Apr 4, 2010

"I'll whup ya!"

My favorite Chinese word this week is "" (chōu). I previously knew that the verb chōu could mean "to take out" and "to smoke". This week, I accidentally discovered that it can also be used as Beijing slang to say "I'll kick your ass!" (我抽你!, literally, "I'll whip you!")

You might wonder how I made this accidental discovery. Well, I was going about my own business, crossing a small road - in the pedestrian cross-walk, mind you - and I had the green "cross" sign for my direction. All of a sudden, a Beijing taxi came careening towards me, and stopped just inches beside me, while I was legally in the crosswalk. The driver laid on his horn for a good five seconds or so, even though I had the legal right of way and I'm a pedestrian. I guess I wasn't moving fast enough for him.

Can you imagine yourself driving in the parking your neighborhood Safeway grocery store, some pedestrian crosses in front of you, and you screech to a halt inches from him, and then you add insult by blowing your horn for an extended period of time?

So I stopped walking, right in front of the cab, as he blew his horn. I gave the driver the evil stare down for few seconds. Nothing too extreme, just a little message that I wasn't pleased with his disrespect for pedestrians and disregard for motor vehicle regulations.

After a few seconds, I continued across the street and went on my way. I guess my evil eye got his goat, because the cabbie pulled over to the curb where I was walking and started shouting at me though the passenger window, across his customer that was sitting there:

Wǒ chōu nǐ! Wǒ chōu nǐ! Wǒ chōu nǐ! (Literally: "I'll whup ya!, I'll whup ya! I'll whup ya!")

I thought the cabbie was a countryside transplant with poor Mandarin skills, and he was trying to say Wǒ cào nǐ! ("I'll f-ck you!"). That curse wouldn't have made a lot of sense.

I politely responded to the crazy cabbie, "I have the right of way, that was a green light."

It was a productive day. Despite being a victim of both simple and aggravated assault in the space of a couple minutes, I learned some great Beijing slang, and I helped a taxi driver better understand pedestrian right of way.

Watch out for those Beijing cabbies, they're a crazy bunch!

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