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Hanzi of the day! 回文

Hey guys. It has been too long. Because. Real life. And lack of imagination. But as one real life egagement came to an end, another blog post comes up. Today we are going to be talking about palindromes, or as they are known in Chinese 回文 huíwén. Literally, a return of language , or a more liberal translation: A saying that comes back.

This is also curiously close, to the ethymology of the word palindrome, which is Greek for running back again.

Palindrome
Look, she's palindroming through the gates!

Palindromes are sequences that appear the same, regardless of the direction they are read, such as the number 12321. Where they become really fun is, in language. English has some famous ones such as:

  • A man, a plan, a canal – Panama
  • Madam, I'm Adam
  • Never odd or even

But they are never quite obvious, because words in English are written with spaces between them, and in order to read them as a palindrome, we are a bit liberal with word boundaries.
In Chinese, we have none of that. Palindromes there look very much palindromic, and are more natural sentences (or expressions).

  • 法语语法 fǎyǔ yǔfǎ - French Grammar. French language fǎyǔ, is written with the word for law 法, because of its sound . On the other hand "the laws of the language" 语法, of course mean grammar.
  • 文言文 wényánwén - Classical Chinese, roughly language of literary speech. (Thanks to Julien for pointing out this lovely example)
  • 马上上马 mǎshàng shàngmǎ - Right now 马上, get on 上 the horse 马.
  • 上海自来水来自海上 Shànghǎi zìláishuǐ láizì hǎishàng - Shanghai's 上海 tap water 自来水 comes 来自 from the sea 海上. This one works, because Shanghai's name literally means "at the sea".
Shanghai
Ok, I know it's pretty, but don't use the Shanghai sea water as tap water.

That being said, I'm off again to some socially distant activities. Stay in good spirits everyone!

Nick

Image sources: pixabay pexels pexels

Nikolay Bogoychev

Nikolay Bogoychev

I like languages, logographic writing systems, game theory and GPUs. I (try to) make things run faster and enjoy (premature) optimization. I also learn languages, play football and hang on silks.

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Hanzi of the day! 回文
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