Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The importance of chinese measure words

So that last post was a misunderstanding of the Chinese on my part which led to a slightly erroneous post...

I read the headline as the 56th president, when in fact the use of the measureword 届 (jie - session) made it the 56th term of the American presidency.

Apologies for my crap Chinese. But why they're describing him winning the 56th term of the American presidency I don't know, to me, the 44th president sounds way better.

Anyway, this just goes to show that glossing over that one character in Chinese can completely change the meaning. Here the difference between 个(ge - measure word for person) and 届 meant I got very confused as to how Xinhua had calculated the number of presidents America has had over the past couple of hundred years.

The Xinhua story is now here


  1. Do you think it was calculated that way because discussing "terms" and coming up with a more auspicious number is better than saying the dreaded 四十四 by discussing numerically which president he will be? Curious.

  2. I think they use 任, not 个,for the person (as opposed to the term). For an explanation of the various ways to count presidents and presidencies in chinese, see this xinhua article.