Forgive me?)
Anyway ... so doing what I normally do, I tried to work out what the dessert was. Actually, from my Heisig days, I knew the meaning of every character, which are as follow:
= South North apricot wood melon snow ear
I had no idea what that was! (All I could guess was that there was melon in there.)
It's easy enough to put this through a dictionary, but even here, it doesn't get much better, because I'm still left with:
= South North apricot [papaya] snow ear
Upon discussing this with a HK friend, it turns out that the expressions are Cantonese in nature, and so knowing Mandarin (or using a Mandarin dictionary) isn't going to help much. But I persisted ...
Now, using human input and a Cantonese dictionary, I discover that the grouping should be as follows:
Aside: According to Wikipedia, apricot kernels are sometimes used instead of bitter almonds, but it seems to be accepted in HK amongst those I spoke to that when they see 南北杏 they generally take it to mean 'almond'. White Fungus, in this case, does indeed look more ear-like than mushroom-like.
So there we have it. (Although *I* didn't have it. No, I ate some kind of warm red bean soup instead. Mainly because I didn't need a dictionary for that one!).
Chinese seems hard, but it's actually harder than that! :-)
Can you recall any specific words that you learned along the way where the word or phrase looks *nothing* like the characters which make it up? If so, please leave a comment below.