I now offer you a slice-of-life just exactly as it was told to me by one of my Chinese students. The thing that’s so interesting about it is that both people in the story are native speakers of Chinese, speaking Chinese to each other, ABOUT Chinese vocabulary.
Lara goes to the copy center to make a photocopy. The worker runs off one copy and shows Lara the result.
(all in Mandarin)
Hǎo xiàng bú duì!
It looks like there’s a mistake!
LARA: (realizing there actually is no mistake and the photocopy is perfectly fine)
Méi shì, méi shì.
It’s ok, it’s ok.
WORKER: (annoyed that she’d been accused of making a mistake)
Rúguǒ nǐ shuō “méi shì” jiùshì shuō wǒ fàn le cuò, dànshì nǐ kěyǐ jiēshòu. Rúguǒ nǐ shuō “méi cuò” wǒ jiù zhīdào wǒ méi yǒu fàn cuò.
If you say “méi shì” it means I made a mistake, but you can live with it. If you say “méi cuò” then I know I didn’t make a mistake.
Duì. Wǒ yīnggāi shuō “méi cuò.”
You’re right. I should have said “méi cuò.”
Thanks Lara for this wonderful little story.