I stumbled across an application on the web today that blew me away. As I watched the tutorial I got more and more excited and my Chinese assistant worked harder and harder not to laugh.
“Sweet . . . no way . . . aaaaahhh . . . stink!” That was the one that pushed her over the edge and triggered the now famous (in our office at least), “Whaaaat?” Realizing this was not going to be an easy or a boring conversation (click here for knocking people dead and Chinese Valentine’s) I jumped in head first.
Her: What’s this mean?
Me: (taking a deep breath and calculating my approach) Well . . . stink . . . it means something that smells bad.
Her: You mean like poo poo?
Me: Yes. Exactly. Poo poo stinks. Buuut, you can also say it for anything that is bad. Like if you said to me, “my father is sick” I would say, “oh, that stinks”. Aaand, you can even use it for something that is good. For example, if you say, “I found 1 million RMB (Chinese dollars) and I get to keep it, I could say, “that is stinking awesome!” or I could even just say “stink” as in “stink, that is awesome!!” Ooor if you’re really upset you can say “stink!” as in “stink! that stinks.”
Her: very, very confused look.
Me: (trying again) It’s like a catch all word that just adds emphasis. So if I see someone who is really big I can say, “did you see that guy? He was stinking huge.” Or if it’s a really nice day you can say, “It’s stinking beautiful out today.”
Her: Whaaat? Reeally?
Me: Oh yes.
Her: (giving it a shot) “That stink is awesome?”
Me: No, no, no, “That’s stinking awesome.”
Her: So can I say, “Have a stinking nice day?” or “It’s stinking nice to meet you?”
Me: No, you only say “stink” around people you already know and never in business. Please don’t tell our clients to have a stinking nice day.
Her: Ok. (starting to get it) So . . . can I just say “stink” if something really stinks?
Me: (starting to get confused) I suppose you could but it wouldn’t mean stink anymore. If you say, “stink that stinks” about the poo poo the second stink means stink but the first stink just means that the second stink stinks really bad.
Her: I can say Jerry is a stinky awesome boss?
Me: (giving her the “ha ha, very funny” squint) Make sure you pronounce the ing . . . but yes . . . you can say that . . . a lot.
Her: Thank you teacher. That’s stinking good.
Me: You’re stinking welcome.