As you’re making your bàinián 拜年 tour, and you find yourself face to face with countless relatives of your Chinese friends, perhaps you’ve gotten tired of the same old conversation topics you’re ready to branch out. Well you’re in luck! Here’s a game you can play to impress your friends and discourage your enemies.
How do you say “Velcro” in Chinese?
Just find some velcro (on a shoe, a bag, a pocket) and point to it and ask your Chinese friends “zhège dōngxi zěnme shuō?” 这个东西怎么说 and see what they say. Chances are they won’t know.
It’s not that they don’t know what it is. The Chinese just don’t seem to know the Chinese word for velcro. The best I can find on the internet is “nylon buckle” (nílóng dākòu 尼龙搭扣). I think it’s amazing that something so common doesn’t have a commonly-known name in Chinese. I haven’t gone to shoe shops and asked the workers yet but I suspect if anyone would know, they would.
How do you say “boombox” in Chinese?
You’ll need another visual aid for this one.
I first discovered this one in my English class. Many teachers at my college (Chinese and foreign) bring boomboxes to class for listening comprehension exercises. When a colleague walked into my classroom I asked my students “What do you call this in English?” They didn’t know. “How about in Chinese?” They still didn’t know. Yet, they see them everyday! The closest I’ve gotten to an answer is “noise box” (zàoyīn hé 噪音盒) but I’m not sure how widely-used that is. It’s not just a portable CD player because it has speakers.
If you play “Stump the Chinese” this year and you happen to learn how they really say “velcro” or “boombox,” please let us know.