Less Than Zero Seeds

I was looking for seedless oranges the other day. Here’s how the conversation with the lady selling oranges went:

Me: zhè zhǒng yǒu méiyǒu zǐ? 这种有没有子?
Does this kind have seeds?

Lady: méiyǒu. 没有.
No

Me: nà zhǒng ne? 那种呢?
What about that kind?

Lady: nà zhǒng gèng méiyǒu! 那种更没有!
That kind has even less!

Can anyone explain this? I thought méiyǒu 没有 was none, nothing, zip. How can you have even MORE none (gèng méiyǒu 更没有)?

It was actually a little test for her. Although I’d never shopped there before, I know what kinds of oranges do and don’t have seeds. The first kind certainly DOES have seeds and the second kind DOESN’T.

My only explanation for this is cultural, something I like to call: “Sell him what he wants even if you don’t have it.”

I still remember when I asked a guy if he sold waterproof gloves (fángshuǐ shǒutào 防水手套) and he just pointed to a random pair of normal work gloves. I asked several times if he was SURE these are waterproof. He finally cracked and insisted that he could get some for me if I came back in a few hours. The shop was near my house so it was easy to check back. When I got back, he looked around nervously and then pointed to the same pair of work gloves again. He seemed to be afraid of saying he didn’t have something I was looking for.

That certainly doesn’t happen all the time in China, but I think that might have been what was going on with orange lady. I asked a question about something she was selling. She thought I wanted to hear “no” so she said “no.” Any other theories?

Comments

  1. Ha! I observed here in Chengdu that Chinese people are the most dedicated salespeople ever. They’ll do anything to make that yuan!

  2. Basicallyin my opinion, to persuade you to buy those oranges that’s the why she said so.
    And perhaps a slight change in degree or tone, similar to
    ‘That’s impossible.’
    ‘Come on, no way!’

    Here a word I like to mention-gèng : to emphasize sth. or make it more noticeable ; to add more information about degree to a v. ,an adj. , a phrase or another adv.
    gènghǎo更好
    gèngduō更多
    gèngjiā 更加~tiān qì gèng jiā nuǎn huo le.
    yù qióng qiān lǐ mù欲穷千里目gèng shàng yī céng lóu更上一城楼 >Want poor a long distance eyes, more last a floor

  3. I don’t even know the proper pinyin, but the word for seed that my Ayi taught me is pronounced like he(4)-zi(1), “heard-zuh”. While I agree there’s a high likelihood she wanted to sell you oranges, she could have been rationalizing that there weren’t many seeds and therefore it was okay to say “no” to your purely yes or no answer. But I’ve actually never gotten the wrong answer in a market when I used the term “he-zi” to ask if some of those fantastic oranges have seeds (and yeah, I’m so spoiled I don’t buy them if they have any seeds at all). Ha, but I also go a step further and ask, “keyi chang chang ma?” That “chang chang” aspect is one treat I love about Chinese markets.

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