Huffington Post’s Usage of “Bu Shi” is “Bu Dwei”

Know how someone will look at you funny when you try a foreign language and you totally say something that you don’t have a clue about? Especially in Asian languages, where you could be throwing around phrases online translation software cannot translate correctly.

Such is the case with a Huffington Post political piece by the former ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg – Russia “Nyet!” and China “Bu Shi!” to Tougher Iran Sanctions. Truth be told, I didn’t even feel like reading the piece since the title bugged me so much; it was one of those moments that you feel like screaming, “what happened to your copy of Rosetta Stone?

So here goes a little lesson in basic Mandarin:

不是 (bú shì) – is an interjection. Basically, bu is a negation of whatever the second character is describing. Usually, you answer a question with “bú shì,” like “Is the pencil hers?” And if you answer “bú shì” — “it isn’t.”

不要 (bú yào) – is more of a “don’t want”. So, in this case, if you say that you do not wish to have Iranian sanctions, then in an answer to the question, you would say: “bú yào.”

There are many different ways around this particular question itself as to how to answer it with a negation, but none of them start or end with “bú shì.” In fact, I feel bad for picking on Google itself since their translation system does actually tell you the correct usage of the words. The most interesting part of this is that I’m glad it wasn’t any more difficult term being translated since throwing out incorrect translations could sometimes lead to, you know, international incidents.

Lesson learned: “不是” 用的不对.

(h/t: Joz)

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About Ben

Ben Hwang is involved in a number of online publications and also writes at his personal blog, LUX.ET.UMBRA. When he's not in the middle of starting companies and dreaming up new ventures, he is heavily involved in local community efforts. Currently resides in North Carolina.
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