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滾石 – Gǔn Shí

April 21, 2010

Gǔn Shí is pinyin for the Mandarin characters – 滾石

Pinyin, is the simplified (i.e. alphabetical, romanization) system for Mandarin.  Without it, the western world would need to spend lifetimes learning classical Chinese.  Thank you Mao.  When you read Gǔn Shí, if you are sounding it out like Gǔn [guhn], Shí [Shee], you are wrong on both accounts.  Its more like Gǔn [g-wen], Shí [marSH] . I won’t take it personal though, we just met.  Plus, this is supposed to be a learning experience, for both of us.

The symbols over the letters ǔ,í are just two of the four “tones” in Mandarin.  Its unbelievable how subtle the nuances are to virgin ears, and more amazing is how the slightest tonal effect can create a meaning that is totally unrelated.  For instance, in pinyin, the word sì means four; the word sǐ means death.  Fortunately, conversation is contextual, so even if you are no master with the tones a reasonable person will usually know whether you are talking about your mom or a horse.   Learn some more here: Pinyin 101.

The Peoples Republic  is home to over 30+ minority populations.  Needless to say Mandarin isn’t the only language, nor is it just one simple language.  It is undoubtedly the most prevalent and resourceful from a national and even global perspective–however Cantonese (Taiwan), “Shanghainese”, Tibetan and other exotic indigenous languages can be heard on the mainland.  I say Mandarin is not one simple language because strong accents have developed which make some conversations not always mutually intelligible.  For instance, native Beijingers have an attributable ‘rrrrr’ sound to so many of there words that would be difficult to discern further out west.  Imagine a proper 18-year old Manhattan private-schooled girl meeting for the first time a 65-year old country bumpkin from somewhere in the southern depths of Louisiana.  I’m sure the language barrier isn’t the only surprise.

So however you want to pronounce Gǔn Shí to all your friends and family I will leave up to you.  No matter how you choose to say it the translation remains the same — Rolling Stone.

Beijing 2009. 無辜 - wú gū - innocence

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 4:39 pm

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