Fun with pronouns

Looks like the Chinese have been found out – but they’ll probably never admit it.

It seems one impossibly young-looking female gymnast from China’s team was described in a state-run news report last year as being only 13 years old, which would make her ineligible for the Olympics this year and her contributions illegitimate.

Okay, so the Chinese government’s crooked. No surprise. But the reason I’m posting this is that quotes like the following in the AP article I read had me scratching my head as I skimmed through it:

Chinese authorities insist that all three are old enough to compete. He herself told reporters after Wednesday’s final that “my real age is 16. I don’t pay any attention to what everyone says.”

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China’s first women’s team Olympic gold in gymnastics. He is also a favorite for gold in Monday’s uneven bars final.

At first I chalked up the gender disagreement and capitalization “error” to be translation errors. Obviously, if I had either 1) stayed apprised of the gymnastics competition or 2) read the intro of the article closely, I would have noticed that the gymnast’s name is He Kexin.

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  • AMW

    I’ll do you one better. In Hebrew, the word “me” means “who.” The word “who” (or “hu”) means “he.” And the word “he” means “she.” How’s that last one for gender confusion?

    In Israel, they show a lot of English language television with subtitles. I recall seeing one show in which a character’s last name was “Hu,” and the show riffed continuously on the Hu/who homonym. The Hebrew subtitles actually tried to explain the pun to the non-English speaking audience.

  • AMW

    I’ll do you one better. In Hebrew, the word “me” means “who.” The word “who” (or “hu”) means “he.” And the word “he” means “she.” How’s that last one for gender confusion?

    In Israel, they show a lot of English language television with subtitles. I recall seeing one show in which a character’s last name was “Hu,” and the show riffed continuously on the Hu/who homonym. The Hebrew subtitles actually tried to explain the pun to the non-English speaking audience.

  • Wowww…it’s always amusing, the various language differences you come across in other cultures!

    How much do you want to bet that even if they found He’s birth certificate and had 50 hospital witnesses and her parents stating (s)He (haha) is really only 13 years old, the Chinese government still wouldn’t admit they are wrong?

  • Wowww…it’s always amusing, the various language differences you come across in other cultures!

    How much do you want to bet that even if they found He’s birth certificate and had 50 hospital witnesses and her parents stating (s)He (haha) is really only 13 years old, the Chinese government still wouldn’t admit they are wrong?

  • AMW,

    Heh…that sounds like loads of pun. 🙂 BTW, I remember from Biblical Hebrew that “who” was spelled mi (as in Mi-cha-el, ‘who is like God?’) – does modern Hebrew differ? (Or did you just type the English equivalent?) I didn’t remember hu or he (hi?). Ah! will the pronoun merriment never cease? Thanks for your contribution, AMW!

    Angi,

    Re: “(s)He” – 😀 But you know, we’d better stop talking trash about the Chinese government. I’d hate for them to find out and shut us down. Don’t ask me how they could do such a thing: I don’t want to give them ideas.

  • AMW,

    Heh…that sounds like loads of pun. 🙂 BTW, I remember from Biblical Hebrew that “who” was spelled mi (as in Mi-cha-el, ‘who is like God?’) – does modern Hebrew differ? (Or did you just type the English equivalent?) I didn’t remember hu or he (hi?). Ah! will the pronoun merriment never cease? Thanks for your contribution, AMW!

    Angi,

    Re: “(s)He” – 😀 But you know, we’d better stop talking trash about the Chinese government. I’d hate for them to find out and shut us down. Don’t ask me how they could do such a thing: I don’t want to give them ideas.

  • Ooh, good point.

    I love China.
    China is the best.
    China comes up with the coolest names for their children.
    He is the best name ever.
    Did I mention I love China?

  • Ooh, good point.

    I love China.
    China is the best.
    China comes up with the coolest names for their children.
    He is the best name ever.
    Did I mention I love China?

  • AMW

    Steve,

    Typically when transliterating the “ee” sound from Hebrew, you use the letter “i,” and originally that’s what i did.

    But then I realized that someone unfamiliar with the language might think I meant that if someone say that “hi” means “she,” they might mistake that for the English pronunciation of the word “hi.” So it was safer to just stick with English spellings all around.

    Now if you’ll excuse mi . . .

  • AMW

    Steve,

    Typically when transliterating the “ee” sound from Hebrew, you use the letter “i,” and originally that’s what i did.

    But then I realized that someone unfamiliar with the language might think I meant that if someone say that “hi” means “she,” they might mistake that for the English pronunciation of the word “hi.” So it was safer to just stick with English spellings all around.

    Now if you’ll excuse mi . . .

  • Haha… I know what you’re saying AMW – I was wondering if that’s what you did. I had the same sort of issues when I tried to describe sound change in this post. I don’t think it turned out very well for me, but rest assured: yours was completely understandable.

  • Haha… I know what you’re saying AMW – I was wondering if that’s what you did. I had the same sort of issues when I tried to describe sound change in this post. I don’t think it turned out very well for me, but rest assured: yours was completely understandable.

  • wow, this is getting really geeky and nerdy. Can’t we talk about something more normal…like Macs and Star Trek?

  • wow, this is getting really geeky and nerdy. Can’t we talk about something more normal…like Macs and Star Trek?